Oh goody, we have another prominent Australian feminist telling another woman what she can and cannot wear. Didn’t we do this last week?
The front cover of today’s Sunday Life features the question:
“… is it time for Madonna to hang up her hotpants?”
The answer, OF COURSE, is “only if she wants to”. But you won’t find that in the magazine.
The intro to the Madonna article is full of age-shaming:
“ON WHICH SIDE DO YOU SIT IN THE GREAT MADONNA DEBATE? SHOULD SHE KEEP REINVENTING HERSELF OR RETIRE GRACEFULLY?”
I’m sitting on the side with the third option: MADONNA SHOULD DO WHATEVER THE HELL SHE WANTS TO DO.
Besides, we all know that “retire gracefully” means “become invisible so we don’t have to see old people enjoying themselves in public and WORSE, have to look at their bodies”.
Helen Barlow’s article is pretty meh, but it’s Julia Baird’s piece that really gets my fuck-being-age-appropriate goat. Starting with “Remember Madonna’s stomach, back in the 1980s?“… blah blah blah she used to be hot three decades ago when she was young… “Now when I think of her, I think of her arms. Her taut, muscled biceps, alarmingly free of padding” – ooh, careful there Judgey McBaird – “are perfect symbols of her determination“. Really? I think they look like arms. Arms that do a lot of exercise. Arms that are symbols of arms.
“She works very, very hard – and this is why she has endured.
But, now, this hard work is deflating as well as inspiring. She might not have cared about what people thought of her sexually, but she obviously cares what people think of her physically.”
And you know this how, exactly? Did she tell you this, or are you just projecting your own shit onto her? Because it sounds a lot like you’re saying that anyone who works out is doing it so others have something nice to look at.
Baird then goes on to write some nonsense about how Madonna works out because she doesn’t like herself, and that as women age they should be able to let themselves go.
But this bit had me laughing my arse off:
“Madonna taught us to face fears: of the consequences of blooming sexuality, independence, anger, eccentricity and unconventionality. Of being women who don’t do as they are told.”
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BAIRD WROTE THAT IN AN ARTICLE TELLING MADONNA WHAT TO DO.
“Madonna may be telling us that middle-aged women should not become invisible, inaudible or afraid to be alone, which is, of course, good – but she makes it seem like you have to look a certain way to do so.”
I call bullshit. Madonna has always looked a “certain way” – ie, sexy. Why on earth should she stop looking sexy, cover herself up in grey cardigans as Baird wants, just because she’s over 50? Because the thing is, it’s pretty fucking obvious that you don’t have to have Madonna’s look to be sexy in public: Helen Mirren, Sophia Loren, Roseanne Barr, Julianne Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Isabella Rossellini, Jane Lynch, Kim Cattrall… Sure, these women were sexy before they were 50, so rant about beauty standards, rant about the entertainment industry, rant about how popular culture believes that women over 50 who are not attractive actresses should be invisible, but let’s not pretend that telling Madonna to “put it away” – to become invisible – is an intelligent contribution to anything.
“She recently told Naomi Wolf in Harper’s Bazaar that what was more important was, “to continue to be a provocateur, to be rebellious, to start a revolution”.
Yes! But can only the pretty start revolutions? When Madonna refuses to age, when she turns her body into a scientific experiment, she stops representing rebellion and starts representing obedience.”
Actually, no. The most rebellious thing Madonna can do is to continue what she’s doing because she’s clearly making A LOT OF MAINSTREAM PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE. So what if she’s done something to her face? It’s her face, she can do what she wants to it. Yes, we have a big problem with the entertainment industry pressuring women to look perpetually young, but with every opinion piece that blames Madonna for it, the patriarchy just laughs and laughs and laughs.
As for the insulting line about the scientific experiment, wow. Just wow. My mother is a world champion surf life saver. Her body is lean and muscular. She is strong. She works out because she enjoys it and because being strong helps her do the other things she enjoys: competing and patrolling. And she is older than Madonna. Hell, over the last six months I’ve lost some weight through exercise and I love how strong my body feels. Saying that someone who uses their body for more than sitting on their arse writing body-shaming opinion pieces is treating it as a “scientific experiment”, is just dumb and, frankly, I expect better than this from the author of Media Tarts: How the Australian Press Frames Female Politicians.