Sex, Empowerment, and Madonna
"Madonna broke all the rules when women were too oblivious to realize that the rules needed to be broken."
Madonna's recent Woman Of The Year award speech for the Billboard Women In Music 2016 has been a stimulus for me to think about her influence over my sexuality and feelings as an empowered woman. Madonna's Like A Virgin record (no CDs then!) came out when I was just 16, still a virgin myself and just entering into a relationship with my first boyfriend. Madonna launched into the world as an openly sexual woman, which was an even stronger mirror over the years once she released her sex book and her Erotica album. I still have memories of dancing at the bar with my friends in my early twenties, with the video of Justify My Love (from Immaculate Collection album) on the screen, educating me on what 'open-minded' sexuality could look like.
At the time, I followed the flow of what society was saying about her - some were happy with her brazenness and saying it was about time that someone female expressed what sexuality could be. Others condemned her (and more condemned her, according to her in her Billboard speech as you can see below). Madonna herself in this video recounts how she was accused of setting women back by objectifying herself sexually, that she was a witch, a whore, even Satan. After watching Madonna's full Billboard speech, I actually have more respect for her.
Madonna is a trailblazer. Her one line is very telling - "I remember wishing that I had a female peer that I could look to for support."
There wasn't one.
Madonna paved the way for all of us to more openly embrace our sexuality, and she has the scars to prove it. She is emotional when she gives this speech, showing that even now, so many years later, it still hurts to her core in how she was vilified. And yet, she trudged on. She decided she would be a 'bad feminist' and created her own definition of what that meant.
We need more Madonnas in the world. She has continued to be seen in the entertainment years, for over 30 years as one of the women that has shaped not only music today, but expression of one's self. Madonna broke all the rules when women were too oblivious to realize that the rules needed to be broken.
I saw her in concert in Minneapolis 5 years ago for my 40th birthday. I was actually quite disappointed in the concert itself, because she didn't come onto stage until 10:45 (or maybe it was even 11:45 pm), with no opening act, concert starting at 8 pm. We were told as soon as we gave our tickets in, at the Target Centre that we were 'not allowed to leave but Madonna wouldn't be on for 3 hours'. By the time Madonna did actually come on stage 3 hours later, though it was a good concert, her treatment of her fans left a bitter taste in my mouth.
But this isn't about the fact that she may be a potential diva - and no, for those thinking, 'maybe something went wrong', she had everyone waiting the night before til the same time, and many tour reviews commented on her late starts, with no opening acts. But after watching her speech, I realize I need to be thinking 'bigger picture' about Madonna.
What has she accomplished for women? Or better yet, what has she accomplished for me?
I believe one of the reasons I am so open sexually is due to Madonna. Her showing that route as 'a path' - not the only path but certainly a path - made it a choice. Had I not had her mirror, I would have stayed in the sexual repression that I think way too many women still stay in, even now in 2016. So for that reason alone, Madonna is a positive, grand influence in my life. She has shaped the kind of men I have been/am attracted to, what they offer a woman, as well as give me the option of holding equal power with a man in the bedroom. I somehow doubt "I have a headache" is an expression that is ever uttered by male or female when Madonna is around. She is sexuality on a stick - raw, 'in your face', and begging for you to consider how YOU feel about what she portrays.
So instead of slut, whore, devil/Satan or feminism crasher, I'm going to continue to see her as the Trailblazer that she truly has been, and still is.
Thanks Madonna. My sexuality thanks you. My frankness for 'no bullshit' expression thanks you. And most of all, my glass ceiling thanks you because I realize there really doesn't have to be one, unless I want there to be one, of course.
Cheers to Madonna and her willingness to have crashed first through the female sexuality glass ceiling, to a place that many before her were too full of fear or cowardice to plunge through.
Sorry it's been such a struggle and you've had to put up with so much shit. But we stand with you now, a little stronger, a little wiser, and realize you've opened us to potentials that without you, we may never have discovered. Cheers to you.
And her full acceptance speech: