The 58-year old performer opened with a few risque jokes – you know, the kind women her age are apparently not supposed to make? – and then jumped right into her comment about the music industry’s “blatant misogyny, sexism, constant bullying, and relentless abuse.”
As a young woman, Madonna went head-to-head with the tough, scary city of New York in 1979. And as a young female artist, she went head-to-head with that cutthroat environment, and owned it. All through a career spanning 34 years, she found herself at the receiving end of slut-shaming, accusations from feminist scholars, and never ending ageism. But her passion for her art, and her persistence helped her overcome it all, and set her apart too.
Madonna’s strong stand at the Billboards also made an impression on other women in the industry, like Lady Gaga, who tweeted: “Thanks for being that for us girls we need that.”
The speech moved many in the audience that night too, including Halsey, and Kesha. The latter this year went up against the same sexist, misogynistic and bullying system when she filed a lawsuit against her producer Dr Luke for drugging and sexually assaulting her, and was then told to honour her contract with him. While accepting the Billboard’s Trailblazer award, she too spoke about the toll it took on her mental health.
It’s important that both these artists used the music awards platform to highlight these issues. Their message would have reached millions of people when aired, and millions more when shared on social media. And every voice raised is crucial to the fight against sexism.
As Madonna pointed out, while she was being criticised, there was also Prince “running around in his fishnets and high-heels and lipstick and his butt hanging out“, and no one questioned him, simply because he was a man.