This is the second post in the series ‘Why Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé are NOT Role Models for Women’. In the last post I was arguing why Marilyn Monroe should not be taken as a role model. This time, I am looking closely at Madonna and I will argue why she should not be considered as a role model as well.
MADONNA: SUCCESS VS. CONTROVERSY
The Sex Symbol of the 1980s, Madonna’s strategy was ruling the world through pop music. Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan in 1958, she had a scholarship in a dance school, but dropped out two years later and headed for New York. She later recorded her first song which topped dance charts in 1982. Soon she became the most selling female artist of all time and an icon to millions of girls worldwide. Along with her success, however, Madonna’s music, videos and books were famous for their controversy.
Although Madonna might be considered by some as a good role model, since she does not take drugs, doesn’t drink alcohol, she’s physically fit ,diets very carefully and is an extreme workaholic, her obsession with sexuality clearly ruins that.
“Just about everything in the world is centered around sexual attraction and sexual power.“
In 1992, she published the pornographic coffee table book Sex, featuring herself along with models in erotic poses. Madonna argues that by using these images she proves that women are in control of their sexuality and demonstrate female liberation. The book was very much criticized as commercial rather than revolutionizing. Many critics were concerned about its ‘bad influence’ on the young.
“What is really objectionable in the book is a nasty sort of aesthetic fascism that renders physical beauty the repository of all dignity and power.” wrote Zoe Hiller in the Independent.
Madonna mentioned that she is interested in and passionate about the education of women. She funded education projects in poorer countries. Moreover, she has been, or as it is argued, a promoter of gender equality and female liberation, a movement which started in the 1980s known as Girl Power. Rather being a term for women empowerment, Girl Power was criticized by being more of a superficial term used to primarily sell records.
Zoe Hiller refused to consider Madonna a feminist role model: “True, her career has offered a graphic, self-conscious illustration of how women can use sex to acquire power and money.. Sexual power has always been the female domain: the point of feminism, surely, is to lay claim to other kinds of power – ones that aren’t predicated on drop-dead looks.”
In her music videos, “Open your Heart” and “Express Yourself”, Madonna is first shown as a subservient to men’s pleasures. By the end of the videos she wears men’s suit as if to emphasis man power and gender equality. The second part sends a message that women are to be successful if they are similar to men in their appearance or attitude, something which I totally disagree with, women are women for the way God created them, with their minds educated and their ability to take their own decisions not by throwing a bunch of men’s clothes and some masculine attitude.
Madonna abused religious symbols in many of her work. As a result, her ‘Blond Ambition’ tour was opposed by the Vatican, and her video ‘ Like a Prayer’ was condemned by the American Family Association and refused to be shown on by many US television companies.
She promoted a ‘super slut’ image in the 1980s, she copied Marilyn Monroe’s appearance, her famous pose and clothes in many occasions.
Madonna didn’t just copy Marilyn Monroe, however, she kept reinventing herself to keep pace with the changing popular trends. ”She’s like a chameleon,” said Nars, a makeup artist. ”She loves to change. She really gets into it.”
She introduced mass audiences to different cultures such as the rising gay culture of the 1990s and different ethnic groups including Latin, Asian and Indian cultures and their artifacts. This showed Madonna’s intelligence to gain fortune and match the ever-changing public taste, a reflection of the characteristics of the postmodern society. This is clear intelligence and hard work from Madonna’s side, something I highly respect, however as The New York Post columnist Ray Kerrison wrote:
“She will do anything, say anything, wear anything, mock anything, degrade anything to draw attention to herself and make a buck. She is the quintessential symbol of the age; self indulgent, sacrilegious, shameless, hollow.”