Artist News Awards

Madonna discusses “blatant sexism and misogyny” faced throughout her career, accepting Billboard Woman Of The Year Award

By | Published on Monday 12 December 2016


Madonna accepted the Woman Of The Year Award at Billboard’s Women In Music event on Friday with a speech that called out the “blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse” she has faced throughout her career.

She also spoke of discovering that “in life there is no real safety except for self-belief” through a hard life lived in late-70s New York as she attempted to break into the music industry, and discussed other artists who inspired her, including David Bowie.

“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer”, she began. “Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse”.

She was inspired by “Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin” at the outset of her career, she said, “but my real muse was David Bowie”. However, she added, what she found inspiring about him turned out not to apply to her.

“He embodied male and female spirit and that suited me just fine”, she said. “He made me think there were no rules. But I was wrong. There are no rules – if you’re a boy. There are rules if you’re a girl. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game”.

Breaking down these rules, she went on: “You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world. Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticised and vilified and definitely not played on the radio”.

Bringing up a specific example, she discussed releasing her ‘Erotica’ album and ‘Sex’ book in 1992, saying: “I remember being the headline of every newspaper and magazine. Everything I read about myself was damning. I was called a whore and a witch. One headline compared me to Satan. I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t Prince running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out?’ Yes, he was. But he was a man. This was the first time I truly understood women do not have the same freedom as men”.

Concluding, she said: “Women have been so oppressed for so long they believe what men have to say about them. They believe they have to back a man to get the job done. And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men – because they’re worthy. As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth. Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to collaborate with, to be inspired by, to support, and enlightened by”.

Here are all the winners from this year’s Billboard Women In Music Awards:

Rising Star: Halsey
Rule Breaker: Alessia Cara
Breakthrough Star: Maren Morris
Chart Topper: Meghan Trainor
Trailblazer: Kesha
Powerhouse: Andra Day
Icon: Shania Twain
Woman Of The Year: Madonna