Updated: Jun 2, 2020
On 9 August it was Woman’s Day so I listed the top 5 women I would like to acknowledge because they have influenced me a lot; and I asked you all to do the same. I have unpacked my why for two of them already, Adele de Waal and my grandmother. Here is my third: Madonna. A dancer, a performer, an artist, a social commentator, a shape-shifter.
If you reading this, sit down. It’s going to take five minutes, because I got a lot to say about this gal. For those of you who’ve known me all my life you will remember that she was my teenage superhero. If you smiled when you saw the reference to Vogue you’ve known me a very long time. And I must say she remains on my list. So, why Madonna? For her fucking balls & for her social insights. She is seriously clever; and then she makes her clever sexy. And when it’s sexy, it becomes popular. And when it’s popular, it’s influential – that’s leadership. See how clever Madonna is? I like that, a lot. I have taken this from her – and this is why she is so important to me. Because ideally, what I would like you to say about me when I leave a room is, “she’s a sexy nerd”. And I like her. I don’t know that I understand her, but I like her”. #mynewpresentation #Iamnotacowareyou?
Who of you think I am a sexy nerd? ;)
I am of a generation of women who were the first, an-mass in our young teens, to know about feminism; and yet we were exposed to both the ‘old fashioned woman’ (our grandmothers & mothers), and then ‘liberated women’ (maybe a mother, an older sister or a neighbor). Madonna was not the first feminist. From Simone de Beauvoir to Billy Jean King women all over the world had been speaking out against their treatment. Like all social-change movements the impact of their pioneering spirits evolved slowly. Social change also has both positive and negative consequences, but that’s another article). That’s why, when we talk about feminism, or being a feminist, or being in support of women, we must define what we mean carefully. I absolutely give thanks to all the women before Madonna who shaped and influenced her. The women who fought for the vote, for equal pay at work, for contraceptives, for a place in business. I truly do. You ladies did the ground work, the tough bit if you like. And as a result you had to be tough – I am talking to you if you are in your late 50’s, 60’s & early 70’s now. To compete with the men you had to be manly because you were breaking ground. And very probably you were rejected by other women, who were either jealous or uncertain of you. And whilst you were doing this on our behalf in the boardrooms and courtrooms, Madonna was teaching us how to be seductive in the bedroom. Not to be masculine, but to be feminine, on purpose. She made activism sexy and I loved that.
As a teenager and now as a professional Sociologist, I believe that Madonna changed and shaped popular culture, fashion, women’s values, behavior; and our choices in every single aspect of our lives. Her charisma made everyone sit up, listen & react, whether their reaction was in support or against. That’s influence. Madonna broke the mold, she changed the game because she relentlessly shone a blinding light on massive issues for women. She did this by using herself as a canvas upon which to challenge & seduce conservatism & patriarchy. For me her message has always been influence and be clever because you are sexy. Confidence is the sexiest thing. This is what we women have over men, because we get to wear make-up and high heels. Why wouldn’t you want to feel sexy? Eat right, exercise, meditate, pray, cleanse, actively build your self-esteem, this is what Madonna has consistently said if you were listening to her. Take your power back ladies; and make it sexy! And never forget to be clever about it.
Work hard, be disciplined, stay focused, set personal boundaries… those of you who have been through my personal mastery programmes, can you see how she influenced me?
Madonna’s dominance over social change certainly was largely because her arrival, as an impoverished dancer in New York, collided with social history in a magic moment called the 1980’s. When mass media was in its infancy. It was not until 1989 that MTV, tabloid media and Sky News were launched and in so doing disrupted social value systems (i.e. human behavior) for the entire world, forever. The mass media were hungry for real-life stories; and Madonna was the perfect story, because she had a lot to say. Madonna milked this opportunity like any good SO/ SX three (for anyone familiar with Enneagram) would do and this is her gift to all of us. Especially women.