On Friday, Madonna accepted the Woman of the Year Award at the Billboard Women in Music 2016 event. And because Madonna is, well, Madonna, she didn’t simply accept the award with a few thank yous–she gave a powerful, brutally honest speech about the years of sexism and abuse she has faced being a prominent woman in the entertainment world.
“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer,” the speech began, and from there it was no holds barred when it came to recounting her experience as a female musician. Starting with stories of being “raped on a rooftop with a knife digging into my throat” to losing most of her friends to AIDS or drugs, the performer went on to make some incredibly powerful points about dealing with the restricting double standards that run rampant in the entertainment industry and our society at large.
On being a woman, she 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.
And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticized and vilified and definitely not played on the radio.
On expressing her sexuality:
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.
She ended the speech on a powerful message to her “haters,” stating:
But to the doubters and naysayers and everyone who gave me hell and said I could not, that I would not or I must not — your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today. It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.
Madonna is the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time, and yet this is what she’s dealt with on a regular basis throughout her career. It’s upseting, it’s sickening, and it needs to stop. For Madonna to stand up on such a prominent stage and risk offending the people who have supposedly aided in her success takes a lot of chutzpah, and I couldn’t respect her more for doing so.
Watch some of the speech below and see for yourself the power that is Madonna: