Slut-shaming and Madonna

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day, and something interesting happened. Our conversation somehow drifted toward Madonna, and he dismissed her with a wave, calling her a “slut” who “slept her way to the top.”

Huh.

Well, first, I thought I had slipped into a time machine and landed in 1994. I mean, I thought the whole knee-jerk, calling Madonna a slut thing was out.

Secondly, I thought about why my friend would have such a disgusted view of the pop singer. He’s an uber-liberal, all about LGBT rights, and Palestinian rights, and against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even with all that, he still said “slept her way to the top.” Which, by the way, talking of time machines, isn’t that a thread-bare chestnut as well?

But what is about Madonna that arouses this need to slut-blame?

I know for a fact that he would never dismiss Prince, Mick Jagger, or Rod Stewart for bedding lots of partners. And it’s well-documented facts that all three of the aforementioned gentlemen have been in company with many, many, many women.

So, I pushed him a bit and asked why he chose to call her a slut…and I asked about the whole “slept her way to the top” thing, which I thought was very strange because the logic behind the cliché goes, a person sleeps his/her way to the top of a company – sleeping with various individuals in the company when convenient and helpful for a career trajectory.

So, I guess one could argue that if Madonna had slept with record execs, producers, songwriters, that may have gotten her a deal, but that’s all it would’ve gotten her. The only way Madonna would’ve really “slept her way to the top” would be if she slept with the tens of millions of people who bought her records and saw her live. And even though I know she’s a sexual Olympian, even Madonna couldn’t accomplish sexing tens of millions of people and finding the time to tour, make music, adopt babies, and make shitty films.

When pressed, he insisted it wasn’t her sexuality that bothered him, but her mediocrity. So, I guess if she were Mozart, and slept around, then it would be okay? I’m not sure the logic behind that kind of thinking.

But society’s always keen on denigrated women, especially if their successes had anything to do with men. And what’s interesting with Madonna is that to many, her success is tied to her sexuality – a cause and effect, if you will. She’s slutty and as a result, she’s the biggest pop star in the world. Meanwhile, we don’t apply these restrictive boundaries with male singers: I’ve never heard anyone complain that Prince had “slept his way to the top” even though sexuality is just as intrinsic in his public persona and his art, as it is with Madonna’s.

But slut-shaming has been around since forever – I’m sure cavemen were making cavewomen feel bad if they wore their loin cloths too short. But a double-standard exists. And the problem with slut-shaming is that is naturally extends to rape victim-blaming (“if she weren’t such a slut, she wouldn’t have been raped” – an argument that people will still trot out). Now, I know I’m laying a lot of shit on my friend’s feet – after all, we were just shooting the shit, eating burritos at some taco joint, jawing about Madonna. But Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil – it’s not the outlandish crazies that will commit wide-spread social change for evil, it’s regular folks who perpetuate it in their everyday lives. So while idiots like Paul Ryan, Richard Mourdock, and Todd Akin – all men in positions of power – can mutilate the facts of rape and misogyny to fit their agendas, it’s normal people like my friend who must monitor the day-to-day misogyny and try to keep that at bay.

So, is my friend a sexist? A little bit, sure. But then again, despite my self-identification as a feminist, so am I. So is every man on the planet. It’s impossible not to be, when everyday when you wake up, you wake up in a world that almost across the board, is set up and designed to benefit your kind. It’s ingrained and we all need constant reminders to check ourselves. When we make jokes about women’s bodily functions – or worse, when we express disgust or offense at women’s bodily functions, we need to check ourselves; when we make assumptions or judgements about women’s behavior because of the way they dress, we need to check ourselves; if we try to “explain” rape or excuse rapists in any way, we need to check ourselves; if we constantly tell women not to get raped, but then forget to tell men not to rape, then we need to check ourselves; when we knowingly move ahead in our careers at the expense of our female colleagues, and know that they won’t get a fair deal, we need to check ourselves; and when we call women “sluts” and men “playas” for the exact same behavior, then we need to check ourselves.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Slut-shaming and Madonna

  1. Gemini Gemma

    I think you are on a defensive, just because he is your friend. Just because he is a liberal – does not mean he is pro-women’s rights. In fact, most leftist men were a disgusting sexist bunch that relegated women to the fringes. The fact is such men, only are liberals when it is convenient to them. If its convenient for them to be sex positive and sleep around with many women they will, but in the end when they talk behind your back he will say you are a slut. That is how majority of the men are. That is why women need to have standards, For example, Fanon ( a leftist commie) said that the veiling of women is essential because it denotes the male superiority over her.

    See these leftists want to eradicate classicism where it fits them, however, sexism still benefits them. On a different note, I think women should be happy of being sluts or whores, let’ say Madonna did sleep around to the top. So what, good for her. She is now super rich living the lifestyle! That is awesome, that is called survival of the fittest using everything you got. Her accomplishments are not lesser just because she did sleep around, when compared to a an engineer who got there without sleeping around. The whole shame of being a prostitute, is a patriarchal artifact that still haunts too many of the feminists that I encounter. Down with the patriarchy, down with the shame of prostitution!

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