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Madonna’s powerful response to sexist and ageist critics who called her a “whore and a witch”

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Kayleigh Dray
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Madonna was honoured as Woman of the Year at the Billboard Women in Music 2016 event – just days after Piers Morgan attacked her on television for her recent performance on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke.

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

The 51-year-old – in a grossly immature act – then proceeded to pretend to vomit into a bucket during the live televised broadcast.

However Madonna – aka the highest-grossing female artist of all time – is sick of being subjected to sexist, ageist, and misogynist views. And, in a brilliantly and brutally honest speech, she decided to tackle the issue head-on during her Billboard acceptance speech.

Madonna on the red carpet at the Billboard Women in Music 2016

Madonna on the red carpet at the Billboard Women in Music 2016

The Vogue hitmaker began her speech by taking to the podium and saying: “I stand before you as a doormat... oh, I mean, as a female entertainer.”

She continued: “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. 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.”



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. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticised and vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio.”

Madonna went on to explain that she found solace from the paparazzi and the tabloids only when she conformed to outdated gender narratives and married Sean Penn in 1985.

“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,” she said.

“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.”



Madonna, whose speech has since been praised as “exceptional” by James Corden, finished by offering some advice to women everywhere.

“We have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth,” she said.

“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.”

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, to be honest; all hail the Queen of Pop, who continues to reign supreme.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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