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Women At The Grammys

The only woman who won a televised Grammy award was Alessia Cara for Best New Artist, and even then, only ten more women won awards out of the 86 given, Which sparked an online conversation about the under representation of women within the famous music awards show. When the Grammys were blasted with criticism in regards to this, the Recording Academy President, Neil Portnow, felt the need to speak up.

Portnow said in a statement “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.”

Soon after Portnow made this statement, he was called out by multiple female artists on social media such as P!NK, Sheryl Crow, Halsey and many others, and was even called to resign by other record executives. After this backlash, he issued a semi-apology, as well as a promise for a new task force that will seek to correct bias against women. He also claimed that his words were taken out of context.

This right here, is a prime example of privilege within the realms of the music industry. In this instance, we see a man who exemplifies the epitome of privilege. Not only is this man privileged in the sense that he is wealthy, but he is privileged because he is a white man. Some people may be familiar with the term white privilege. It is not just being privileged in a monetary way, but it is the idea that by being a white person, you’re automatically apart of a dominant group.  This group tends to be respected, assumed as “best,” and given the benefit of the doubt all the time. This is not the case for other races, no matter how educated, rich, or hardworking they may be.

In this statement, Portnow actually acknowledged the disadvantage of women within the music industry by pretty much stating that he does not have personal experience with those “brick walls” that women face in the industry. But yet, he continues with the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” logic that this is something that women can easily overcome if they just put their minds to it. Women cannot just overcome years of oppression, as well as being told consistently that they are not good enough, worthy of being heard, or not deserving of respect within the same context of a man. Let’s not forget that it is even harder for women of color.

There are multiple examples of amazing women who have put the “creativity in their hearts and souls” to amazing and powerful use, but are consistently brushed aside. Women like Kesha, while during her publicized trial she confessed that her long time producer, Dr.Luke, had been consistently sexually assaulting and mentally abusing her. Yet all she requested from the trial was to not work with him any longer. However, her label stood against her to protect him. Kesha after losing her trial, was forced to stay and continue making albums for the very company who helped oppress her. A little bit after the trial, she released new music in the first time in four years, a comeback ballad called “Praying” that told the narrative of forgiving those who hurt you, and finding the strength to pray for them even after all that they have done.

Kesha is a prime example of a woman who has stepped up in the music industry, and while she was nominated, she was unfortunately snubbed. There is also Lorde, who released a new album titled “Melodrama” that was one of the most critically acclaimed alternative albums of the year. There was also SZA, who was the most nominated artist at the awards, who left with nothing. Cardi B, despite having her single “Bodak Yellow” become the longest running number 1 by a female solo rapper ever, left empty handed as well. Not to mention the only woman nominated for a rock category was Kristine Flaherty. Paramore, Beth Ditto, St.Vincent, Diet Cig, Girl Pool and Sheer Mag were all snubbed, leaving the Rock category predominantly male. There was also Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, neither of them received a nomination despite releasing work before the deadline to be considered.

It’s not that women have not been stepping up in the music industry, it’s just that nobody is taking the time to notice, or to acknowledge it.

Source: Variety, Washington Post, Vulture

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