So many amazing women in music around the world have been inspiring us this year. On Friday night, the Billboard Women in Music 2016 event honored Madonna as Woman of the Year. The icon took to the stage and did nothing short of SLAY, speaking with brutal honesty, power, and courage. Having a career which spanning nearly four decades, Madonna has been through the ringer, and has been a fighter from the very beginning.
Her honesty began immediately, "I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer. 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." Speaking about the horrors she experienced in her early career in New York - rape, being held at gunpoint, robbery, slut shaming, and losing many of her closest friends to AIDS, drugs, or gun violence - from which she accredits the life lesson: "In life there is no real safety except for self-belief."
One of her biggest inspirations, David Bowie, opened her eyes to the rules of the game. While many of her other idols were women, she admired the fact that Bowie never really stuck to any one gender identification, he manipulated the game around his being and embraced both male and female spirits. This, however, was when Madonna had a major realization, "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."
We know, as women, that everything we do is criticized, especially women who's careers are in the public eye. Madonna is someone who has endured an unbelievable amount of scrutiny consistently throughout her life since she stepped into the spotlight in 1979. She knows a thing of two about the industry, and frankly, she shut it down time and time again with powerful messages like this: "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 criticized and vilified and definitely not played on the radio."
But not everything she said was in defense, "What I would like to say to all women here today is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long they believe what men have to say about them. They believe they have to back a man to get the job done. And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they're men -- because they're worthy. As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other's worth. 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."
Being a mother, she is strong and powerful in wanting to fight for the future of her children. We applaud her fierce bravery and complete composure speaking about her personal struggles and common conflicts women in the industry face every day. She closed out her speech by saying thank you. Not only to those who fought for her and supported her, "But 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. It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you."
All we have to say is, THANK YOU MADONNA. For being the strong kind of female role model we need and the fiery spirit that will inspire us all through the year to come. Women, lets come together and give 2017 all we've got.
Browse through the other incredible women Billboard honored for their role in music here.
Other amazing women in music making the news this month we want to honor:
Also a Billboard's Women in Music honoree, pop singer Halsey took the stage in Oslo, Norway at the Nobel Peace Prize concert and sported a jacket with a jacket with a very important reminder and message-- 20:1. She wrote an eloquent explanation for it on her Instagram to shed awareness on a very real disparity:
"The number on this jacket represents the ratio of male to female recipients of the Nobel prize, an award that recognizes great achievements in social, creative and scientific fields. An award that this year finds itself belonging to not a single woman. I am honored to stand on this stage as a voice, and I know the Nobel institution compassionately shares my hope that more women will walk the Nobel stage. So, following my performance I will be making a sizable donation to foundations that encourage female education. The first step towards peace is optimism. I earnestly implore you to remind the women in your life that they are capable of greatness. Thank you."
Across the world, in Afghanistan, 23 year old rapper Sosan Firooz risking her life to have her voice heard, and raps about the oppression of women in her society and her hope for a peaceful Afghanistan. She continues to release music despite the many death threats she receives daily.
"How long should we keep this silence?" Sosan Firooz said in an interview with CBS. “There's a need for people to rise up. And others should follow."
Also in Afghanistan, an all female orchestra is currently fighting the Taliban with their music; playing instruments were outright banned for a period of Taliban rule and even today, is looked down upon by many conservative Muslims in the country. Many of the young girls in the orchestra receive a lot of pressure from their family and community to stop, and traveling in public with visible instruments is dangerous for them. One of the members Negin Khpalwak, said,
“I will never accept defeat,” she said. “I will continue to play music.”
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