At first glance, it might seem like the white rose strategy at the 2018 GRAMMYs was a successful complement to the black dresses of Time’s Up. But upon closer inspection, the actual event was one giant step *back* for women.
On Jan. 28, the biggest names in music, including Cardi B, Alessia Cara and Zayn, hit the red carpet at New York City’s Madison Square Garden either wearing or holding a white rose. The floral addition was a show of solidarity with a new group known as Voices of Entertainment, the music industry’s answer to Time’s Up (which, as you likely know, is a campaign against systemic workplace inequality and harassment in Hollywood and beyond).
Prior to the GRAMMYs, Voices of Entertainment released a letter which explained that the white rose was intended to symbolize “hope, peace, sympathy and resistance.” The letter urged music’s biggest stars to join the initiative “in support of equal representation in the workplace, for leadership that reflects the diversity of our society, workplaces free of sexual harassment and a heightened awareness of accountability that our sisters started on January 1st and continued through the Golden Globes and onward.”
While the initiative seemed to have had good intentions, it became clear the morning after the awards ceremony that all the GRAMMYs have to show for its so-called “support” of gender parity is a bunch of wilted flowers.
During the official broadcast, only two women were awarded a GRAMMY: Alessia Cara won Best New Artist and Rihanna took home Best Rap/Sung Performance for her feature on the song “Loyalty” by Kendrick Lamar.
It’s tradition that all the artists nominated for Album of the Year give a solo performance during the GRAMMYs live broadcast. Lorde, the only woman nominated in this category, was denied a solo performance while all her male counterparts were invited to take the stage individually. According to Variety, Lorde was only asked to participate in a group performance, which she declined.
It only gets worse from there. Cardi B was the only woman nominated for Best Rap Performance, and—you guessed it!—she lost to Kendrick Lamar. SZA was the most nominated woman of the night, up for five awards, and she took home—shocker!—literally nothing.
With the SZA stans expecting at least a single win out of five noms, Twitter erupted when she won a big fat goose egg.
@sza going home empty-handed when she was the most nominated woman this year is so ridiculous, but I honestly haven’t been able to feel outrage toward this show since being in the audience the last two times Bey lost AOTY. #GRAMMYs
— Gerrick D. Kennedy (@GerrickKennedy) January 29, 2018
— NUFF (@nuffsaidNY) January 29, 2018
— Omoniyi Israel (@omoissy) January 29, 2018
Moving right along, Sarah Silverman was the only woman nominated for Best Comedy Album, and—yup, right again—she lost to Dave Chappelle. This one is especially searing when you realize that, in the very specials for which he won a GRAMMY, The Age Of Spin and Deep In The Heart Of Texas, Chappelle makes obviously homophobic and transphobic jokes.
These works, released last March, elicited controversy from even Chappelle’s biggest fans, so you’d think the comedian would’ve tried to be more respectful in his latest acts… right? Wrong! His newest pair of Netflix specials, Equanimity and The Bird Revelations, released on Jan. 1, include a series of belittling jokes about the #MeToo movement.
Are you tired yet? Because I can keep going. Ed Sheeran was the only dude nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance—up against Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, Lady Gaga and P!nk, 2017’s female powerhouses—and he WON. In the category of Best Country Album were two bands with female leads—Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum—and yup, they were shut the eff out.
By our count, 14 categories were televised, and only twice did a woman give an acceptance speech. The stats speak for themselves, don’t they?
The cherry on top is that, when the president of the Recording Academy—a.k.a. the people who pick the GRAMMY winners—was asked about #GrammysSoMale, he told Variety that women need to “step up” if they want to be acknowledged. “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,” said Neil Portnow.
Is your blood boiling? Because SAAAME.
Celebs including Charli XCX GRAMMY nominee and performer Pink responded to Portnow’s outrageous comments on social media. “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’—women have been stepping since the beginning of time,” reads a handwritten note that Pink posted on Twitter making it clear that women “owned music” this year. “When we celebrate and honour the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women STEP UP every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal and what it looks like to be fair.”
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 XCX (@charli_xcx) January 29, 2018
The fact is, you can buy all the pins in the world, wear black every day of your life and cultivate an all-white rose garden—none of that matters unless a real effort is being made to eradicate the systemic oppression of women. On Jan. 28, the Recording Academy showed all of us just how little that objective matters to the music industry.
With files from Russ Martin.
For more on the 2018 GRAMMYs:
Here’s The Full List of GRAMMY Nominations & Wins
All Our Favourite Looks From The 2018 GRAMMYs
Here’s Why Celebs Wore White Roses to The GRAMMYs
Lorde Isn’t Performing At The GRAMMYs And The Reason Why Is Effed
Janelle Monáe & Kesha Rightfully Stole The Show At The GRAMMYs