Madonna Blasted for ‘Peak White Feminism’ During Tribute to Aretha Franklin

“Peak white feminism.”

Madonna’s tribute to Aretha Franklin at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday was criticized as self-indulgent and as an instance of cultural appropriation.

While Madonna was presenting the award for video of the year​, she took time to pay tribute to Franklin who ​passed away last week. However, according to detractors, her speech focused more on her own musical legacy.

“I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer but I went for it,” she said. “I got cut and rejected from every audition—not tall enough, not blend-in enough, not 12-octave range enough, not pretty enough. Not enough.”

At the end of the speech, Madonna tried to connect everything back to Franklin.

“So you’re probably all wondering why I’m telling you this story. There’s a connection because none of this would’ve happened—could’ve happened—without our lady of soul.”

Commentators on social media accused Madonna of making the tribute to Franklin all about herself and lambasted her choice to wear a ​traditional North African dress.

Film journalist Hanna Ines Flint characterized Madonna’s VMAs appearance as “peak white feminism.”

The reaction to Madonna’s speech touches on an ongoing debate over cultural appropriation and the complex nature of being a white ally.

The line between cultural appropriation and appreciation is ​very thin. Celebrities ​including Kim Kardashian and Beyonce have been accused of racial insensitivity in the past.

“I think of it, in the most rudimentary terms, as this very fluid exchange of culture that happens among human beings,” LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant, an associate professor of Africana studies at Williams College, ​told the Huffington Post in February. “But the way that we think about it, especially now, is that it refers to taking someone else’s culture ― intellectual property, artifacts, style, art form, etc. ― without permission.”​

Manigualt-Bryant’s comments reflect the view of many progressives who take cultural appropriation seriously as a societal ill.

Many conservatives aren’t so sympathetic, instead viewing most instances of cultural appropriation as manifestations of politically correct orthodoxy run amok. In January, the National Review ​published a piece outlining “The Eleven Most Ridiculously PC Moments of 2017.”

Several of the examples listed were instances of purported cultural appropriation.

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