As she prepares to release a new album, Madonna has been subjected to the (now usual) litany of abuse online. But why are so many seem determined to direct abuse at the woman who has revolutionised what it means to be a woman in the music industry? She deserves so much better, writes Jennifer McShane
In a time when we're still seeing women struggle for their rights (despite momentous change), we are blessed to have one icon who uses her platform to continue to speak about the revolutionary acts that we still need to see: Madonna. But even saying the performer's name in 2019 polarises the audience - including the female audience. It remains baffling, the negativity that now seems to come along with being a pop star in your sixties. She was always a symbol of rebellion: the underdog; a woman who, through music and her art was intent on changing the status quo for what it meant to be a woman.
In her view, anything was possible with the right attitude and determination - she came to New York with nothing more than a few dollars in her pocket determined to see her ambitions fulfilled - and her lyrics acted as a social commentary for how things should be challenged.
She always sought to empower and unify. To demand the best.
She still does. Over three decades into a career which has seen her become the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time, she still demands the best of everything life has to offer. And this is the problem as many see it; this is why she is vilified. Is it because she's a woman over 60, still relevant in an ageist industry that favours the young (and the males) all of whom demand the same?
"There are no rules - if you're a boy. There are rules if you're a girl"
"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. Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin"
She's right, but as she starts a new promotional campaign on the cusp of a new album, that doesn't stop the critics.
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Those who say she's too old, too sexual for her age, too much of anything.
Where is the criticism of Elton John? Of the male members of Fleetwood Mac who tour every single year? Was similar abuse hurled at the late David Bowie?
"I've had the sh**t kicked out of me for my entire career, and a large part of that is because I'm female and also because I refuse to live a conventional life," Madonna said in an interview. "I've created a very unconventional family. I have lovers who are three decades younger than me. This makes people very uncomfortable. I feel like everything I do makes people feel really uncomfortable," she said.
Limitations for women
It's too easy to dismiss her as a white, rich pop star living in another reality (and many do), but she knows both sides; she knows she lives a life of privilege while being aware of the lashings of hate that come with that - just as she knows because she's a woman growing older, limitations are placed on her life.
And yet there are many rich, white, powerful men in a similar position who are, by and large, let off the hook. Even with #MeToo.
She knows that she can't be seen as a sexual woman of 60 plus because this is widely considered taboo in modern society. But instead of being lauded by the masses for this empowering attitude, she's punished.
Even down to the fact that after achieving so much, she still lives to create music and some, like her ex-husband Guy Richie, still, ask why.
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"My ex-husband, who used to say to me, "But why do you have to do this again? Why do you have to make another record? Why do you have to go on tour? Why do you have to make a movie?" And I'm like, "Why do I have to explain myself?" I feel like that's a very sexist thing to say. Does somebody ask Steven Spielberg why he's still making movies? Hasn't he had enough success? Hasn't he made enough money? Hasn't he made a name for himself? Did somebody go to Pablo Picasso and say, "Okay, you're 80 years old. Haven't you painted enough paintings?" No. I'm so tired of that question. I just don't understand it."
"I'll stop when I run out of ideas. I'll stop when you f**king kill me. How about that?"
Sadly, like many of the greats, perhaps she won't be truly appreciated in modern times until she's no longer here. What a depressing thought that is.
We'll only ever have one Madonna.
And she deserves to be admired and appreciated in the here and now.
Main photograph: @Madonna