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Madonna nails the big issue of ageist double standards

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Emily Reynolds
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Madonna has received multiple criticisms for not “acting her age”. And in a new interview, she’s called out the double standard.

Madonna has often been a lightning rod for attitudes towards women. Early in her career, she was criticised for being “too sexual”; as she’s got older, she’s been subject to ageism, with critics saying she isn’t growing old “gracefully”. 

And in a new interview with The Cut to promote her new skincare range, MDNA, the singer has spoken out about age-shaming, saying that we “need [older] role models”. 

“People are afraid of things they don’t know and that are unfamiliar,” she says. “Women have a different place in the world now. We’re finding more work and fighting for more gender equality in the workplace. As we do that, we should keep working on not only our career but on ourselves. 

“It’s about staying curious, staying alive, and working on making ourselves feel good whether it’s through exercise, skin care, etc. There are no rules.”

Madonna goes on to say that it’s an “outdated, patriarchal idea” that a woman “has to stop being fun, curious, adventurous, beautiful, or sexy past the age of 40”, calling it “ridiculous”. 

“Why should only men be allowed to be adventurous, sexual, curious, and get to have all the fun until the day they leave this earth?” she asks, encouraging women to “stand up to social mores that say we can’t”. 

As a young artist, Madonna was also subject to criticism for expressing her sexuality 

She also says she would never think of herself as “fighting age”, just continuing with her life “as I always have”.

“If you keep putting yourself in challenging, new adventurous situations, then you keep yourself alive and youthful,” she explains. 

It’s not the first time Madonna has called out ageist comments. In 2017, Piers Morgan told the singer she should “put it away”. 

“I loved Madonna when she acted her age,” he said on Good Morning Britain. “You can’t be 58 and just prancing about. I want her to just put it away.”

And Madonna responded with a powerful speech, thanking Morgan 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”. 

“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,” she said. 

But she does think that things are changing. 

“In the beginning of my career, I got so much flak for using sexuality as part of my creativity and was called a sexual provocateur,” she says. “Now, all the challenges that I had to face 20 years ago seem ludicrous.

“What I am going through now is ageism, with people putting me down or giving me a hard time because I date younger men or do things that are considered to be only the domain of younger women. I mean, who made those rules? Who says? I’m going to keep fighting it. Ten to 20 years from now, it’s going to be normal. People are going to shut up.”

Images: Getty