The 2018 Grammys did, in fact, have its #MeToo moment. In the wake of the “Time’s Up” movement’s inception at this year’s Golden Globes, there was a lot of speculation about how the music industry’s Recording Academy would choose to draw awareness to the issue of sexual assault and harassment, if at all, during the annual awards ceremony.
From the outset, it was inspiring to see a number of celebrities wearing a white rose. A group of female industry executives formed a group called “Voices of Entertainment” last week and sent an open letter to attendees encouraging them to wear a white rose in support of the #MeToo movement. “We choose the white rose because historically it stands for hope, peace, sympathy and resistance,” the letter read. And it wasn’t just women who decided to wear them. The preponderance of men wearing white roses to the ceremony exemplified the way men can support and sustain women. It’s especially helpful in environments where women are outnumbered, relatively powerless, and fear retribution for speaking up for themselves.
Was it a perfect night for women? No. Critics were quick to point out that of the 84 total awards presented, only 11 went to women. In a category that seemed primed to have a female winner with four of the five nominees being women, the award for Best Solo Pop Performance ultimately went to the lone male nominee (who didn’t even bother to show up for the ceremony). The Academy was also criticized for allowing all of the male nominees for Album of the Year to perform while Lorde, the one female nominee, was not given that same opportunity.
In spite of the evening’s shortcomings, several presenters and performers took the opportunity to bring the message of #MeToo to the Grammy stage. Lady Gaga began her performance of her hit “Million Reasons” by simply whispering, “Time’s up,” into her microphone. There was no second-guessing Pink’s message as she sang “There’s not enough rope to tie me down, there’s not enough tape to shut this mouth.”
Perhaps the most notable moment of the night took place when singer Janelle Monáe came to the stage to introduce a performance by Kesha. “Tonight, I am proud to stand in solidarity as not just an artist, but a young woman, with my fellow sisters in this room who make up the music industry — artists, writers, assistants, publicists, CEOs, producers, engineers, and women from all sectors of the business. We are also daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, and human beings. To those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s Up. 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. And just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well. So, let’s work together, women and men, as a united music industry committed to creating more safe work environments, equal pay, and access for all women.”
As if Monáe’s speech wasn’t powerful enough, Kesha, who has been embroiled in a legal battle with a male producer over allegations of sexual abuse, performed her song “Praying,” which was written in response to her experiences of assault. It was an emotional performance that gave us a glimpse into her personal pain but also encapsulated a moment of “hope, peace, sympathy and resistance” as she sang surrounded by a chorus of women dressed in all-white as a symbol of solidarity.
What has been communicated through the songs and speeches of the Golden Globes and the Grammys is not a list of solutions but a chorus of reminders that there is work to be done in our society to address harassment and inequality on behalf of women everywhere. The ceremonies are over, but the work goes on.