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Pop Stars & Feminism: Madonna

We often discuss pop music, it's imagery and message, within the context of feminism. Especially the messages about female sexuality. I'm not entirely convinced that modern pop women are really representing womanhood or autonomous sexuality. So I want to look back and share the women of pop that I came up with in the eighties and nineties. Now, I may stretch that a little here and there as I intend to run this as a bit of a series over the next while. So I may include some men and I may even go a wee further back if the mood strikes.

I'm going to start with the grand maverick herself pre-madge Madonna. Madonna was a controversial figure in her hey day. She put sex back on the map in huge way. But. She put her sexuality, her choices, her ambitions, her ideology on the map. She owned, controlled, and crafted an image of power, intelligence, and rebellion.

Now, "Zemar!" you say "she co-opted so many cultures." Yes, she did. She was a club kid and dancer before her career took off. She absorbed the influence of the people she surrounded herself with (on purpose of course-she was a genius business woman and understood marketing and demographics well). In the early days that was the gay community. She fed off of them and they in turn adored and reviled her. Depending on who you asked. That issue came to a head with Vogue (requisite plug: Paris is Burning on Netflix live stream now). Madonna was one of the few pop stars at that time that was urban, white, and female and it shows. Personally I was never concerned about it because she wasn't a tourist in another sub culture (and by this I mean club kids/gay club kids. As we note not all gay people were club kids so I consider this a sub culture of the greater LGBT culture of the time) she was a part of that even if she didn't live their experiences. She was also an ally and advocate of the community. I leave it to you all to discuss this element further.


I'm going to post three of her videos that I think relay what she stood for, who she was a recording artist, and how she branded sexuality and womanhood.

I'll begin with an old classic Papa Don't Preach. For you youngn's this may seem meaningless what with your Teen Mom shows and all. But when this video/song was released it was controversial. At the time being a teen mom was still a dirty secret, something to be ashamed of, and a horrible tragedy to be fall a family. And yet teen pregnancy was frequent. It was in the late eighties when highschools began to install daycare's in order to ensure the young women could attend school. There were talk shows, news programs, after school programs, hell and episode of Degrassi was dedicated to teen pregnancy. The issue was huge. And then Madonna, an Italian Catholic girl released this:

Fast forward to the fourth album, 1989. And she releases the ultimate sexual revolution pop song. Telling women, don't be demure, don't acquiesce, don't hide your appetite. Demand it. Take it. Feel it. Want it. It's yours anyway just let it out. Express Yourself.

And my last bit. From her sixth album and the last I ever payed attention to. In 1994 she released Human Nature. It had a nice R&B/dance vibe. The lyrics are self expanlitory. She isn't apologizing. She isn't going to be shut up. She isn't going to hide her power, her sexuality, she isn't going to be owned by a studio a group. She is herself and she will do as she pleases. She will not allow the public, the studio, or the critics to tame her or silence her because she is a woman. The video goes a little further. It's what we've come to expect, her exploring kinks and sexy in a subversive way. But here's the twist. She and her dancers are having fun! Enjoying themselves. That's the subversion. That all of these sexual images she is known for, pushing the envelope on kink is fun. It should be fun. I'll note here that she is a dancer, she dances with, interacts with her dancers. She is the front woman but she is still one of them. What they wear and do is a part of the whole performance. They aren't background.

*I'm having a problem getting these video's to embed. I'm super sorry if they don't work but you can youtube them.

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