If anyone understands the toxic combination of sexism and ageism that’s used to demean and restrict women as they get older, it’s Madonna. In recent years, the pop icon’s every move seems to be met with reductive cries of “put it away” or “time to retire, grandma”.
But one of the singer’s defining characteristics is her determination to push back: if society tells her not to do something because she’s a woman, and a woman who’s not 25 anymore, she’s sure as hell going to keep on doing it anyway.
In a new interview to promote her MDNA Skin range, she makes some typically perceptive points about the obstacles she faces as she approaches her 60th birthday in August.
“It’s an outdated, patriarchal idea that a woman has to stop being fun, curious, adventurous, beauiful, or sexy past the age of 40. It’s ridiculous,” she tells The Cut.
“Why should only men be allowed to be adventurous, sexual, curious, and get to have all the fun until the day they leave this earth? Why should that only be the domain of men? How do we fight this? By standing up to men and by standing up to social mores or standards that say we cannot. The more women that do it, it will just be a matter of time.”
Madonna goes on to explain that when she became famous in the ’80s, she was labelled a “sexual provocateur” because she made sexuality an integral part of her work – something that was deemed unusual for a female artist at the time.
“Now, all the challenges that I had to face 20 years ago seem ludicrous,” she reflects. “What I am going through now is ageism, with people putting me down or giving me a hard time because I date younger men or do things that are considered to be only the domain of younger women.
“I mean, who made those rules? Who says? I’m going to keep fighting it. Ten to 20 years from now, it’s going to be normal. People are going to shut up.”
She’s right – and that day can’t come soon enough.