Recording Academy President Says Women Need to 'Step Up'

Someone needs to step up and slap him.

It seemed like this could have finally been the year that the Grammysdidn’t totally suck, but unfortunately there were a lot of reasons they still did. Chief among those reasons is the fact that only one woman took home an award from any of the major categories. Alessia Cara snatched the Grammy for Best New Artist, upsetting fans of SZA, Lil Uzi Vert, and Khalid, and becoming the only woman to win out of the major categories on Sunday night.

When Variety asked Recording Academy president Neil Portnow about the lack of representation, he turned it around and decided to blame women artists. “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. 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.”

That's a pretty ridiculous defense, considering the Recording Academy failed to nominate a single woman for Record of the Year, and the only woman nominated for Album of the Year, Lorde, didn’t get to perform. Meanwhile all of the men in that category did, with the exception of Jay Z because he turned down the opportunity.

In categories where women did dominate, like Best Pop Album, the award still went to a man. An absent Ed Sheeran won over Kesha, who displayed an insane amount of emotional labor during her performance for "Praying," but failed to win either of the two Grammys she was nominated for. SZA, the most nominated woman at the show, went home with nothing.

Even Grammys catnip Taylor Swift wasn’t present at the award show. “It wasn’t her year,” Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich said. “She was kind of off cycle. Hopefully we’ll see her next year.” 

In response to Portnow’s comments and the over-saturation of male winners and performers, viewers created the hashtag #GrammysSoMale, a spin off of the #OscarsSoWhite trend from a couple years back. It's clear the issue goes deeper than women not stepping up to the plate. In the past six years, only 9 percent of the 899 Grammy nominees have been women. Instead of blaming women, the Recording Academy needs to look in the mirror and reflect on what role they have in the systemic exclusion of women and people of color in the industry. Until then, #GrammysSoMale is likely to remain a fact of award show season.

Latest in Music