madonna feminism

Eric Watterson
Mid-Term Fall 2001 Question 2
Professor Floyd W. Hayes, III

In the book written by bell hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, she criticizes a number of the actions and viewpoints of Madonna. Claiming that Madonna has changed from appearing to be a strong feminist icon into a woman who no longer has a connection with feminist views, bell hooks examines how Madonna chooses to represent herself as well as Madonna’s changing role in the feminist world. According to bell hooks, initially Madonna was a very transgressive in a feminist sense, and now she appears to be almost welcoming of the phallocentric imperialist patriarchal views. I agree with our class discussion and with bell hooks’ critique, feeling that Madonna has changed from a woman who resisted male dominating ideas showing strong feminist characteristics into a more accepting view of patriarchy and sexism.
First explaining the Madonna of the past as a cultural icon. Madonna was supported and idolized by feminists, because she portrayed herself as a very independent, strong, and powerful woman, unbounded by sexism and a system flooded with patriarchy. By transgressing the boundary of a sexist society, she showed us that a woman could be strong, independent, sexy, powerful, and just as good as any man, if not better. Over time, bell hooks explains, Madonna has changed, being more accepted by the patriarchal and sexist society, neglecting her previous advocation of feminist images.
Madonna has done this, bell hooks argues, by posing very seductively in Vanity Fair magazine. These images supposedly show Madonna in very conventional and typical kiddie-porn photographs. When appearing in images like these, Madonna is implying that she openly welcomes sexist and patriarchal ideals. The Madonna who earlier showed strength and feminist views now totally dismisses them in this action.
With Madonna’s book Sex, she claims that it will open people’s minds, and the book is very groundbreaking and radical. According to bell hooks, this is nothing new or radical to the white patriarchal society, who sees the book as simply pornography. In the book there are images, all featuring Madonna, in a variety of sexual poses, with one of her standing over and appearing to dominate the black Naomi Campbell. This is a very strong representation of the sexist white supremacist society, with Madonna totally going against what she portrayed and seemingly advocated early in her career. She also displays this in her statement about women in abusive relationships. Madonna explains that basically women who stay in abusive relationships must like it, or they would leave. This blatant patriarchal standpoint is very obviously a sign of a changed Madonna.
I agree with the critique of Madonna by bell hooks. I feel that it is very obvious that Madonna has changed from a once feminist woman to one that gives in and portrays the views and representations of a sexist white supremacist patriarchal society. I accept bell hooks’ view simply because of how Madonna has portrayed herself in the past and comparing these images with what she (Madonna) depicts now. I view Madonna as once a very sexually transgressive and powerful woman, always breaking the boundaries of white supremacy and patriarchy. Madonna now shows that she no longer cares about the ambitions of feminism. With her book Sex, she almost promotes these white patriarchal sexist views that she once fought to resist. The pictures in the book simply seem to fall into the category of pornography, nothing more. Madonna also displays representations of white supremacy in the stories in Sex, portraying nonwhite people as dirty, unequal, and even whorish. Examples like these show me that bell hooks is correct in her critique of Madonna, changing from a once feminist cultural icon to a representation of the white supremacist patriarchal views.
In her book, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, bell hooks gives us a critique of Madonna, giving us examples of how Madonna has transformed into a figure whom has abandoned her feminist thinking. These examples include Madonna’s photographs, her book Sex, and quotations. I agree with bell hooks’ critique of Madonna because I feel that evidence can be shown in Madonna’s actions over time supporting her change in views. From Madonna’s portrayal of a feminist to an advocate of patriarchal ideas, it can clearly be seen