Madonna: ‘We still live in a very sexist society that wants to limit people’

Cosmo May '15 Cover 1

To promote her new album, Rebel Heart, Madonna covers the new issue of Cosmopolitan. Cosmo actually sent us the image of Madonna’s first Cosmo cover (from back in 1990) too. I personally don’t think they should have chosen Madonna-in-the-mask for this 2015 cover, but whatever. Madonna still wants to be seen as a provocateur, which apparently involves Mardi Gras masks. Here are some highlights from her interview:

On longevity in her career: “Popularity comes and goes. You need to know who you are, what you stand for, and why you’re here.”

On sexuality and ageism: “Don’t be fooled, not much has changed – certainly not for women. We still live in a very sexist society that wants to limit people. Since I started, I’ve had people giving me a hard time because they didn’t think you could be sexual or have sexuality or sensuality in your work and be intelligent at the same time. For me, the fight has never ended.”

On collaborating with Kanye West on her album Rebel Heart: “It’s a little bit of a bullfight, but we take turns. He knows that he’s walking into a room with a person with a strong point of view, and I do too. I listen to what he has to say, take it in, and he listens to what I say and takes it in. We didn’t agree on everything, but he has good ideas.”

On internet haters: “You can hide behind your computer or your phone and say whatever you want – you’re not known. Could you say it to my face? Would you say it to my face? I doubt it.”

[From Cosmopolitan]

The “would you say it to my face?” question has always intrigued me. Like, I don’t think I would have a problem telling a celebrity to their face that their outfit is ugly. I’m sort of blunt/rude like that. But would I tell Madonna to her 2015-Face that she needs to stop with the plastic surgery? Eh. I would probably chicken out.

As for Madonna’s continued conversation about sexism… her fight sometimes feels dated. And it feels like she only cares about how sexism affects her, not the plight of women everywhere. Is sexual agency a feminist cause? For sure. But is that the main crux of feminism? No.

Cosmo May '15 Madonna 2

Photos courtesy of Ellen Von Unwerth/Cosmopolitan and vintage cover by Francesco Scavullo.

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42 Responses to “Madonna: ‘We still live in a very sexist society that wants to limit people’”

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  1. Abbott says:

    I prefer to talk behind people’s backs like a normal person.

    • Angie says:

      + 1 You and I were raised right :P

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:


    • Debbie says:

      Haha that was funny.

      Madonna makes me so angry! The woman is an icon, what she accomplished is incredible and instead of sitting back and being like yeah bitches come at me cause you’ll never catch up she’s out there flopping around on stage in ridiculous outfits with Miley Cyrus! She’s ruining her legacy and it is annoying me. And yes I would say that to her face.

      • Zeph says:

        Me and my friend are Madonna fans since the beginning. We feel exactly the same way. When Taylor Swift was on stage with her the other day, we were so disappointed. She’s done too much to look like a fool using these no talent idiots for fans. It makes me sad.

    • Josefa says:

      Lol, me too. Just stop for a minute and imagine a world where everyone said everything they think about everyone else to their faces. Eeek. Gossip and back-talking exist for a reason.

      That being said, I wouldn’t have a problem respectfully telling Madonna her music sucks and that people are no longer shocked or intrigued by her.

    • Mispronounced Name Dropper says:

      Nah. At work I refrain from talking behind other people’s backs. That way when my rivals do it i can assume moral superiority and tear them to shreds.

    • Zigggy says:

      Lol- I saw something that said “being nice to someone you dislike doesn’t mean you’re fake. It means you’re mature enough to tolerate your dislike towards them.”

  2. Sugar says:

    Oh, you’re really fighting the power of sexism, Madonna, with your male gaze-y photos. Take your finger and those pearls out of your mouth and then we’ll talk.

    • Kelly says:

      Well said, Sugar!

    • Zigggy says:

      No kidding. Maybe instead of sucking on your fingers (or pearls) and touching your you-know-what you could pose with a book or a diploma or even a drill or hammer… yes, we as women are sexual- and that’s ok- but we are so much more. And I KNOW- I can’t believe I just typed the lamest comment about posing with a freaking book or diploma. I’m clearly 85 years old ;)
      Also, as a stay at home mom I’m tempted to mention posing with a spatula or vacuum, but that’s even more messed up- it’s closer to my reality but certainly not PC. And now I’m just annoyed with myself for judging Madge in the first place! Not sure where I was going with that. Do what you want because life is short…? I’ll end on that.

  3. ncboudicca says:

    Sexuality is not the main point of feminism for me, but I’m sure that is for HER because that’s her job and a part of how she makes her money. I’m more concerned about glass ceilings and being heard in meetings and the He-Man Women Haters club that are programmers, because that involves MY job.

  4. Darkladi says:

    Shut up, Madge. And I’d totally say it to your face

  5. Kara says:

    im just sooooooo bored with her. she has the same shtick now literally for decades. its like people feeling rebelious because they got a tattoo.

    do something original Madge.

  6. Veritas says:

    I would have no problem telling her to her face that she’s outdated and should retire and no one wants to see her has been ass anymore on stage. Maybe she should start directing crap movies again from now on no more music. Pop music is not an senior citizens game. It’s definitely for the young and everyones got an expiration date.

  7. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I can see where she would feel that the backlash or criticism of her is sexist. People don’t want to see a person her age dressing and performing the exact way she did as a twenty-something. But I do think she harps on it to the point where it makes me think she doesn’t care about equal pay or respect or anything but people being adverse to her Peter Pan syndrome. Idk. It’s probably unfair of me, but I’m tired of hearing about this from her.

    • Kiddo says:

      I think she goes for attention, doesn’t get it, then hitches herself to some cause to make whatever she is doing seemingly part of some higher/loftier goal. It’s a cynical perspective, but I think it’s Madonna first, for Madonna. But hey, she wouldn’t have stayed where she is in the spotlight, if she wasn’t a major self-promoter.

  8. Cecada says:

    Well… I’m loving her again, after a long break. Rebel Heart is actually pretty damn good. Most of her 13 studio albums are in fact pretty damn good; I’ve been revisiting some lately… I think her vanity has always been hard to take; she’s an unapologetic narcissist. But whatever, they ALL are. Screw it; I love her music!

  9. Nev says:

    Go on Madonna!!!!!!

  10. Tracy says:

    I am just not a Madonna fan. My actually think she’s an intelligent person who would be interesting to talk to…now. But she was such an insufferable brat for so many years that I just can’t. And to have her espouse sexism (which is real, of course) all while running to the plastic surgeon and dermatologist over and over trying to look younger just sets the cause back decades. Perhaps this is not a cause she should champion.

  11. Betti says:

    I agree with her about feminism – nothing has changed with equality for women but it has a lot to do with education on the issue. Young women today don’t really understand it as there are so many celebs who say they are feminists but sell themselves short to get and stay famous. They are getting mixed signals and there is no real feminist that they can look to and learn from. People like Kim Kartrashian and Duchess Stepford set the cause back so much as both subservient to their husbands and do what makes the menfolk happy rather than what makes her happy and empowered.

    I think that Madonna could have been that role model but she’s a hypocrite feminist – doesn’t practice what she preaches. She maybe a strong woman but she sells this over sexualised image to stay relevant.

  12. Skins says:

    Just shut up

  13. The Other Maria says:

    I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: she never cared about ageism until it affected her personally so her sudden proclamations of sexism regarding age (though true) are self serving at best.

    • FingerBinger says:

      Wrong. Madonna has been talking about feminism and sexism since the 90s.

    • Amanda G says:

      Isn’t that the way it is for most people? They don’t see some of the issues until they encounter it themselves.

  14. Marie-France says:

    I agree with Kaiser who thinks that Madonna only cares about feminism for personal causes. I think that we need feminism in terms of sexuality, economy, politics… – every angle of society. One woman alone can not embody all those things. We need to celebrate our differences, the most important thing is to be pro-women as in sisterhood and sticking together.

  15. Kiddo says:

    Has anyone seen her ad for that tidal streaming thing? It’s hilariously pretentious.
    They might as well call it Art Pop. They are positioning it as this great cause for art, instead of the genuine push for benjamins.

    • Abbott says:

      I can only find Ghosttown teasers. Can I watch the ad without actually having to go to Tidal?

      • Kiddo says:

        I don’t know. It played last night on TV. Something-something, like now it’s all about the art and the artist. Really? Because we never heard these people’s music and they didn’t profit, at all? All the people who signed up so far are mega-rich, widely known pop people, and not some unknown undiscovered extremely talented artist clawing to get noticed. KWIM? David Geffen in the 70s, it is not.

        The tag phrase should be “We cut out all the middlemen, so we could make even more”.

  16. HoustonGrl says:

    Oh PUH-LEASE. Using sexuality to sell music is the oldest f*cking ANTI woman “cause” in the world. Women can barely get famous unless they sell out their bodies, an ideology she completely plays into. Anyone that says you get condemned for promoting your sexuality is just drawing more attention to it. The opposite is true – you CAN’T get known unless you do that and that is not “freedom”. She’s a phony.

    • GingerCrunch says:

      Well said! There are WAY more talented women artists out there who aren’t making fools of themselves like she is, imo. That any women or girls look up to her sickens me a little bit. And I love the point further up thread that she loses credibility by constantly altering herself surgically. I saw her speaking on Access Hollywood and her facial muscles are weird. Really messed herself up.

  17. Kelly says:

    I wouldn’t say it to her face because her face is SCARY. She needs to go away.

  18. Embee says:

    Well those shorts are certainly interesting. Mestrual chic? I dig it. I think it would be amazing to have multiple takes on this whereby we could indicate our cycle is in flux (with the red crotch) as a warning to all those with whom we interact!

  19. Lisa says:

    The thing about Madonna is, she is intelligent. But she’s also childish. She’s sort of like an overgrown child prodigy. I’d like her a lot more if her stance included people other than herself: She’s never been an icon for individuality or acceptance, imo. Everything comes right back around to her. It’s more like “accept me!” than “accept yourself.”

  20. Santolina says:

    Here’s my message to Madge: How can we believe you care about other women? The message should be “lift as you climb” but do you regularly let women share the spotlight with you? Do you regularly let women collaborate with you? Do you publicly compliment and support other women? Do you publicly support young women artists? Do you publicly spend time with other women friends and colleagues? No! All we see is that you’re all about men.

    I would gladly say that to her face, if she could be polite back but her classic response to anyone who doesn’t stroke her ego is “f*ck you” so no, thanks!

  21. Silvie says:

    “You are not known”
    reeks of her smug contempt toward the inferior masses.

    Can shd sincerely lament inequality then when she places distinction between the privileged and the general populace?

    Yes, I am not known. I don’t have this desperate need to be famous.

    If she wants to distort her self-obsession as ambition, fine. Whatever makes her happy.

    I find her perit tantrums tiresome.

  22. jferber says:

    Madonna rocks and always will, as far as I’m concerned. I feel that way about Cher, too. Both women are and have been powerhouses for their entire careers. Would I NOT buy or see something because of what age they are? Hell, no. Talent and entertainment do NOT have expiration dates for me. If I like an actress or singer, I don’t dump her past a certain age. That is utterly ludicrous to me. And however a woman wants to play it, that’s up to her (with the aging thing, I mean). I hate when people TELL women what is appropriate or inappropriate to do at their age. Mae West became a sex symbol at 40! And if anyone told her no, she quite wisely didn’t listen.

    • Santolina says:

      Cher has depth and intelligence and doesn’t whine, and Mae West didn’t pretend to be anything but who she was.

  23. KatyD says:

    The reason why it’s hard to take her seriously on women’s issues is that she is so wrapped up in herself. Her behavior is very narcissistic. As she says, “for me the fight (to be taken seriously) has never ended. ” Me is the operating word here. Mostly, she’s concerned with her status as a sexpot-provocateur-musician given that she’s older, as the mefia is definitely unforgiving to older women.

    Meanwhile, most of us unwashed masses struggling to survive are more concerned with issues relating to equal pay, opportunity for women, glass ceilings that stop women from getting top jobs, and violence towards women. Those have been my concerns and things I have campaigned for. As for Madonna, I see her as someone who is upset that she’s no longer Queen Bee/sexpot #1/the center of all controversy and attention. I can’t relate to her at all. And I would gladly say this to her face. But I know that narcissists don’t ever listen to others. They’re too stuck in their ME cycle to consider the opinions of others as worthy of their attention.

  24. Iheartgossip says:

    So says the woman who is disfiguring her face, rather then age gracefully with minimal work done. So says the woman who jumped on the RantYe wagon in an attempt to sell records.