Say What? Grammy President Says Female Artists Need To "Step Up" If They Want To Make It In The Music Industry
He said what?
The Recording Academy president Neil Portnow ticked off world-famous female artists and netizens alike when he suggested that women in the music industry need to "step up" if they want to be recognized.
His statement came days after the male-dominated awards spurred the trending hashtag #GrammysSoMale which highlighted the lack of female winners and performers. Rather than pacify, it rubbed salt into the very, very open wound of gender inequality in the workplace. Some went so far as to suggest that the Grammys didn't get the "year of the women memo," and that Neil was ignorant and detached in his words.
His statement, which he dropped in an interview with Variety, reads:
"It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome."
Female artists (some of whom were nominated for a Grammy) like Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Katy Perry, Iggy Azalea, and Charli XCX were not pleased, to say the least. They took to social media to express clap backs, anger, and everything in between:
A confused soul said women need 2 “step up” their A-game if they wanna start winning & u know what I’m not even mad at ignorance. I’m just gonna kindly point u n the direction of my A-game album I recently dropped #MeaningOfLife #UrWelcome I Jenna Dewan’d that shit y’all #stepup— Kelly Clarkson (@kelly_clarkson) January 31, 2018
ugh bout 2 step up on 2 ur face.. women are making AMAZING music right now wtf is this dude talking about ????? https://t.co/EkijTA33QW— CHARLI XCX (@charli_xcx) January 29, 2018
???????????? Another powerful woman, leading by example. We ALL have a responsibility to call out the absurd lack of equality everywhere we see it. I'm proud of ALL the women making incredible art in the face of continual resistance. ???— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) January 30, 2018
P.s VH1 Divas Live. https://t.co/RDmB7zRfId
I don’t think any of us are saying male artists are undeserving of recognition and celebration too, but we women know what goes on behind the curtain and so that’s why that comment from Neil has the girls fuming.— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) January 30, 2018
In a flopped attempt at damage control, the music executive followed up his statement by telling People.com, "Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards. Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make.”
He tried, but people didn't seem to buy it.
Aside from his seemingly tone-deaf comments, the 2018 Grammys was criticized for putting up a show about supporting women, without actually supporting women—something that Neil and his constituents had a hand in.
Out of the eight major awards presented during the live broadcast, just one—Best New Artist—was given to a woman, Alessia Cara. Lorde, who was the only female artist nominated for Best Album of the Year, not only lost to her male contenders but was also the only nominee from the category not asked to do a solo performance. Ed Sheeran's win in the Best Pop Solo Performance category also disappointed as he bested four of his female co-nominees.
More disturbingly, a research conducted by Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, and Kate Pieper of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that when it comes to the Grammys, 90.7% of nominees between 2013 and 2018 were male. Only 9.3% were women. As its longstanding president, Neil has presided over the Grammys' voting process since 2002.
With Hollywood execs leading the way in committing to change the way women are treated and perceived in the entertainment industry, it appears their music counterparts have a lot of catching up to do.