Madonna had a Patricia Arquette moment earlier this week when she told Out Magazine that women’s movement remains stagnant while other social groups have experienced far greater progress.
“Gay rights are way more advanced than women’s rights," Madonna told Out. "People are a lot more open-minded to the gay community than they are to women, period. It’s moved along for the gay community, for the African-American community, but women are still just trading on their ass. To me, the last great frontier is women.”
Madonna also criticized the way women are expected to behave and the sexual standards they are subjected to.
“Women are still the most marginalized group,” she said. “They’re still the group that people won’t let change. [To be successful] you must fit into this box: You must behave this way, dress this way. You’re still categorized — you’re still either a virgin or a whore. If you’re a certain age, you’re not allowed to express your sexuality, be single, or date younger men.”
To a certain degree, Madonna is right that since the 1980s women’s rights is sorely lacking. Wage equality is acknowledged, yet nothing is being done. Women are consistently pressured to fit into a certain body type and expected to be docile, submissive creatures (if we don’t we are considered bossy). And women are still defined by their sexuality so much so that the “wrong” outfit or a little flirting gets us slut-shamed.
Yet to say that the LGBTIQ and African-American communities are treated better in society than us women is not only shamefully incorrect, but also caters to this ignorant white feminist notion that, unfortunately, refuses to die. Same-sex marriage is historically progressing across the United States, yet in 29 states laws remain in place that discriminate against gays in housing and the workplace. The transgender community experiences significant amounts of harassment and assault that routinely goes unnoticed, and now face persecution from the government with anti-transgender bathroom bills. And the African-American community sees their voting rights diminished and is constantly threatened with racism and police brutality — something that feels like a daily occurrence for the group.
Like Arquette, Madonna’s statement lacks understanding of intersectional feminism. Black and gay women are left out of the conversation as she fails to realize that injustice spreads across race, sex and gender. Even more, Madonna’s words stall progress for all social movements when she turns the fight for equality into a competition. We have to recognize and appreciate others’ accomplishments, but also realize that the war is far from won for any which group. The struggle towards a more progressive, equal world is about supporting each other, not about arguing who faces the most oppression or who's experienced greater victories.