When should women stop performing?

Posted: November 25, 2008 by ginavivinetto in gender stuff, Gina Vivinetto, music
Tags: , , , , ,

By Gina Vivinetto

“Is it harder for women in the industry in general? Definitely. I was trying to make a case for Madonna the other day, saying that she’s to be admired for her longevity in a genre that has mostly been for younger acts. Men are able to sustain a career into their 50s and 60s and still present themselves as sex symbols. With women on the other hand, people say, ‘Why doesn’t she retire?’ It’s just so unfair. So I have to give props to Madonna.”

— folk singer Tracy Chapman in The Guardian.

Amen, Tracy. This is a subject that fascinates my friends (including many gay boys) and me. Why do people say Madonna, at 50, is too old to be a pop star? Is the cut-off age different for a woman? Look at 65-year-old Mick Jagger, 67-year-old Bob Dylan, and 61-year-old Elton John. All of those guys are admired for continuing to make music and tour.

Madonna’s vilianized for it.


I once read a review (written by a man) of a No Doubt show that suggested Gwen Stefani at 35 (when this was written), was too old to sing “Just A Girl.”

Have men also determined the age when a woman can no longer identify herself as a girl?

Does it go both ways?

Should Roger Daltrey no longer sing “I’m A Boy”? He dusts of his creaky old bones every few years and tours. Should we tell him to stop? He’s 64.

This notion, that it’s embarrassing for older women to continue to perform and make music, is so ingrained in our culture. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve heard about how “gross” Madonna is for continuing to package herself as a sex symbol now that she’s hit the big 5-0.

Which is funny, because she looks like she could be Mick Jagger’s daughter. Not that it should matter.

You got an opinion on this?

  1. […] November 25, 2008 · No Comments I rant at Sweaty Bitches of Rock 'N' Roll. […]

  2. Deborah Frost says:

    Yeah, roll over and tell BB King the news.

  3. ginavivinetto says:

    Exactly. Or Charlie Watts. He’s 107!

  4. Deborah Frost says:

    Actually, the really appropriate time for women to stop performing is when men, particularly anyone whose license to hold a pencil isn’t taken away after scribbling this kinda shit, stop playing with their ding-a-lings.

  5. Steph says:

    If anyone actually agrees with this BS idea, I dare you go repeat it to Joan Jett so she can kick your ass.

  6. Lorna says:

    Preach it, Gina! I think women and men should stop marketing themselves as sex symbols when they cease to be sexy. Madonna is still totally smokin’ hot. Mick Jagger (and I’m a huge Stones fan) hasn’t been at least since I was born (1983).

  7. Kylie Minogue is still hot as can be at 40 even with only one and 3/4 breasts.

  8. Dan says:

    I think there are a lot of issues converging in one spot.

    1. You’re right, there is a double standard for men and women; many of the same people who will pay $200 to see Mick Jagger of the undead will sneer at Madonna for continuing to perform.

    2. Then again, though, some of us feel like vomiting whenever Jagger, Roger Daltrey or Rod Stewart takes to the stage these days, as they try (unsuccessfully) to shimmy and shake the way they did in their 20s. Leaving aside Stewart, whom I never could stand, the question is more one of artistic inspiration: I think both Jagger and Daltrey stopped having any new ideas in the 1970s, which is when I stopped listening to them, and the sight of them trying to re-create the moment when they did have ideas is more embarrassing than anything, like watching granddad trying to do the jitterbug after one too many cups of eggnog at Christmas. It’s more sad than anything when you just keep thinking, “Gosh, I hope he doesn’t break his hip again.”

    3. Then there’s someone like Elton John — whom, for the purposes of full disclosure, I’ve always hated with a white-hot passion. Still, his taking the stage nowadays doesn’t bother me: He’s always been a gay lounge act, and you can do that at any age, as Liberace proved. The idea behind his music was never youth or energy or full-on sexual aggression, as it was with the others, so it’s not something he needs to feign now.

    4. Which makes me think that there’s nothing wrong with an artist, even a rock artist, who continues to perform into his or her 60s or beyond — just so long as the performance at that age reflects the reality of that age. Daltrey is no longer “just a boy,” and there is no conceivable sense of the word in which Madonna is “like a virgin” anymore. I think some performers — Neil Young and Bob Dylan come to mind — manage that transition well and don’t demand that their audiences suspend disbelief or ignore the evidence of their senses. They’re old men now, and what I’ve seen of what they do now reflects that fact; being old isn’t worse or better than being young — but it is different, and a performance that tries to ignore that fact is, at its base, a lie — or at best an act of nostalgia, which bores the crap out of me.

    5. That’s why pictures of Madonna performing nowadays creep me out. She has changed in so many ways since the 1980s, but the impression I get of her shows is one of a willful refusal to accept that. (Since I don’t watch the actual shows and have never been a fan anyway, I could be wrong.) If her act is the act of a woman in her 50s who glories in her age and her maturity, then more power to her, but if she’s trying to be the young sexual revolutionary she was in her 20s, well, that’s not so good. I guess that’s up to her fans to decide.

  9. Deborah Frost says:

    Neil Young and Bob Dylan are MUSICIANS who re-invent their ART nightly.
    Madonna is just doing aerobics in public.

  10. Deborah Frost says:

    Actually, Lorna may have come up with the best idea yet. But don’t just stop at MARKETING sex, let’s just stop SEX right NOW. There would be far less misery in the world– never mind no more really cheesy pornography and/or tragically exploited children. Never mind that AIDS would cure itself practically overnight! Ok, there might be a glut of odd latex get-ups, but they can probably be recycled into handbags and given out to ladies at lunches promoting peace, love and understanding.

  11. Jimmy says:

    It’s weird…

    I can’t even think in terms of age when it comes to listening to rock. One doesn’t hear age in music. A skillful musician is a skillful musician, and by many means a skill is improving with time, so unless the musician loses his/her interest in making good music age is probably just an asset.

    Women have one advantage: Their voice. To me, female voices are by far more interesting in rock, maybe most people think so? And maybe that’s a threat to a manly domain?

  12. Deborah Frost says:

    You have hit the dick, er, the nail on the head, Jim. REAL men don’t need a “manly domain.”

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