This year’s Grammy Awards saw the near shut-out of female artists, which Recording Academy president Neil Portnow attributed to women not doing enough to warrant the same accolades received by their male counterparts.
“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,” said Portnow in a post-Grammys interview conducted on Sunday night.
(Read: The Grammys Fall Back on Past Traditions: Racism, Misogyny, and Irrelevancy)
Naturally, Portnow’s piss-poor, tone-deaf comment was greeted with quite a bit of backlash. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon described Portnow’s statement as “Shitty Coach Language.” Now, three prominent female musicians in the industry have also spoken up.
Pink, one of the performers at the 2018 Grammys and a three-time winner, called out Portnow with a handwritten note posted to Twitter. “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ — women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women 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 women STEP UP every year, against all odds,” she continued, “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.”
Charli XCX also chimed in on the social media platform, writing, “ugh bout 2 step up on 2 ur face.. women are making AMAZING music right now wtf is this dude talking about ?????”
Nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow slammed the #GrammysSoMale, too, and suggested that the ceremony bring back gender-specific categories, which were eliminated back in 2011. “I wish the #Grammys would return to female/male categories. Who will young girls be inspired by to pick up a guitar and rock when most every category is filled with men? I’m not sure it is about women needing to “step up”, (as said by the male in charge),” Crow wrote on Twitter, adding, “If the Olympics were set up the way the Grammys are now, then we’d have women competing with men.”
For his part, Portnow issued a statement Monday night in an attempt to clarify his previous comments, which he said were “taken out of context.”
“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,” Portnow said. “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.”
That still doesn’t answer why the Grammys offered solo spots to all the male Best Album nominees, but not to the lone female nominee. Nor does it explain why just 9.3% of the total nominees between 2013 and 2018 were women. But, hey, at least we found time for not one, not two, but three onstage appearances from Sting during this year’s ceremony.