It’s been nearly a week since Billboard bestowed Madonna with 2016’s Woman of the Year Award. The Queen of Pop’s fiery speech has since been lauded by many for its humor and candor concerning working as a female in the entertainment industry, including by us. One individual, though—who happened to be name-checked in Madonna’s speech—had a particularly scathing response.
Famed feminist writer Camille Paglia has since written a piece for The Daily Mail in which she criticizes Madonna’s art, her appearance and her need for validation via social media.
In her original speech, Madonna had this to say about Paglia:
Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said that I set women back by objectifying myself sexually. Oh, I thought, so if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality. You deny it. So I said, “Fuck it.” I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.
In response, Paglia (who, for the record, famously touted the pop star as “the future of feminism” in a 1990 New York Times essay titled “Madonna — Finally a Real Feminist” but has since delivered decades worth of criticism) had this to say about Madonna’s work as a musician:
The real issue is that while Madonna’s world tours have remained highly successful, her artistic development has been stalled for 20 years. The last truly innovative work she did was with electronica producer William Orbit. Madonna has become a prisoner of her own wealth and fame. Her most authentic ideas were inspired by her childhood rebellion against the repressive code of American Catholicism.
And this about Madonna’s appearance:
The number one issue in Madonna’s current path of self-destruction is her embarrassing inability to deal with aging. She has failed to study the example of her great role model, Marlene Dietrich, who retained her class and style to the end. Madonna keeps chasing after youth, humiliating herself with vulgar displays, like the horrendously trashy, buttock-baring outfit she wore to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala in May.
She has become a cringe-making pastiche of ratty blonde hair extensions and artificially swollen cheeks, obscuring the magnificent classic bone structure that made her one of the most photogenic celebrities of the 1990s.
And this about Madonna’s social media presence:
In her struggles to stay relevant, Madonna has debased herself with adolescent, pitifully inept Instagrams that cannot compete with Rihanna’s brilliant work in that genre.
While Paglia’s response to being called out in Madonna’s Billboard speech may be difficult to contradict, few were expecting the lifelong feminist to take such a hard (and public) stance on the pop star. Jezebel’s Rich Juzwiak refers to Paglia’s piece as “mean-spirited and furthermore opportunistic.” One Jezebel commenter also made an interesting point: “I feel like there are a lot of ways to be a feminist, but as a general rule, if your way involves “mean-spirited discussion of another woman’s aging face and body” then you’re probably doing it wrong.”
What do you think, readers? Was Camille Paglia’s criticism of Madonna spot-on or did it cross the line?