On Madonna and the Entitlement of White Women

by Britni Hopes / @britnidlc

By now you’ve probably seen the clip of what can only be described as Madonna sexually assaulting Drake onstage at Coachella. It’s gross and I’m not going to post the link here, but feel free to Google it if you’re so inclined (trigger warning for those of you going off to watch it). There are a lot of conversations to be had about this incident, and many of them are happening. An important one worth considering is how the reactions to this event would have been different if an older, (white) male artist had done this to a younger (Black), female artist, and I’m willing to bet they’d have been quite different. But the discussion that I want to pick up on right now is one I started thinking about on Twitter and one that my friend Jay Dodd touched on with his piece. I want to talk about Madonna’s entitlement, as a white woman, and how that affects literally everything about her career. Jay says:

Drake’s face was of disgust and shock. Madonna’s arrogance gleaming, almost grotesque, beside him. But she stay doing this. Madonna stay exploiting Black men/of color who serve as sexual prop for her own attempts at taboo. She stay attempting to politicized her body by positioning it near and around Blackness. She stay having this history of Black men she attempts to keep in her wake. Whether this Coachella “highlight” was rehearsed or not, the optics of this kind of dynamic is troubling.

In this case, Madonna felt entitled to Drake’s Black body, to do with it what she wanted. And that’s what she did (also read this Storify of tweets from @Blackamazon and @marcussimmonscc). But this is only the latest example of Madonna furthering her career by taking what she wants from people of color. Anything “edgy” that Madonna has ever been credited with has been stolen from other people’s cultures. So maybe it’s fitting that this incident with Drake took place at Coachella, which is basically a Cultural Appropriation Festival.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun to see how racist and appropriative Madonna has always been. This is not something that I ever noticed myself, and much of that is because when Madonna was at her peak, I was still totally blind to my privilege and living in my ignorant bubble of whiteness. It’s only been through listening to people of color talk about Madonna that I’ve gone back and looked at her career with a fresh set of eyesand what I’ve seen is incredibly gross.

Remember Madonna’s hit song “Vogue?” She stole vogueing from the ball culture of the Black gay community. The documentary Paris Is Burning does a great job taking a look at the ball culture in New York City that vogueing was born in. On the left is Willi Ninja, known as the “Godfather of Vogue” and star of Paris is Burning. On the right, Madonna.

Willy Ninja Madonna.jpg

Here’s Madonna in her “Nothing Really Matters” phase, which she said was “inspired” by Memoirs of a Geisha. However, I’d call this straight-up yellowface.

geisha.jpg

Madonna’s “Frozen” phase appropriated henna, which is an art form with a deep and symbolic history.

madonna-henna.jpg

She wore a grill to the Grammys one year, and has said that her reasoning for continuing to wear it is because, “It pisses everybody off when I wear my grill, so that’s why I wear it.” This response shows a complete disregard and disrespect for (Black) people who are upset by her theft of their culture.

Madonna grill.jpg

And most recently, she released images for her “Rebel Heart” album in which the artwork covers the faces of Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Bob Marley.

Madonna MLK.jpg

This list is not remotely exhaustive, and there are countless other examples of Madonna stealing or appropriating other people’s cultures. All of this, though, adds to the larger context behind her assault on Drake at Coachella: this act is part of a larger pattern of racist, entitled behavior from Madonna in which she views the bodies of people of color as hers to consume and discard as she sees fit. It’s part of a larger pattern of erasure and dehumanization within our white supremacist culture that results in the oppression of people of color. It’s not harmless—it’s violence. And it’s something that I don’t want to see lost in the conversations that we’re having about consent and ageism in the wake of this event. Those conversations are important, and we need to keep having them, but we can’t erase race from the conversation. It’s relevant. It’s always relevant.

This article was originally published at Fiending for Hope.

Britni Hope.jpg

Britni Hope is a feminist mama, activist, social justice warrior, queer femme, former pessimist, dopeless hope fiend, super rad chick. Founding member of Safe Hub Collective and die-hard Red Sox fan, you can reach her by email at hopefiending@gmail.com.