Madonna was awarded Woman of the Year at the Billboard Women in Music 2016 event on Friday.
The global icon set the record for being the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time in 2016.
On December 9, the Queen of Pop received her award and delivered an acceptance speech that was as fiery and controversial as her music career.
She began her speech with “I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer… 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.”
She then recalls the beginning of it all, when she first moved to New York in hopes of starting her career. “People were dying of AIDS everywhere. It wasn’t safe to be gay, it wasn’t cool to be associated with the gay community,” Says Madonna. “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.”
She mentions her harsh realisation of sexism in the industry. “I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin, but my real muse was David Bowie. He embodied the 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.”
The pop icon also speaks about the time when it felt like she was hated by everyone, and it was emotional. “Eventually I was left alone because I married Sean Penn, and not only would he would bust a cap in your ass, but I was off the market. For a while, I was not considered a threat. Years later, divorced and single — sorry Sean — 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.”
She also recalls a time when she had no real support. “I remember wishing I had a female peer I could look to for support. Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said I set women back by objectifying myself sexually. So I thought, ‘oh, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’ So I said ‘fuck it. I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.”
For Madonna, survival became difficult with time. “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.” said Madonna.
But she sends a powerful message to all women as she says, “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.”
Despite setbacks, Madonna has become a legend and she is grateful for her fans and supporters. “Not only to the people who have loved and supported me along the way, you have no idea…you have no idea how much your support means,” she said, tearing up for the second time.
“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, you stole the show with your speech and we need you to know how much respect we have for speaking your heart out!