Madonna and Feminism in Her Songs and Everyday Life

Introduction

Gender is one of the most influential and interesting themes addressed in a cultural artifact. Feminism, motherhood, gender parity, violence, machismo, paternalism, and patriarchy are some sub-topics about this subject that have been vividly expressed through various prisms and from diverse attitudes over time (Lugo-Lugo 118). This paper focuses on how Madonna presents feminism in her songs and her daily life. About depth, it explores her early history as a musician, analyzes how her songs connect with the themes of women empowerment and feminism, and her cultural influence as a renowned singer. Madonna’s artifacts were selected from a personal curiosity in the way she exposes the evolution of gender-specific roles, stances, and stereotypes with time. She is iconic, and her works are classic and pithy in challenging the old female chores and upsetting the order of a masculine society.

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Background Information

Feminism is a dogma based on gender parity and female individuality (Smith 84). It is grounded in the communications and cultural superstructures (Smith 84). Also, it is energized by a code of personal responsibility and upheld by the cooperation of all people. It emerged to fight gender stereotypes which were socially deep-rooted and had adversely affected women and the whole society. Analyzing how feminine gender is portrayed in artifacts gives us a clue on how “the control that one social group practices over others” sways people to accept a biased idea of how other social groups ought to behave, communicate, think and be (Hill 3). Some of the stereotypes that exist in the society are that women are physically and mentally weak, they are overemotional, and that they are clean and tidy, and have a tendency to look after their bodies (Lynch par. 3). Also, the society discourages women from having opinions of their own, and in case they have, the social machines become counteractive where those views seem to veer off the set boundaries (Lynch par. 5). On the contrary, men are sane and are obsessed with nurturing their brains and not physical outlook. Again, they are socially unrestricted.

Feminism advocates for liberating women. This empowerment is viable if it addresses power dissimilarities between the two genders and enables womenfolk to access control over the situations (Lugo-Lugo 119). Further, the influence is feasible if it relates to the context of their lives, i.e., females have the right to use a significant portion of resources, and possess personal ability to act and decide on the same ground as men (Lugo-Lugo 119). Gender equality is deemed to be achieved when both sexes “have equal human rights, have equal opportunities to contribute to various spheres of development, and to profit from this equality” (Lugo-Lugo 119). That equality is what Madonna dreams about and discourses in her various works.

There are several images of Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in the society – from a singer, a movie star, an author, an advertising icon, a mother to a feminist (Gaugler 2). Many people have closely monitored her career, studied her life, and witnessed as she rose steeply from obscurity to iconic status (Gaugler 2). Madonna has not only served as an example for people who want to rise to superstar status but also helped other artists to achieve international stardom (Gaugler 2). One such musician is Alanis Morissette.

Ideas from the literary works by Atwood and Klein help us to connect feminism with Madonna’s artworks and personal life. Atwood explains that the female body is perceived as a toy that has various parts, some of which are optional and removable (491). Further, she alleges that female dolls have a negative influence on children because they are often portrayed as a perfect image for every woman (Atwood 491). The toys with damsel waists and big plastic breasts are a false depiction of the female body shape. They give young girls a wrong idea about anatomy and beauty (Atwood 491).

Feminist artists have not always been interested in motherhood (Klein par. 1). Some allege that artist life and parenthood are mutually exclusive. This perception gives the antifeminist group a weapon to pin down women by arguing that women cannot do anything valuable with their lives. Conversely, the women presented by Klein are hardworking and able to multitask (par. 4). They stand for feminist motherhood as opposed to patriarchal motherhood. Comparatively, Madonna’s life and career rise above these stereotypes. She has been a public figure for a lot of women pursuing a music career, and her contributions changed their lives dramatically (Smith 85). She endured so many stereotypes as an advocate for women’s emancipation, and above all these, she emerged as a successful career woman in the music industry (Smith 85). She demonstrated that what men can do, women can do even better. In a speech she delivered at the 2016 Billboard Women in Music Awards, she cited misogyny, blatant sexism, constant bullying, and relentless abuse as some setbacks she had to fight in her 34 years old music career (Lynch par. 4).

Contribution to Feminism

There are mixed perceptions about Madonna. Some view her as both “a counter-hegemonic force and a feminist force” because she ultimately tries to modify the society by clearing the barriers that separate different groups of people and prevails upon all individuals to be empowered and to rise from their subservient positions (Gaugler 1). She blurs the boundaries that occur and alienate people in the society by demonstrating via her profession how to review identity, and she motivates people to deconstruct the status that society has imposed on them and create their distinct personality (Gaugler 1). Further, she tries to protect such people and promote their acceptance in the community. Also, Madonna is all about power and urges people to take command of their lives and snatch that supremacy away from the hegemonic forces (Gaugler 2). She is an epitome of power since she possesses plenty of it and controls herself in both her career and personal life (Gaugler 2).

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Madonna arose at a ‘conservative’ period when women were in dire need to rally behind an influential figure to fight patriarchy (Smith 84). She was energetic and irrepressible and was hailed for giving women a feeling of freedom (Smith 84). They considered her a symbol of wild female creativity and power – sexy, seductive, and robust (Gaugler 3). Through her works, she sought to battle a society which overlaid sexuality rather than cherish it. Her early efforts on feminism earned her accolade from many feminists. For instance, Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer christened her the “future of feminism” (Smith 84). She praised her for being a real feminist and an ideal example to young women (Smith 84). Her admirers went on to posit that the key to her appeal was that she relentlessly exposed all the thoughts and ideas in society that the dominant classes had tried to suppress.

Analysis of the Artifact

In analyzing Madonna’s music, some of the questions that one can address are whether Madonna is a real feminist or not and what stereotypes exist in her being that prompted her to tackle gender as a theme and their effectiveness (Gaugler 5). Madonna’s depiction of gender, sexuality, and race in her music, movies, speech, and books goes against the social status quo. Her cultural artifacts and images are downright challenging and provocative. In her eyes, life does not depend on one’s race or sexual orientations. Her life and works demonstrate that people can possess traits of both binaries at ago and that boundary are unnecessary (Gaugler 5). In her videos, she may appear masculine in a suit, holding her crotch, and at other times in a colorful gown with men swooning over her womanhood (Gaugler 5).

Her video, Express Yourself, is full of phrases intended to help people to gain power. Also, this piece has counter-hegemonic messages. She depicts how women in desperate situations (the abused women) can stand up and take hold of their lives again (Lugo-Lugo 120). In the song Open Your Heart from her third album True Blue released in 1986, she performs in a manner interpreted to address gender relations in her society (Lugo-Lugo 120). The video is a presentation of a woman who wants to use her sexuality in a patriarchal society, which does not respond to women’s plea for liberation (Lugo-Lugo 120). She removes the black wig on her head and at one moment points to one of the four painted wood sculptures of men (Lugo-Lugo 120). The wooden painting collapses. These actions may be interpreted as symbolic messages to women rousing them to shake off the traditional stereotypes which have colonized their minds, and wake up to gain power and pursue men. However, women’s efforts to liberate their lives would not be welcomed by men. Women’s empowerment will make men sad and isolated. In this song, she ends by portraying women as a dominant gender (Lugo-Lugo 120).

Criticism

Despite the myriads of her successes during her career, Madonna has suffered severe criticism for contradicting feminism and being too bizarre, particularly in the way she projected sexuality (Smith 85). Critics argue that Madonna stood for postmodernism – a superficial politics of choice which had encroached into gender politics –that threatened to corrode the integrity of the feminist analysis of the society (Hill 3). Postmodernism sought to reverse the noble course of feminism as a liberation movement to one that pursues the achievement of freedom to do as a person wishes (Hill 3). Hill observed that celebrities like Madonna, Suzie Bright, and Naomi Wolf “had elevated the cant of free choice and individual liberty to a new plateau” thus defying the “perceived prudery of the traditional feminists” (3).

Madonna’s decision to venture into pornographic performance turned the feminist analysis of her as an instrument of women’s liberation upside down. According to reports, she was not compelled by financial gains or intimidation, as it is the case with other sex industry performers (Hill 4). She saw pornography and prostitution as a viable career path and substitute lifestyle choice (Hill 4). The critics differed with Madonna’s idea of liberty and argued that if feminists are to advance towards human liberation, they must perceive that pornography and the ‘notion of freedom to do as one likes’ are opposed to that liberation (Smith 85). Paglia, who had previously praised her, castigated Madonna for objectifying herself sexually (Smith 85). Similarly, other opponents observed that Madonna’s was a “pussycat feminism” that contrasted with the liberal genuine feminism, which demands personal responsibility (Smith 85). She presided over a clique of women who use the government to compel those holding a different ideology to bend to their ways (Smith 85).

When she released the controversial Sex book and Justify My Love album, she received the sternest criticism ever in her life. In the academic world, she triggered an intricate debate about her role with feminism as these works represented a rebuff of traditional feminist concerns. They wondered if she was the image that women would like to ape, and whether she served them appropriately and in a manner which smashes the ancient patriarchal hegemony.

Despite all these, Madonna recognized that being a feminist does not imply a denial of one’s sexuality and that those feminists of Camille’s ilk wanted her to be “what women felt comfortable with while she was around men” (Lynch par. 12). She stood her ground and opposed their viewpoint saying she would rather be considered a lousy feminist than compromise (Lynch par. 12).

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Conclusion

In a nutshell, Madonna is feminist in her unique way, with her queer style of asserting for women’s rights. Unlike other women musicians of her generation, she stands out as a resilient lady, a warrior, and a rebel with a course. Madonna had a profound impact on young women from different countries. Her influence enabled these young women to resist old-fashioned ideas and expectations and equipped them with a political edge to utilize in their individual and joint struggles.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. “The Female Body.” Stanford, Web.

Gaugler, Audra. Madonna, an American Pop Icon of Feminism and Counter-hegemony: Blurring the Boundaries of Race, Gender, and Sexuality. Dissertation, Lehigh University, 2000. LU, 2001.

Hill, Steven. “To Choose or Not to Choose: A politics of Choice.” The Humanist, vol. 53, no. 3, 1993, pp. 3-6.

Klein, Jennie. “Tales of Motherhood.” artpulse, artpulsemagazine.com/tales of motherhood. Accessed 7 Dec. 2017.

Lugo-Lugo, Carmen R. “The Madonna Experience: a U.S. Icon Awakens a Puerto Rican Adolescent’s Feminist Consciousness.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 22, no. 2, 2001, pp. 118-130.

Lynch, Joe. “Madonna Delivers Her Blunt Truth During Fiery, Teary Billboard Women in Music Speech.” BillBoard. 2016, Web.

Smith, Hellen. “The Future of Feminism.” Review of The Future of Feminism, by Camille Paglia, New Criterion, vol. 35, no. 8, 2017, pp. 84-86.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, April 22). Madonna and Feminism in Her Songs and Everyday Life. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/madonna-and-feminism-in-her-songs-and-everyday-life/

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