Madonna opened up about the struggles and obstacles she’s faced over the years in a touching, personal speech at a Billboard Women in Music event on Friday.
While accepting a Woman of the Year award, the pop icon got real about the sexism and misogyny she’s dealt with throughout her decades-long career.
“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer,” Madonna said, via Billboard. “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.”
The singer also spoke about the double standards that women in music, and in society in general, experience regularly, noting, “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,” she said. “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 criticized and vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio.”
The 58-year-old went on to discuss the time period surrounding the release of her album “Erotica” and her book Sex. She recalled being called “a whore and a witch” in the press, and even being compared to Satan. At one point during the speech, she began to tear up.
“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 said. “This was the first time I truly understood women do not have the same freedom as men.”
“People say that I’m so controversial,” she added. “I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.”
In true Madonna fashion, she finished off her poignant speech by sticking it to her haters.
“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,” she said. “It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.”