There were many ridiculous aspects to Sunday’s Grammy festivities, but probably the most ridiculous was the show’s treatment of women. Although the broadcast made a big show of support for women’s rights by having Kesha and a small army of her peers perform her anti-abuse rebuke “Praying,” the gesture rang hollow in light of what else went down. Lorde, the only woman nominated for Album Of The Year, was not offered a chance to perform her own music, an offer extended to the four male nominees. Women won only 11 of Sunday’s 84 awards, and only one — Best New Artist honoree Alessia Cara — made it to the primetime broadcast. Capping it off, Neil Portnow, the president of Grammy governing body the Recording Academy, told reporters women would have to “step up” in order to win more Grammys.
Portnow’s larger point was that women face more obstacles in the music industry than men, but his call for women to “step up” and apparent ignorance toward the wealth of quality music already being generated by women made him seem extremely tone-deaf and out of touch. His comments sparked widespread backlash, including from female musicians such as Pink, Sheryl Crow, and Charli XCX.
— P!nk (@Pink) January 29, 2018
2/2: …demanding equality and fairness. The lack of female representation is not about there not being enough quality coming from women in music, it’s about the fact that the opportunities for women to have a presence have been chopped in half. #GrammysSoMale
— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) January 30, 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
In response to the outcry, Portnow has offered an apology and clarification. Here’s what he has to say:
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 used two words, “step up,” that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make.
Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it. I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.
This is a nice sentiment on its face, but only the most generous interpreter would read it as an acknowledgement that women are already excelling in the music industry or an admission that the Grammys should have done more to include and recognize them Sunday. So Portnow is still coming off oblivious at best, deceitful at worst. Grammys gonna Grammy, I guess, but jeez, these people are overdue for a period of self-reflection.