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The Grammys Put Women on Stage—But Gave Awards Almost Exclusively to Men

At the 60th Grammy Awards last night, only one woman walked away with a main award, prompting the trending hashtag #GrammysSoMale.

by Linda Yang
Jan 29 2018, 6:49pm

Kesha and SZA photos by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS. Cardi B. photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images. SZA photo by 

At the 60th Grammy Awards last night, viewers were met with a glaring omittance of women from the list of awardees. Despite female performers giving the show, and this past year in music, some of its most memorable moments, only one woman won a main award, prompting the trending hashtag #GrammysSoMale.

In response, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told Variety that he feels the grave underrepresentation of women at the awards is the result of women not trying hard enough: “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,” he said. “[They need] to step up, because I think they would be welcome.”

He then backpedalled a bit, saying: “I don't have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face,” he said, “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.”

Of the nine main categories at last night’s award show, Best New Music was the only one that went to a woman, singer Alessia Cara. While 2017 breakout star SZA entered the awards as the most nominated woman of the night with five separate nods—Best New Artist, Best Urban Contemporary Album, Best R&B Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best Rap/Sung Performance—she ultimately left empty handed.

The Best Pop Solo Performance category promised high chances of going to a woman, with four female nominees—Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, Lady Gaga, and Pink. In the end, though, Ed Sheeran took home the prize for “Shape of You,” a song about the literal shape of a woman’s body.

Historically speaking, last night’s gender disparity in Grammy winners is unfortunately nothing new. A study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released last week found that 90 percent of Grammy nominees in the past six year have been male.

Adding to this growing list of woman snubs, Lorde, whose sweeping epic of an album Melodrama was nominated for Album of the Year, was both the only woman in the category and the only nominee in the category not offered a solo performance at the ceremony. Fellow nominees Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, and Childish Gambino all performed, while Jay-Z was reportedly asked and declined.

While Lorde hasn’t spoken out about the snub, instead choosing to wear a feminist poem to the Grammys’ red carpet, her mother hasn’t stayed so mum. Before the awards, Lorde’s mother Sonja Yelich tweeted a photo of an excerpt from a New York Times article that read: “Of the 899 people to be nominated for Grammy awards in the past six years, only nice percent were women. (This year, Lorde is the only woman nominated for album of the year; she is not scheduled to perform.)” She tweeted the photo with the caption: “This says it all.”

When asked about the lack of an invitation to Lorde to perform, Grammy’s producer Ken Ehrlich told Variety, “I don't know if it was a mistake. These shows are a matter of choices. We have a box and it gets full. She had a great album. There’s no way we can really deal with everybody.”

Despite the incredible lack of gender diversity in the awards winners, women took center stage during the ceremony to advocate for social justice, diversity, and inclusion. Lady Gaga, one of many awards attendees who wore a white rose on the red carpet in support of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, asserted “Times Up” during her performance of Million Reasons while Janelle Monae called for “equal pay and access for women” later in the ceremony.

Camilla Cabello, the singer of “Havana,” took the stage to speak about her experience as a Mexican-Cuban immigrant before declaring her full-hearted support for undocumented youth in the United States.

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Later, Kesha tore down the house with her performance of “Praying,” the song she released in the midst of her ongoing legal battle with her producer, Dr. Luke, who she has accused of drugging, raping, and verbally, physically, and emotionally abusing her. Kesha was supported onstage by Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, Andrea Day, and the Resistance Revival Chorus. In an emotional act of solidarity, she ended her performance with a group hug.

While introducing Kesha’s performance, Janelle Monae said matter-of-factly, “We come in peace, but we mean business.”