The Grammys President Said Women Need to "Step Up" If They Want to Win

OK, Neil.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
January 30, 2018, 1:00pm

In a year where women were noticeably disregarded as winners by the Recording Academy during Sunday's telecast, despite their causes being championed during the ceremony, it's fair enough that Grammy bosses were asked to comment on the dearth of female winners. Even SZA, the night's most-nominated woman, left empty handed, so what gives?

Their responses, pretty much, showed exactly how far the music industry has to go in understanding its own shortcomings. Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said the following to Variety:

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. 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 make 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.

Ohhh OK. Ladies, you fucking idiots. All you need to do to win is try! Are you dumb? Can't believe all this time we've been complaining and really it's our own fault for not joining in. Thanks so much Neil, for clearing that up! Makes total sense now :-)

I mean. If only it were that simple. As with most industries, structural inequality means that women (especially black women and other women of color), are at a bit of a disadvantage: there simply aren't as many opportunities for women to get in at ground level, especially in areas like production and songwriting. When they do manage to carve out spaces for themselves, the establishment as represented by the Grammys, as we saw over the weekend, refuses to give them recognition.


Following Portnow's comments, a number of music industry figures have raised an eyebrow. On Twitter Charli XCX expressed a desire to "step up on 2 ur face" (v good), and Pink shared a handwritten message, in which she stated: "When we celebrate and honour the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women step up every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and bots and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair."

Elsewhere, songwriter Justin Tranter and Britney Spears' business manager Lou Taylor (who, memorably, wrote that Portnow should get his "head" out of his "ass" xoxo) have commented on the situation. It's pretty clear that people are seeing something on a large scale that the Grammys simply are not: if they want to remain relevant, they'd do well to catch up.

UPDATE: Per the Hollywood Reporter, Portnow has issued a statement retracting his "step up" comment:

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.

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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.