Aging While Female

Madonna turns 60: The painful lessons she taught us about aging while female

ISTM that Madonna, and the sympathetic writer of the article, miss the point in attributing unease with Madonna’s continued persona to ageism and sexism. These would apply if Madonna’s erotic appeal was still the same as when she was younger, but people rejected her anyway based on a cultural discomfort with an older woman in that role. But to the extent that her looks have actually faded, then that’s just life. It’s as if an aging athlete who couldn’t perform at his old level anymore insisted he keep the same starring role on his team because it would be ageism to bench or waive him. And if such a player insists on playing the game at a level where he’s clearly outmatched, people would cringe just the same as they do at Madonna.

[Of course the above assumes that Madonna’s looks have in fact faded. If it were possible to objectively ascertain that she looks as attractive and erotic as she ever did, then she would have a point.]

The “sexist” argument has a bit more going for it, as men can keep erotic roles at older ages. But that too seems to be nature and life, and seems correlated with male fertility lasting longer than female.

Bottom line for people like Madonna is that if you live by the sword you die by the sword, and if your appeal is based on people enjoying seeing you “show[ing your] (expletive)” then you might find at some point that this has less appeal. No one can stop you from doing it anyway, but you can’t make them enjoy it either, and if your business is based on them enjoying it, then that might be tough for you.

This seems pretty straightforward, but the “double-standard” WRT romantic roles in movies and the like seems to be a pretty common notion, so worth a comment.

If people are still willing to buy tickets to see Madonna, let her wag anything she likes.

I disagree. I don’t think Madonna is lashing out at people who don’t find her attractive – she’s lashing out at entertainment pundits, bloggers, etc., who say that Madonna should cover herself up now because of her age. That isn’t about attractiveness, or at least not directly – it’s about how culture and society treats aging women, and the roles it places them in, which seems directly related to ageism and sexism.

But this isn’t about nature or biology. It’s about musical stage performances – an entirely cultural act with no relevance or connection to biological fertility. She’s advocating that culture should be changed such that women of her age are not criticized for being too old to perform in the manner she does.

That seems like an entirely reasonable criticism to me. It doesn’t mean that everyone, or anyone, must find her attractive. And I think the criticism is directly related to ageism and sexism within broader culture and society.

Those are the same thing. The idea that she should cover up is because it’s no longer attractive. And it’s not like people saying unattractive people should cover up, either. It’s that unattractive people preening in a manner that presumes attractiveness to the audience is cringe-worthy. Much like an athlete playing in a manner that presumes a talent which no longer exists.

Perhaps I should have elaborated a bit more.

I was suggesting that attractiveness is correlated with fertility, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Therefore, since men are fertile at older ages than women are, it would make sense if nature dictated that men tend to retain attractiveness at older ages than women, too. The fact that men can play lead romantic roles at older ages is not directly related to fertility, of course, but it’s related to attractiveness, which is in turn naturally correlated with fertility (and therefore not entirely culturally-driven).

Yes, it’s so cringe-worthy that her tour in 2015 only grossed $100 million.

You could make that same comment regardless of whether the issue is cultural ageist/sexist or just part of nature. “Her tour grossed $100 million so obviously ‘women and aging’ is a non-issue”.

Obviously, either some people find it cringe-worthy and some people don’t and/or there are other aspects of her performance which people do find appealing (e.g. musical talent, celebrity status, nostalgia etc. - not everything is about sexual attraction, even for Madonna).

Either way, your point seems moot in the context of the specific issue she raised.

A 60 year old attention whore is complaining that she isn’t being treated like a 30 year old attention whore? I’m sick at heart over what this tells us about our society.


No, I would say “Her tour grossed $100 million, so obviously ‘Madonna and aging’ is a non-issue”

I too lament the excessive displays of drama-queenery that prevail in modern culture. I can only expiate the personal feelings of despair by going to the nearest hardware store to rent a nail gun to use on my palms and feet. I am totally positively 100% absolutely literally serious about how I do this, like, all the time.

people have always been trying to stop Madonna, put her down. How is any of this new?

Okay, but that standard is IMO at least partially related to various forms of sexism and ageism in society, just as any beauty standard that mandates straighter hair and/or lighter skin as more attractive is related to racism in society.

Any correlation is only very loose (obviously many fertility-affecting conditions have no affect on physical appearance), and IMO is vastly overwhelmed by cultural variations in beauty (IIRC we had an almost identical disagreement within the last year). I think it’s much more likely tied to the fact that older men dominate the entertainment industry (and most industries, in fact), and thus the ‘opinion-makers’, and have for pretty much all of history, than tied to the biological reality.

I buy that biology gives us some attraction towards signs of health and athleticism. If so, that ought to make Madonna pretty damn attractive… If present-day Madonna were time-shipped to Neolithic Europe, do you doubt that she’d have a plethora of eager, cave-dwelling suitors? I don’t.

I see you have been watching the “Like A Prayer” video.


You can’t base it on whether she would have a plethora of eager suitors. Madonna was more attractive than the average woman to start with so age only robs her of so much. But her problem is that she’s performing on stage which presumes a super-high level of attractiveness that she no longer has, at least in the eyes of many.

To return to an earlier analogy, I’m sure Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can still destroy the average guy-on-the-street in a pickup basketball game. But if he tried to prance around like he’s still at LeBron James level, it would be cringe-worthy.

I don’t think attractiveness can really be compared to a measurable (or at least partially measurable) skillset like basketball.

Really, it’s the marketplace that determines whether she ought to perform on stage. And she’s well within her rights to lash out at anyone who says she’s too old to perform like she does (they can say anything they like too, of course). I think it’s quite reasonable for her to posit that this criticism, or at least much of it, is related to ageism and sexism.

Isn’t she arguing against people telling her she should stop at her age? Since her tour was successful, it seems like her fans are fine with it. Are those same people telling Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, or Anthony Kiedis to stop prancing around half-dressed?

The sports analogy is fatally flawed, IMO, because sports require you to be in top physical condition, and typically require you to be relatively young. Pop performances don’t require that.

From looking at what examples of criticisms were in the article, I got the sense much of the flack she gets is from her lifestyle, not necessarily singing performances where she dresses suggestively. The latter to me is only made into a big deal by gossip of the trifling variety. Nobody is in need of an explanation for the aesthetics of her performances.

Are Madonna’s shows primarily about music? If she wore my clothes (middle-aged male bargain-basement customer) and stood still and just delivered the songs, would her tours be a big success?

I think she’s applying a double standard, producing shows that are mainly about sexual display and yet demanding to be taken seriously as an artist. If your show is about shaking your ass, you are going to be judged by the relevant standard, namely the crassest and cruellest “I’d hit that” vs “Not a chance, dude” standard. It’s not a standard that I invented, nor is it one I subscribe to - but the point is, Madonna DOES subscribe to it, despite her disingenuous protests.

I haven’t been following this closely, but, isn’t Madonna successfully putting on her shows to large crowds, who (by their continued interests) are demonstrating that she’s quite clearly a successful artist, sexual or not? And she’s protesting independent third parties who are critizing her based on an utter disconnect with her actual success, purely because they as non-fans think that old females should disappear into the mists or whatever old females do?

I’m not seeing even a speck of double-standard.

In the quote in the OP, she’s defending mooning the press on the red carpet.

Most people who like to moon people aren’t doing it to show off how great their butt is. They do it because they’re drunk and/or stupid. So this is an example of Madonna doing something outrageous to draw outrage, then acting all defiant and empowered over it. It has been her very successful business plan for her entire career. Conflating this with very real issues of ageism/sexism is being played for a sucker.

I’m not going to accept “I don’t respect the woman and the type of work she does, and thus it’s impossible for her to be discriminated against” as valid argument.