Women in the entertainment industry are no stranger to gender inequality and sexual misconduct. In 2017 many women came forward exposing powerful men of sexual assault. The #MeToo movement swept across social media last year; the movement is about bringing awareness to and ending sexual violence. In response to #MeToo, Hollywood celebrities banded together and created Time’s Up, a movement against sexual harassment, assault and gender inequality. Grammys attendees were encouraged to wear a white rose to show solidarity for the “Time’s Up” movement. The 2018 Grammy Awards would have been a great opportunity to bring the recording industry to reckoning. While there were some standout moments during the show, the award winners were disappointing, and even more disappointing were Recording Academy leaders’ comments about the subject.
Kesha’s performance of “Praying”
The one moment in the show dedicated to addressing #MeToo, the elephant in the room, was Kesha’s performance of her song “Praying.”
The song is Kesha’s anthem for standing up against sexual assault. Janelle Monae introduced Kesha’s performance with the words, “We say time’s up for pay inequality, time’s up for discrimination, time’s up for harassment of any kind, and time’s up for the abuse of power. Because you see, it’s not just going on in Hollywood, it’s not just going on in Washington. It’s right here in our industry as well . . .”
This performance was an emotional highlight of the show, but the Best Pop Solo Performance award still went to Ed Sheeran. Since Kesha’s performance was the only moment the show acknowledged the subject of gender inequality and sexual harassment, it seemed more like tokenism on the part of the Grammys.
Lorde, the only female nominated for Artist of the Year, didn’t perform at all because she wasn’t offered a solo performance slot. However, each of the other Artist of the Year nominees, who were all male, were offered solo performances.
When asked why Lorde wasn’t offered the same deal as the other men, Grammy’s producer Ken Ehrlich said that “there’s no way we can really deal with everybody.” Instead, Lorde sat quietly in the audience with a feminist Jenny Holzer poem pinned to the back of her dress.
When Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, was asked about why the majority of award winners were male, despite the obvious female talent, he said that female artists need to ‘step up.’ This comment incited major backlash, especially from female artists. A group of women in the music industry signed a petition asking Portnow to step down from his position for the sexist remark. Three-time Grammy winner P!nk tweeted her response to Portnow’s comment, saying that “women have been stepping up since the beginning of time.”
It wasn’t just this year’s Grammys’ that was male-dominated. A USC study found that only 9.3% of Grammy nominees were women between 2013 and 2018. With female artists such as Taylor Swift, Adele and Beyonce, you would think women would be better represented.
If the Grammys and the recording industry as a whole want to say time’s up to gender inequality, it needs to fairly represent women in music, have leaders who recognize the powerful impact women have on music and have their awards show reflect gender equality.
Written by Jordan Christensen.