"We're not on the eve of destruction," poet Elizabeth Alexander said last night to the sold-out auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum. "It just looks like it." Now that an unhinged Twitter troll has officially been granted access to the United States nuclear codes, most of the guests probably feel more in tune with the words of artist Marilyn Minter. "This is the most frightened I've ever been." Minter was born in 1948. She has experienced things to compare this to. Both women were there to talk art and feminism with someone who needs no introduction: Madonna.
The boundary-pushing pop idol, dressed in a "FEMINIST" t-shirt, seemed to align with both extremes. Her outlook hasn't changed much since she ripped the lid off the music industry's sexism during her viral post-election acceptance speech as Billboard's Woman of the Year last month. "We're fucked," she reiterated. "It felt like someone died. It felt like a combination of the heartbreak and betrayal you feel when someone you love more than anything leaves you, and also a death." But she clarified this with a slightly perverse call to action. "This had to happen to bring us together, so let's get this party started."
In case the t-shirt didn't get its point across, Minter and Madonna are both staunch feminists with decades-long histories of supporting other women. Madge has spoken on numerous occasions of the need to push back against the media and music industry's obsession with pitting female artists against each other. "I've supposedly been in a fight with Lady Gaga since she was born," she told last night's audience, waiting for the laughter to die down before linking that tendency to women's own nature and the election outcome.
"The percentage of women who voted for Trump was insanely high," she said, noting that pretty much all these women were white. "Women hate women. That's what I think it is. Women's nature is not to support other women. It's really sad." Minter nodded in agreement both to this and to Madonna's warning that the 68-year-old artist would personally murder anyone who did vote for Trump. She seemed very serious about it.
Interestingly, the talk had drawn a lot of men — some alone, some with wives or girlfriends, and some with other men. Nearly all of them raised their hands when Madonna asked if they were feminists, then jokingly put them back down when she said she would slap them in the face if they weren't. Madonna has endured decades of increasingly relentless criticism for expressing her sexuality. A few of these avowed male feminists — and fans — seemed unsure if it was their place to laugh about being turned on by a face-slap from the woman they grew up watching perform in thongs, fishnets, and cone-shaped corsets. Madonna wants to use her sexuality for more than laughs. "Are you [as an artist] allowed to have a sexuality?" she asked Minter at one point. "No, you're allowed to make jokes about it." Madonna looked so irked that the museum's Anne Pasternak encouraged everyone to give her a round of applause for her tireless attempts at normalizing female sexuality.
So how should female artists protest a government committed to curbing women's rights at every turn? "What if every day we each did something revolutionary?" Madonna asked, alluding to Gloria Steinem's depressingly pertinent classic Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, "We've gone as low as we can go. We can only go up from here. So how are we going to go up? We have two choices — creation or destruction. I'm going down the road of creation, and you're all welcome join me." The invitation was quite literal — her next anti-Trump tour stop is the Women's March on Washington tomorrow.
Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Kevin Mazur/ Getty Images