[Anderson Cooper introduced Madonna and thanked her for giving him faith during his years as a gay teenager. Madonna accepts, adjusting microphone stand between her legs.]

“I always feel better with something hard between my legs.”

[Crowd laughs.]

“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer. Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse.

“It’s mind-blowing to be honored like this after the very public year I’ve had. I feel stuck, and I feel sad. And quite frankly, today I feel bloated.

[Crowd laughs]

“I didn’t really feel like standing up and getting an award − I didn’t feel worthy of that. But I knew I had to drag myself out of my bed, put on my boots and walk up here and say thank you to you guys.”

“I started off in a difficult time. People were dying of AIDS everywhere. It wasn’t safe to be gay, it wasn’t cool to be associated with the gay community. It was 1979 and New York was a very scary place.

“In the first year I was held at gunpoint, raped on a rooftop with a knife digging into my throat. And I had my apartment broken into and robbed so many times I just stopped locking the door. In the years that followed, I lost almost every friend I had to AIDS or drugs or gunshot.

“I remember feeling paralyzed. It took me a while to pull myself together and get on with my creative life − to get on with my life. I took comfort in the poetry of Maya Angelou, and the writings of James Baldwin, and in the music of Nina Simone. I remember wishing I had a female peer I could look to for support. Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said I set women back by objectifying myself sexually. So I thought, ‘oh, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’ So I said ‘fuck it. I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.’

“I realized that I could not be a victim any longer. That everything happened for a reason. And my job was to learn from every shitstorm I wandered into.”

‘As you can imagine, all these unexpected events not only helped me become the daring woman that stands before you. But it also reminded me that I am vulnerable. And in life, there is no real safety except for self-belief. And, an understanding that I am not the owner of my talents.

“I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin, but my real muse was David Bowie. He embodied male and female spirit and that suited me just fine. He made me think there were no rules. But I was wrong.

“There are no rules − if you’re a boy. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. What is that game? You are allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t have an opinion that is out of line with the status quo, at least. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat, do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world.


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