What is it about American A-listers adopting African children that makes us all feel rather uncomfortable? Perhaps it’s the idea that the rich have run out of accessories to buy so they’ve moved on to small children? Perhaps there’s a danger that this turns orphan children into a tourism opportunity? Perhaps there's a colonial hangover and wealthy white people think they can take what they like? Perhaps it’s because instead of using their wealth to invest in an infrastructure that could give some of the poorest communities in the world better education and better access to health care, they swoop in, pick a pair of adorable twins, and swiftly remove them to their gold-gilded lives, like pedigree cats but cuter. Surely, there’s something unsettling about removing children so far from what they know to be home?
These are all allegations that could be – and often are – levelled against Madonna. There are reports that suggest concerns in Malawi of Madonna being given special treatment in the adoption process and she has been previously accused by the former President of exaggerating of her humanitarian efforts in the country. Since her most recent adoption of Malawian twin girls, announced last week, all of these accusations have resurfaced. I don't know enough about the adoption process or the reality of the lives of the girl twins to know what is right or wrong.
The use of capital letters reads like the spit on your face from someone who has know idea about personal space. Is THIS all they have left in their continuing campaign to humiliate women over Made In Chelsea age?
I also don’t know Madonna.
I’m a fan of Madonna. I like her recent outspoken comments on ageism and sexism. I like that she’s be banned from a Texas radio station because of her remarks at the Women’s March. I like that she’s been ex-communicated by the Catholic Church three times and that she can still do the splits.
I don’t, however, know Madonna.
But the Daily Mail does!
Or at least that’s the tone they’ve taken in their coverage of the adoption. “Know” might be a bit misleading, let's go with “obsessed with”. In the same way Piers Morgan is. They can’t stop talking about her. They can’t get her out their heads. Like infatuated schoolboys, you almost wonder if this is the media equivalent of hair-pulling?
But I don’t actually buy this line. There’s nothing cute about the Daily Fail or Piers Moron. No thinly-veiled admiration or flirtation. There’s just callous, cowardly sexism.
And as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, they love nothing more than picking on successful woman over the age of 21 – and, of course, they don’t come much more successful than Madonna (although, in today’s Madonna-damning article, they insisted on using her full name, just, you know, in case some people don’t know who she is). To them, Madonna is about 30 years too old to have the right to a career or to be in the public eye. And, it would seem, the fact that she’s also a mother only adds to their dismay. A mother? In leather? At her age? I can just imagine the pasty white faces of the editors getting red at the very thought.
And all this bile came spewing out again this morning. And not out of genuine concern for two small girls who are about to find themselves in a strange new world, where everything looks and sounds different. But just so they can have yet another go at shaming a pop star for her age and for her motherhood. “She’s 58 with four children already – one of whom she’s lost custody with, why WAS Madonna allowed to adopt these twins?”, the paper bellows. The use of capital letters reads like the spit on your face from someone who has know idea about personal space. Is THIS all they have left in their continuing campaign to humiliate women over Made In Chelsea age?
I’d love to spit back, "Mick Jagger". But they don’t seem to be anywhere near as obsessed with Mick as they are with Madge. Because we don’t hold age or parenthood against men in the same way we do women. With men, these two things are experience and a sign of decency. With women they are afflictions, ailments, a signifier that you are unattractive and probably uninteresting. It’s also used as as silencer: "You’re just a mother, you are old, what do you know?" Of course, after her teenage son chose to live with his father, Madonna has become the only thing worse than a mum – a bad mum.
Like I said, I don’t know Madonna, I don’t know what life she’ll provide these girls. I don’t know if adopting orphans from Malawi is an act of immense generosity or immense selfishness. I really don’t. But I can, absolutely, categorically smell bullshit.
For the Daily Mail and Piers Morgan, and all the dinosaurs of the British press, Madonna is like a character out of Sesame Street – a talking number on a pair of legs: “Today’s sexism is brought to you by the number 58!”, she says through foam lips. Because to them that's all she is – a woman and an age.
Madonna will be accused of all sorts of things; but her age, her motherhood and her gender is no crime.