I may not have immediately recognized Madonna at the 2023 Grammys the other night but I sure recognize the ageism and sexism that her altered looks have elicited.
The backlash to her appearance was swift, vicious, and as biting as the whip she was brandishing.
After Madonna appeared onstage at the Crypto.com Arena looking wrinkle-free, her face unnaturally taut with exaggerated, plumped-up lips, social media went on a feeding frenzy.
The focus was more on her surgically enhanced face than on the powerful words she had to offer.
Wearing a black maxi skirt suit, looped braids, and bleached brows, Madonna gave a powerful speech thanking “all the rebels out there.”
You guys need to know, all you troublemakers out there, you need to know that your fearlessness does not go unnoticed,” she said. “You are seen, you are heard, and most of all, you are appreciated.
An always fearless Madonna got people talking again. Not about her music or her words but her looks. Immediately after her speech, her face was trending.
People rushed to Twitter in shock to condemn the Material Girl, reacting negatively to her new face- did she go too far in plastic surgery?
The mother of reinvention they seemed to think needed an intervention.
“Whaaaaaat happened to Madonna’s face?! said one typical message
“Fans ‘so confused’ by Madonna’s ‘new face’ at Grammys 2023,” went the headline in the New York Post’s Page Six.
Some had beauty advice for the singer, saying, “Madonna needs to stop with the plastic surgery and embrace the aging process. She’s nearly unrecognizable at this point.”
The attacks on Madonna feel misdirected. They should be placed firmly on our ageist society that compels a woman to do this to her face. Maybe we should be scrutinizing the system that runs rampant, free to continue shaming women for a natural process no one can control.
Ageism is real, and it cuts way deeper than the surgical knives women allow on their faces.
It’s become a sport to ridicule female celebrities who rely on cosmetic surgery. It’s way easier to diminish Madonna as an individual than question why so many women feel the need to do this in the first place.
Every woman who sees the headlines, the nasty tweets, and derisive posts on FB knows deep down that maybe we are no different than Madonna and that as we watch aging unfold on our own faces we are living in a culture that has diminished the value of every older woman not just Madonna.
Let’s be critical of the system and not the person, a culture that pressures women into elective painful surgeries just to be successful. Or considered sexy.
Ageism is a toxin, as poisonous as botox, one that has been injected by the media into our psyches from a young age. Can a woman have wrinkles and be sexy? In our society apparently not.
However, maybe this is Madge’s new cause. Perhaps Madonna is challenging ageism, sexism, and misogyny.
Nothing Madonna does is arbitrary, she is and has always been a performance artist.
Perhaps her point in part is to troll out the ageism in her next chapter of being a provocateur.
Maybe what she’s being criticized for is the very thing she’s asking us to examine.
Shining a light on our culture a culture obsessed with plastic surgery, a culture that does not allow an older woman to be sexual and flaunt her sexuality.
Maybe Madonna’s latest subject as an artist is ageism.
She wants us to be uncomfortable. She wants us to be uncomfortable about an older woman being sexual because as a society we are. She wants us to be horrified by distorting our faces in pursuit of perfection or youth because we should.
Madonna has always made people uncomfortable with her choices. She’s still pushing boundaries, challenging notions of what we are allowed to do or not do as women.
Maybe we would prefer her plastic surgery was more subtle, less noticeable, and more toned down. But that’s not what she chose to do.
Deriding her decision, for whatever her reasons, is another example of blaming women and not the culture.