Madonna was honoured as Woman of the Year at Billboard’s Women In Music 2016 event on Friday (December 9th).
Upon receiving the award, the Queen of pop delivered a honest, hard-hitting speech in which she recalled the struggles she has overcome in her career.
“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer,” Madonna told the audience.
“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.”
The revealing speech took us right back to the singers life as a teenager when she first moved to New York.
“People were dying of AIDS everywhere. It wasn’t safe to be gay, it wasn’t cool to be associated with the gay community.”
“It was 1979 and New York was a very scary place. In the first year I was held at gunpoint, raped on a rooftop with a knife digging into my throat and I had my apartment broken into and robbed so many times I stopped locking the door. In the years that followed, I lost almost every friend I had to AIDS or drugs or gunshots.”
Madonna then citied David Bowie as being one of her main influences before discussing the double standards she has faced as a female musician.
“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.”
Outlining those rules, Madonna continued: “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,” she added.
“And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticised and vilified and definitely not played on the radio.”
Openning up about the time in her life when she felt “like the most hated person on the planet,” the Holiday hit maker said “I made my Erotica album and my Sex book was released. I remember being the headline of every newspaper and magazine.”
“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.”
Looking back at the many musical icons we’ve lost over the past decade, Madonna said “I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.”
“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.”
Closing her speech, Madonna offered thanks to her haters and advice to other women in music.
“What I would like to say to all women here today is this: women have been so oppressed for so long they believe what men have to say about them.”
“They believe they have to back a man to get the job done. And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men – because they’re worthy. As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth.”
“Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to collaborate with, to be inspired by, to support, and enlightened by.”
“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.”
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