Yesterday (January 29), Recording Academy president Neil Portnow made headlines for all the wrong reasons when, upon being asked by Variety about the lack of female winners at this year's Grammy Award, said that it was on the women to "step up" to warrant recognition. Here are his words:
"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."
Naturally, he incited a fervent frustration in female artists (and male) who took to social media to rebuke his tone-deaf opinions.
Another powerful woman, leading by example. We ALL have a responsibility to call out the absurd lack of equality everywhere we see it. I'm proud of ALL the women making incredible art in the face of continual resistance. ✊— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) January 30, 2018
P.s VH1 Divas Live. https://t.co/RDmB7zRfId
I strongly back the disagreement with the way that the Academy approaches things but please remember the Grammys are voted by a “jury of peers” which means other artists and producers and writers select the nominees.— h (@halsey) January 30, 2018
Neil’s comment was absurd. Female artists came HARD in 2017. But the nominees are selected by peers and their opinion of the music. Which means it’s a conversation about the standards of which the ENTIRE INDUSTRY expects women to uphold.— h (@halsey) January 30, 2018
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). #GrammysSoMale https://t.co/v1rvbT3pCC— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) January 29, 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 (@charli_xcx) January 29, 2018
Not the best response :/ Women are stepping up and making AMAZING music and have been for years. Men with privilege, power and access just need to acknowledge their existence. https://t.co/RlVGp1p8dC— Justin Tranter (@justtranter) January 29, 2018
He needs to step down. Now. pic.twitter.com/ZtcKe207wI— Justin Tranter (@justtranter) January 30, 2018
Neil Portnow, there is only so much 'stepping up' women in the industry can do when men like yourselves use the platforms you are privileged to have to make ignorant statements like this.— Jack Garratt (@JackGarratt) January 29, 2018
You have done nothing but feed the systemic issue.
Tegan and Sara
Well. At least the music industry is consistent across North America in putting the blame on women for not being nominated. https://t.co/wdaDorqZy0— Tegan and Sara (@teganandsara) January 29, 2018
Portnow has since backtracked on his comments, telling The Hollywood Reporter today (January 30) that the "two words" he "regrettably" used were not in the correct context and that he encourages "actively work[ing] to eliminate...barriers" that women in the industry face.
"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."