Look at this picture
What do you see? Wait. What would you see before anyone tells you who they are or anything about their story? I see more than most, because I know the woman in this photo. Not personally, but she has been my idol since I was about age 10. (Well, I did find out that I am her 9th cousin a few years ago, but I’m not here to brag). 😉
To you youngsters, this is Madonna. She is a trailblazer. She is a business woman, she is a singer and a dancer and an absolute force of nature. She has been all of these things and more for over 30 years. She singlehandedly paved the way for young female artists today, opening the doors for their self-expression, taking risks in their performances, and empowering them in their sexuality and artistic openness.
Not a lot of young people know this. And if you do, you need to care more. Madonna matters. Not just in the entertainment industry, but for everything she has done and stood for outside of her career. She’s always mattered and she always will.
I remember seeing her for the first time on a Canadian video show (we didn’t have cable yet). The song was “Borderline” and I was 11 years old. I can’t eloquently put into words how I felt when I saw her, but it was intense for sure. Her attitude, her beauty, her style, inspired me at my young age. I wanted to be just like her. Fast forward to now, I’m 46 and still am inspired by her. Her past self and her present self both spark life into me. Her past reminding me of who she helped me become, and her present self because she can help me ease into my future with pride and confidence.
Ok. Back to this photo. To those of you who don’t know her, would you know how old she is? Would you know her rich past, everything she has done, all of the barriers she tore away to be who she was? Would you know that she has fought fiercely for and been consistently loyal to the LGBTQ community since she began her career?
This woman is viewed as an icon and a beacon of hope to so many people, and yet dismissed by so many others….she is dismissed for one reason only, and that is her age. She is 60 years old. Would you know that from this photo? Probably not. And when they find that out, well, what 60 year old woman can you name off the top of your head that looks and acts like her? No one. The 60 year old women you visualize are probably grandmas for God’s sake. And they all act a certain way. Not like that. They are grandma’s and they wear their hair in buns and wear cardigans and slacks. Not this 60 year old. She wears fishnets and stilettos. She’s not your grandma.
Madonna is an icon. You can’t deny that. But she is too old to be cool. Too old to be relevant. Too old to be sexy. To old to be promoted, and it’s bullshit.
If Prince (God rest his soul) showed up at age 57, and did his thing, he’d be hot, right? Damn. He’s talented AND hot. And 57. He doesn’t look 57, so that’s cool. He has charisma. And he’s SEXY. Men have the privilege to be seen this way. Aging makes them “distinguished.” It’s acceptable for men to be hot and talented and sexy at 57 years old. Not really fair.
My fellow humans. This is happening everyday to countless women. In any profession. We get older like everyone else, yet we are expected to maintain our looks. (Heaven forbid we get any kind of medical help for that), maintain our quick capacity to learn when we are training for a new job or just learning something new, and we don’t seem to have anyone rooting for us. This desperately needs to change, but it won’t without a serious shift in our thinking.
Off topic a little bit, I started watching “The Golden Girls” when I was around 10 (the same age I found Madonna) and I never once saw them as “old.” They were simply women. They weren’t even “different” to me. I thought Blanche was the coolest lady. I wanted Dorothy’s haircut. I think their fashion sense even inspired me for a while.
I was raised this way, though. Not that my parents sat me down and told me that people are worthy at any age. It wasn’t formal like that. I just learned from their example and never heard them once mention anything about anyone or themselves being “old.”
Anyway, now that I’m “older,” this has become a very important issue to me, and I need to be more vocal about it and more proactive. People need to be educated. It has been brought to my attention and affected me on a personal level in the past 2 years or so, when I have been beginning a new career. People don’t expect much from me and they expect me to make mistakes. My past experience in my chosen field which is quite extensive, doesn’t matter. It takes me longer to retain information and not get flustered while doing something new. I make fun of myself, I say “Oh my god I’m SO sorry” when I get something wrong or forget something. By doing this, I am contributing to these beliefs that being older makes you incompetent, and I’m going to stop that. It’s not fair to me or any other women out there trying to fight their way through the tech-savvy, ultra-ambitious energetic 20 somethings.
If change needs to start with me, then it starts here. 💪🏼💋