The Absurd Ageism Behind BBC Radio 1’s Ban on Madonna

Back in 1992, when Madonna was a mere 34 years old and already prophesying her treatment as an “old woman,” she was asked in an interview with Jonathan Ross, “Do you think you will perhaps be someone who will kind of challenge this taboo of women losing their sexuality or not being seen as sexual animals as much when they get past forty?”

Still going strong at 56
Still going strong at 56

In response, Madonna made the salient remark,

Yes. I mean, I think that not only do we suffer racism and sexism, but we also suffer from ageism. And that is that once you reach a certain age, you’re not allowed to be adventurous, you’re not allowed to be sexual, and, you know, I think that’s rather hideous. And a lot of people say, ‘Oh that’s so pathetic’ or ‘I hope she’s not still doing that in ten years.’ I mean, who cares? What if I am? I mean, what, is there a rule? What are you supposed to just die when you’re 40? And that’s basically what everyone wants people to do and I think it’s stupid. You’re just supposed to kind of put yourself out to pasture. Why? Life is long.”

Reigning supreme at the 2015 Grammys
Reigning supreme at the 2015 Grammys

The plangency of what she was saying then is even eerier now when considering that, at present, BBC’s Radio 1 is refusing to play Madonna’s latest single, “Living for Love,” because, according to one unnamed source, “It’a all about relevance.” With the cutoff age demographic being 29, the execs at Radio 1 seem to think Madonna is more suited to Radio 2, created for the 35 and up set. The insider went on to say, “It’s natural that as an artist gets older, their audience goes elsewhere, and Radio 1 has to reflect that. The station has a duty to meet the needs of younger listeners. I don’t think the audience is losing sleep that it is not playing Madonna in the same way that it used to.”

This callous assessment seems like something of a double standard considering Paul McCartney is currently enjoying Radio 1 airplay thanks to a collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna. Madonna, too, has a number of songs from her forthcoming Rebel Heart featuring “young artists” like Nicki Minaj and Chance the Rapper. Does this mean once these singles are released, she’ll be anointed back onto the Radio 1 airwaves? It seems unlikely. Because, as usual, the public fear of an older woman being sexual and continuing to remain very much relevant is too great to allow Madonna the same courtesy as other singers of the moment.

Still sexual, age be damned
Still sexual, age be damned

Taking into account that Madonna is the only successful pop star in her age bracket, shouldn’t Radio 1 concede to an exception regarding their ageist rules?

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