Madonna delivered a powerful, brutally honest speech at the Billboard Women in Music event Friday where the singer talked about sexism, feminism and her own perseverance.
From the opening moments, it was clear that Madonna, who was accepting the Woman of the Year award at the event, was not going to pull any punches.
“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer,” Madonna said. “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.”
Much of Madonna’s speech focused on the misogyny in the music industry as well as society, Billboard reports.
“I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin, but my real muse was David Bowie. He embodied male and female spirit and that suited me just fine. 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,” Madonna said.
“If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. 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 criticized and vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio.”
Madonna also talked about her Erotica era and Sex book, which was accused of setting feminism back by writer Camille Paglia. “I thought, ‘oh, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’ So I said ‘fuck it,'” Madonna said. “I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.'”
The 58-year-old singer also marveled at her own resiliency. “I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around,” she said. “Michael is gone. Tupac is gone. Prince is gone. Whitney is gone. Amy Winehouse is gone. David Bowie is gone. But I’m still standing. I’m one of the lucky ones and every day I count my blessings.”
Madonna’s speech will be broadcast December 12th on Lifetime as part of the Billboard Women in Music event.