Women in the music industry who have to grapple with sexism and harassment at the beginning of their careers find themselves facing another insidious threat as they get older: ageism. Singers Madonna, Yoko Ono, Alison Moyet, and Pink each have their own approach to changing perceptions in the industry and with fans.
As pop legend Madonna nears 60, Kathleen Hou interviewed her for The Cut about her ongoing fight against ageist commentary on her career and personal life.
“We need role models,” Madonna says. “People are afraid of things they don’t know and that are unfamiliar. Women have a different place in the world now. We’re finding more work and fighting for more gender equality in the workplace. As we do that, we should keep working on not only our career but on ourselves. It’s about staying curious, staying alive, and working on making ourselves feel good whether it’s through exercise, skin care, etc. There are no rules.”
She continued, “It’s an outdated, patriarchal idea that a woman has to stop being fun, curious, adventurous, beautiful, or sexy past the age of 40. It’s ridiculous. Why should only men be allowed to be adventurous, sexual, curious, and get to have all the fun until the day they leave this earth? Why should that only be the domain of men? How do we fight this? By standing up to men and by standing up to social mores or standards that say we cannot.”
Read the full article: Madonna on How to Fight Ageism
Writing in The Guardian, Caroline Sullivan noted the difference between Madonna’s outspoken attitude toward her detractors, and Yoko Ono’s quieter approach. At 85, Yoko Ono is still making music and art. “I am afraid of just one thing,” wrote Ono on her 82nd birthday. “That those ageism criticism [sic] will finally influence me … Because dancing in the middle of an ageism society is a lonely trip.”
Sullivan comments, “It’s only when one passes 40 and realises that the unthinkable is happening – one day you look in the mirror and realise the bloom of youth has been replaced with a quality called maturity – that ageism begins to feel personal. It affects men and women, but in the music business, it affects female artists disproportionately.”
She notes that aging male performers Iggy Pop and Tony Bennett are allowed to practice their craft without pushback from critics or fans.
Read the full article: Yoko Ono and Madonna Both Fight Ageism in Radically Different Ways
Martin Townsend broached the subject of ageism in the radio industry with singer Alison Moyet (56) in The Express. While she’s happy being older and with her roles as a mother and grandmother, she has come up against dismissiveness on the part of radio programmers. “BBC station Radio 6, for instance, won’t play her music, she says, simply because she is Alison Moyet.”
“They say they have no music policy but they do: their policy is that they make assumptions about you and your music and won’t allow you to grow,” explains Moyet. “My argument is that I am not trying to be young, I am absolutely growing old. But if you listen to the lyricism of my music it has an articulacy, a poetry, that you don’t find in a young person’s music. The assumption is that when you grow up you become asinine and without edges but what you are is more in tune with yourself and your own opinions… If I was a painter, no one would be relating my age to my art in any other way, apart from the fact that I have experience.”
Read the full article: ‘I was a fighter’ Alison Moyet talks taking on harassment, depression and ageism in radio
Although she is younger, stalwart hitmaker Pink has already started seeing ageism rear its head. “I had the whole sit-down, you know: ‘Just be prepared, they don’t play girls over 35 on Top 40 radio,’” the singer said. Still, she managed to chart with her recent single “What About Us”, and her speech honoring her daughter at the MTV Music Awards went viral. Recounting how she tore up a version of the speech which bitterly shot back at critics who said she didn’t deserve the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, she said that her experience and perspective had helped her. “I can choose my battles now,” she said.
Read the full article: Pink Quietly Became Pop Royalty. Here’s How She Made It Last.
Photo credit: Yoko Ono by Earl McGehee