Grammys President Responds to Backlash After Saying Female Artists Need to 'Step Up'

"Women in music don't need to 'step up' — women have been stepping since the beginning of time," Pink tweeted Monday, slamming the Recording Academy's president

The #GrammysSoMale controversy continues — and celebrities are calling for a leadership shakeup within the Recording Academy.

After males swept up nearly the awards presented during the live telecast of the 60th annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said female artists need to “step up.” (The only women to take the stage to accept awards on Sunday were Alessia Cara, for best new artist, and Rihanna, who was featured on best rap/sung performance winner Kendrick Lamar‘s song “LOYALTY.”)

Backlash ensued, and Portnow has released a statement regarding his comments.

“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,” Portnow said in a statement to PEOPLEon Tuesday.

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“Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it,” Portnow’s statement continued.

The statement concluded: “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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In the press room following the awards ceremony Sunday, Portnow said: “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.”

Portnow’s comments caused an uproar, and several musicians slammed the Grammys exec on social media.

And now nearly 10,000 people — including celebrities — have signed a petition demanding Portnow step down from his post at the Recording Academy.

“Attention everyone, especially musicians: Step up. And sign the petition to have Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy/Grammy’s, to step down,” Vanessa Carlton tweeted Wednesday, sharing a link to the Care2 Petion requesting Portnow’s removal. “We are close to our goal of 10000 votes. Pass along.”

“Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ — women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this,” Pink tweeted Monday night. “When we celebrate and honor 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.”

Early Tuesday morning, Katy Perry thanked Pink, tweeting: “Another powerful woman, leading by example. We ALL have a responsibility to call out the absurd lack of equality everywhere we see it. I’m proud of ALL the women making incredible art in the face of continual resistance.”

And Charli XCX followed suit, posting: “ugh bout 2 step up on 2 ur face.. women are making AMAZING music right now wtf is this dude talking about ?????”

“Bad at Love” singer Halsey also expressed outrage over #GrammysSoMale and Portnow’s comments.

“Neil’s comment was absurd. Female artists came HARD in 2017. But the nominees are selected by peers and their opinion of the music. Which means it’s a conversation about the standards of which the ENTIRE INDUSTRY expects women to uphold,” she wrote in string of tweets. “I just really wish I got to see justice and fairness and ONE woman winning a televised award is bulls—.”

  • With reporting by JANINE RUBENSTEIN
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