Following the 60 th Grammy Awards, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow truly set his foot in his mouth.
At this year’s awardings, women made up only 9% of the nearly 900 nominees , despite critically acclaimed releases from musicians and creatives from all genres. In an interview discussing the issue of a seemingly sexist slate and award display, Portnow said the following statement, emphasis added.
“It has to begin with … women who have the ingenuity 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 heads level … [ They require] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to build the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”
In the midst of a groundswell of status of women coming forward and taking up space in industries that have long pushed them aside, this senior white man in a position of power told females to “step up.”
Yeah, it didn’t run so well .
Artists the likes of Pink, Halsey, Charlie XCX, and Katy Perry were quick to fire back at Portnow’s absurd affirm.
Halsey, fresh off a passionate speech at the Women’s March, didn’t miss an opportunity to call out not just Portnow, but the industry. If the nominees are selected by peers, then perhaps the entire system needs to be reevaluated , not just the opinions of a man at the top.
Neil’s comment was absurd. Female artists came HARD in 2017. But the nominees are selected by peers and their opinion of the music. Which means it’s a dialogue about the standards of which the ENTIRE INDUSTRY expects girls to uphold.
— h (@ halsey) January 30, 2018
Charli XCX chimed in with righteous rage, which is the best various kinds of anger because it usually leads to action. Drag him, Charli!
Grammy winner Pink shared a handwritten open letter to Portnow, and anyone else who doesn’t acknowledge the substantial contributions women attain to music each year.
“Women in music don’t need to’ step up’ — women have been stepping since the beginning of hour. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Females OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this. When we celebrate and honor the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much girls Step up every year, and how much women Step up every year, against all odds, we indicate the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair.”
And 13 -time Grammy nominee Katy Perry quote-tweeted Pink, applauding her fortitude and calling out Portnow and other barriers to gender equality in the industry.
Another powerful girl, leading by example. We ALL have a responsibility to call out the absurd absence of equal opportunities everywhere we see it. I’m proud of ALL the women stimulating unbelievable art in the face of continual resistance.
P.s VH1 Divas Live. https :// t.co/ RDmB7zRfId
— KATY PERRY (@ katyperry) January 30, 2018
Portnow strolled back his comments, but it doesn’t change the reality of the industry.
After some serious backlash from artists, music professionals, and fans, Portnow released the following statement, apologizing for his term choice.
Last night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards. Regrettably, I employed two words, “step up, ” that, when taken out of context, do not communicate my beliefs and the point I was trying to induce.
Our industry must be acknowledged that women who dream of careers in music face obstacles that humen have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these roadblocks and encourage women to live their dreamings and express their passion and ingenuity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it. I regret that I wasn’t as articulated as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to induce our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone .
It’s a much better, more helpful statement.
But his apology is merely the first step correcting the serious gender inequalities in the Grammys and executive roles in the recording industry. Now more than ever, we need to push back on calls to “welcome, mentor, and empower” and ensure these statements are backed up with funding, commitment, and action.
Women are already doing the work and then some. It’s day for the men , especially humen in positions of power, to step up and do their part to genuinely make the community, “a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.”
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