Illustration: Nicholas Luchak

Ugh. Women really can’t win, can they?

Last Saturday night, Rita Orca, Beyoncé, Florence + The Machine and more took to the stage for London’s star-studded Sound of Change, a benefit gig billed as sort of a Live Aid for Ladies.

The concert was organized by Gucci’s Chime For Change campaign to raise funds and awareness for “women’s empowerment and to promote education, health and justice for girls and women everywhere.”

Anyway, although she didn’t perform — and according to reviews, really no one but Beyoncé should have — Madonna was one of the evening’s presenters, delivering a passionate speech about the importance of education projects in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Madge wants to lead a revolution of love.

From her speech:

I keep telling people I want to start a revolution but my revolution doesn’t involve bloodshed and violence. My revolution starts with education. My revolution is about achieving a higher level of consciousness but this cannot start without education.

‘We cannot change this world nor begin to treat each other with human dignity, without an education. Let tonight be the beginning of this revolution because education is not a luxury, it is a basic human right.

Awesome. All good. Important message delivered by an important icon. So, OF COURSE, what’s the take-home message?


An endless stream of “OMGs” and “WTFs” and other incredibly incisive commentary clogged Twitter, completely eclipsing her message. “Why on earth would she do that to her face?” one wondered.

HMM, IDK, maybe it’s because we live in a culture in which women are expected to stay young forever. In our society, old = obsolete. Especially in Hollywood, where it would generally be preferred if women over 50 just went away to make room for a nubile new crop of hot young things.

Take your nag mom or kooky grandma roles and get out. How’s this for depressing: Judith Light, who is 64, plays the television mom of Mitch Pileggi, WHO IS 61 (!), on the remake of Dallas.

Hollywood’s ageism isn’t limited to casting. The Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, which hit stands in March, also illustrated this point in a truly barftacular way.

The spread featured just three actresses over 40 but, for some reason, opted to run vintage photos of Elizabeth Taylor, Bo Derek and Meryl Streep (MERYL FUCKING STREEP!). The 40+ pool of men? Current shots. You know, because older men are distinguished and older women are a hot menopausal mess that shouldn’t be seen in public.

We live in a society that sexualizes girls until it can infantilize them as grown women. And when we can’t infantilize them, we don’t know what to do with them.

Women who have made careers with their faces start clinging onto them out of fear, so they start getting a nip here, a lift there. Then they’re shamed for “doing THAT to their face.” That’s why we have 28-year-old starlets getting Botox. Not because they’re vapid and vain but because they’re scared. They see how society treats an older woman.

Or even a middle-aged woman. It’s been reported that Penélope Cruz will be joining the illustrious ranks of the Bond girls. She’s smoking hot, yes — but she’s also 40. Translation: SHE’S THE OLDEST BOND GIRL EVER HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS SHE’S 40.

My hope is that this prompts more directors to make similar casting decisions. Maybe more women would “age gracefully” — EYEROLL — if we make it OK for them to do so.