The Grammys President Responds To Backlash Over Sexist Remarks

Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images.
Update: A number of female executives, including music-business attorney Rosemary Carroll, agents Cara Lewis, Natalia Nastaskin and Marsha Vlasic; John Legend manager Ty Stiklorius; and Pharrell Williams manager Caron Veazey, have written a letter to Recording Academy president Neil Portnow to condemn comments he made telling women they need to "step up" if they want to be better represented in the music industry, and to call for his resignation.
"We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time. The fact that you don’t realize this means it’s time for you to step down," the letter reads. "Today we are stepping up and stepping in to demand your resignation."
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This letter came just after Portnow announced an independent task force to help female advancement. According to Variety, the executives are aware of the announcement, but stand by their letter.
Read the full letter here.
Original story follows.
"On Thursday, the Recording Academy president Neil Portnow issued a statement in response to the backlash over sexist remarks he made about women in the music industry.
In a letter addressed to the music community, Portnow wrote:
"After hearing from many friends and colleagues, I understand the hurt that my poor choice of words following last Sunday’s GRAMMY telecast has caused. I also now realize that it’s about more than just my words. Because those words, while not reflective of my beliefs, echo the real experience of too many women. I’d like to help make that right.
"The Recording Academy is establishing an independent task force to review every aspect of what we do as an organization and identify where we can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community. We will also place ourselves under a microscope and tackle whatever truths are revealed.
"I appreciate that the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed in our industry, and share in the urgency to attack it head on. We as an organization, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that. We will share more information about the steps we are taking in the coming weeks."
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This article was originally published on January 31, 2018.
Comments made by Recording Academy President Neil Portnow following the 2018 Grammy Awards, during which only one woman won a major award, have inspired nearly 10,000 people to call for his resignation.
“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 told Variety after the show when asked about sexism in the music industry. "[They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome."
This caused both women in the industry and female fans to immediately fire back, offended (and rightfully so) that Portnow's comments put the responsibility on women to be better represented in music, rather than acknowledging that it's dismissal by their male peers and systematic sexism that's responsible for the disparity.
Portnow later expressed regret with his phrasing, telling the L.A. Times in a statement:
"[Sunday] 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. 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."
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However, this hasn't stopped a petition demanding Portnow step down from reaching almost 10,000 signatures.
"Neil Portnow's comments show a complete disregard for the many ways women have been overlooked, discredited, and disempowered in music," it reads, adding, "With someone like Neil Portnow at the helm of The Recording Academy, women in music will never gain the recognition they deserve - no matter how much they 'step up' or 'lean in.' Sign now and tell Portnow to resign immediately."
The petition was shared by singer Vanessa Carlton on Twitter, who asked her followers to pass it along.
It's unclear whether or not Carlton is one of the people behind the petition (Refinery29 has reached out to her rep for comment), but she was definitely instrumental in its circulation. If it does reach its goal, it's not guaranteed to actually trigger a resignation, but it will send a message that it's time for the status quo to change.
Refinery29 has reached out to the Recording Academy for comment.
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