And the Grammy for most patronising comment goes to… Neil Portnow | Rebecca Nicholson

Step up, the head of the music awards told women. As if they haven’t been stepping up for decades

For a glorious few seconds, it seemed as if Blue Ivy might have been the star of this year’s Grammy awards, for a much-giffed moment when she told her embarrassing overexcited parents, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, to be cool.

But then along came Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, to upstage her.

That was the least of his crimes. After the ceremony, Portnow was asked why only 17 of the evening’s 86 awards went to women.

“I think it has to begin with women…” he said, concluding with the revolutionary idea that women themselves should “step up”. Like Time’s Up, only a new, better version, that says it’s all women’s fault.

Happily, several female artists did step up, to ask Portnow to step down, so he issued a statement apologising for his “poor choice of words” and announcing the establishment of a task force to “identify where we can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement”.

You know, like the head of the Grammys blaming women for not doing enough to win awards for themselves. Ugh, fighting explicit barriers and unconscious biases is so complicated. It wasn’t like this in the old days, when rock stars could have sex with 14-year-olds and nobody minded.

It is amazing that it’s taking #MeToo so long to come for the music industry, a business that is sexist on every level – whether it’s the festival organisers who “don’t notice” that they’ve only booked all-male acts again, or the sound technicians who assume female musicians are the girlfriends of the men in the room, or the female journalists accused of sleeping with bands, when they’re not being propositioned by the men in bands they’re supposed to be interviewing.

Or the sleazy old men earning a killing off the looks and talents of young women who don’t know what they’re allowed to say no to, whether it’s being told to wear less, or smile more, or work with this producer, or be nice to that label exec, or to be quiet about that sexual assault, that rape, just be quiet, and you might have a chance of making some money for us. If that sounds extreme, then believe me, it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.

The incredible thing is that, in spite of all of this, women have been stepping up for decades. Portnow’s initial remarks, and even his clarification, come with the patronising guiding hand of an old boy: you can join our club, if you just try hard enough, if we, the men in charge, make it a little bit easier for you. But his words are a death rattle. Women can build their own clubs and write their own rules, the kind of rules that work for everyone. No permission needed.

Contributor

Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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