As a woman trying to find her way in the music business, I found Madonna’s Billboard Woman of the Year award acceptance speech extremely moving. She said a lot of things throughout the speech that rang true for me. It made me think about how I’ve been treated by men and women throughout my life. You can watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Xgbh2E0NM.
When she talked about moving to New York and being raped and robbed, and it made me think back to my late teens when I was “couch surfing" and of how men would try to take advantage of me because I was a young pretty girl. It reminded me of why I never had very many female friends, because I was always “one of the guys”, so they were jealous of the friendships I had with their boyfriends. Women can be especially cruel, you know. I thought about living in my first apartment in Yakima, WA where every day I would wonder if today was the day I was going to walk out of my apartment and see my window smashed and what would they have taken this time? One time someone took the knobs off of my stock stereo (in a Mazda 323) and the cassette that was in the deck, and then they put something through the windshield like a screwdriver or an ice pick. I remember thinking, “this seems a bit personal.” At the time, I was dating a man who was the roommate of another man who was also dating a girl my age. We were friends at first, but it didn’t take long before the jealousy kicked in. Jealous of what I have no idea since I had no interest whatsoever in her man. Her shenanigans soon got her tossed out on her ass, and it wasn’t long after that the ice pick incident occurred. There were no witnesses of course, but I’ve always wondered if that was her.
After divulging the horrors she endured her first year in New York, Madonna said that all of that made her realize “In life there is no real safety except self-belief.” I have always considered myself a survivor, but I’ve also had a hard time believing in big things for myself. To even be entertaining the idea of a career in music is something that just seems so ridiculous to me, and yet here I am. I have to believe in myself harder than anyone else that I can do this. Some days this is easier than others, but I have to keep trying.
Then she mentioned David Bowie being her biggest inspiration. She said that she looked up to him because he "embodied male and female spirit, and that suited her just fine." That it made her think that there were no rules - but she soon found out she was wrong. “There are no rules, if you’re a boy.” she said. I nodded in silent agreement. She went on to say, “If you’re a girl you have to play the game, what is that game? You are allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy, but don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t have an opinion that is out line with the status quo at least. 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.” I think about this a lot. I have always been a very open person. I usually say what’s on my mind and I don’t have much of a filter, which sometimes gets me into trouble. I think it’s fun to make with innuendos and be flirty. You have to be careful not to be too flirty or look too pretty when you go out with friends because the next thing you know you're being called a homewrecker and you don’t even know why. If we’re being honest, though, chances are good the relationship was already in the shitter. They're just looking for a scapegoat and it might as well be me. But still.
In the end she talked about how she wished that she would have had a female peer that she could look to for support. She encouraged women to start appreciating our own worth and to seek out strong women to befriend. I’ve always looked for strong women to support and align myself with, and am always looking for more. We’ve got to find each other and lift each other up! So if you’re a strong woman and you’ve found this speech as moving as I did, let me know you're out there! And if you’re a dude in favor of this plan, hit me up too, we all need to band together to make this change we want to see in the world. A place where women and men are free to express themselves in the manner they see fit, and not be ridiculed or shamed, or held to some bullshit double-standard.