A few weeks ago during the Grammys, Madonna showed up as, well, Madonna. Having always been outrageous, she did what she always does, which is show off her body (like exposing her derriere on the red carpet,) wear clothes that cause controversy, and turn in a provocative performance that was part naughty bullfighter, part homage to fighting your own demons. Oh, and the dancers had demonic bullhorns.
For the entire planet, this move was shocking. Near as I can tell, it was just a random Sunday for Madonna. No big deal, right?
Oh, big deal. Evidently, a very big deal, indeed.
Everyone on social media pretty much lost their minds. People shamed Madonna (which happens regularly regardless of what stunt she’s pulling,) but they didn’t cite the performance (which was, um, okay;) they used her age against her. The insults came slinging: you’re a mother, how could you do such a thing? You’re 56…sit down…shut up…act your age…
…you’re not relevant anymore.
What freaked me out is that it looked like most of this stone throwing came from women. WOMEN were shaming her, using her age against her, claiming that she’s not relevant anymore because she’s not young and, worse still, that due to her age that she should just go away.
Wow. What does that mean for me as a woman over 40? What does that mean for any of us?
Gals, whether you’re a fan of Madge or not, this kind of behavior is extraordinarily dangerous. Because what you’re saying is that after a certain age, you should go somewhere and die. You’re saying that women come with an expiration date. This means that all of us after 40 should go crawl under a rock somewhere because we’re irrelevant, and you’re telling women younger than us that they’ll better do exactly what’s expected of them or dare to be shunned by their own sex.
I hate to break it to you, but we can’t speak about women’s rights from one side of our mouths and then slut or age-shame out of the other. Because, like it or not, one woman’s sewing circle is another woman’s naked dance under the moon. Not every woman’s means of expression is going to make us all comfortable. You don’t have to like it, but I’m asking that we cease the culture of shame around things like aging. We have to support each other’s rights to live as we choose, and as long as no laws are broken, we have to give each other the space to figure it out. We have enough factors against us without tearing each other apart.
The toughest part about this is that Generations X and Y might ultimately not have to deal with aging at all. With the advances in medical science, the millennial generation doesn’t have to figure out what they to do about aging; they simply have to decide how they want to live their lives. If we put limitations on their validity past a certain age, we’re planting little bombs that will live in their psyche that pass on our fears and cultural stigmas about getting older….
The ones that will explode at 30 about never being able to find the right person, the others that start to go off around 35 that the lines around their face mean that people will start to ignore them….
…the ones that go off around 40 that say they’ll become invisible…the big ones at 45 that say no one will love or respect them anymore…that they’re replaceable….
…the ones at 50 and beyond that say they’re no longer relevant.
We’re teaching women that they can be anything they want, but if you’re acting in a manner we deem unacceptable, we’re going to tear you apart, and if you show any signs of weakness, we’re going to discard you. Aging, it would seem, is our culture’s sign of weakness.
We really, REALLY need to stop saying that Jennifer Lopez is too old to do a sex scene in her last movie, that Meryl Streep should only get roles as a witch because she’s over 50, or that we don’t want to watch older people making love on screen. I want beacons of light that show that you can put yourself out there for the rest of your life. I want Madonna on that stage. I NEED Madonna on that stage.
We have to stop forcing an expiration date on each other. No one ever broke new ground by following the rules. We’ll never move forward if we keep our best fighters under cultural lock and key. Let Madonna gyrate and throw it around, let Iris Apfel continue to wear every item of jewelry in her house all at once with crazy glasses, and let’s give actresses over 50 a shot at Fifty Shades of Awesomeness. We need it. God, do we need it.
Relevance is in the eye of the beholder. For me, Madonna’s more than proven she’s still relevant. Love her or hate her, we’re talking about her right now. Seems like the old broad’s still got more than a few tricks, and I love her for it.