Females “step up” to Grammys

Earlene Mary Escobal,

Recording Academy’s President causes uproar with his comment on lack of female representation at Grammys

At the 60th Annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 28, only 11 female artists were nominated out of 84 total categories. Of the 11 female nominees, two of them won and only one winner aired on the live show. It went to Alessia Cara for Best New Artist. Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman won Best Country duo/group performance during the pre-show.

This is simply not ok. We are currently in a time where we have movements like Time’s Up and #MeToo to bring awareness to sexual harassment and inequality. Women ranging from everyday workers to well-known artists are raising awareness of the inequality and sexual assault many women face. The Grammy’s lack of female nominees and winners became an example of the inequality women have been fighting about.

On a night where female artists wore white roses in support of the Time’s Up movement and sexual misconduct victims, male artists dominated the nominees list and brought home almost all of the awards. The hashtag, #GrammysSoMale trended on Twitter after the show in response.

Bruno Mars went home with six out of six Grammys he was nominated for. On the other hand, SZA was nominated for five Grammys and didn’t win any of them.

Ed Sheeran was the only male nominee for Best Pop Solo Performance next to P!nk, Lady Gaga, Kesha and Kelly Clarkson. Empowering songs such as Kesha’s “Praying” and Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons” were nominated, but the Grammy went to Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” a song about a woman’s body.

Lorde also fell victim to the male dominance at the Grammys. She was the only female nominee in the Album of the Year category, which Bruno Mars won. Variety reported that the Grammys offered Lorde to perform with other artist for a tribute performance, while the other nominees for Album of the Year were offered solo performances. In response, Lorde declined the offer to perform.

“I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls,” Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy said to USA Today in response to questions about the #GrammysSoMale hashtag. “[Women] who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level, to step up, because I think they would be welcome,” Portnow added.

Portnow’s remarks received public backlash by artists and executives alike. “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up,’ women have been stepping since the beginning of time,” P!nk, a female pop artist who was one of the female nominees that night, said in a handwritten letter on Twitter hours after Portnow’s statement. “Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women owned music this year… against all odds, we show 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.”

“Neil’s comment was absurd,” Halsey, another female artist, responded through her Twitter. “Female artists came HARD in 2017. But the nominees are selected by peers and their opinion of the music. Which means it’s a conversation about the standards of which the ENTIRE INDUSTRY expects women to uphold.”

What Portnow fails to realize is that women have been trying to step up, not only in the music industry, but everywhere. Portnow’s urge for women to “step up” in a world where women have to try twice as hard as a man in a male-dominant music industry is absurd.

A report by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that of the 899 people nominated in the last six Grammy Awards, nine percent were women. They also found that in Billboard’s top songs from 2012 to 2017, women made up 12 percent of the songwriters and two percent of the producers, 78 percent of the 1,239 credited artists were men.

Various women in the music industry drafted a letter asking that more women and people of color be represented in nominations at the Recording Academy, according to NBC news.

As of Feb. 1, 21 women have signed the letter, including Marcie Allen, president of MAC Presents, Rosemary Carroll, a music industry attorney, Marsha Vlasic of Artist Group International and Caron Veazey, manager of the rapper Pharrell Williams. If the changes are not met, then they will ask Portnow to step down from his position as president, according to news reports.

Portnow has since apologized for his use of words to describe the lack of women representation at the Grammys.

Women in the music and entertainment industry are still working hard to be heard and represented. Regardless of how often women are shut out in music, we will fight and keep fighting for equality and that this mistreatment is unacceptable.