Fiona Apple addressed Grammy president Neil Portnow’s comment that female artists need to “step up” by wearing a T-shirt onstage with the words, “Kneel Portnow.” Apple was performing with Garbage’s Shirley Manson at the Girlschool L.A. music festival at Bootleg Theater, Variety reports. The pair sang an emotionally charged cover of Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.”
The 60th Grammy Awards faced backlash for its lack of female nominees and winners. When asked about the gender disparity, Portnow’s comment that women in music need to “step up” was criticized by numerous artists including Sheryl Crow, Charli XCX and Pink, who performed at the ceremony.
“Women in music don’t need to ‘step up,'” Pink wrote on Twitter. “Women have been stepping up since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside … 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.”
Several female music industry executives called for Portnow’s resignation. The group, which included agents, attorneys, promoters and band managers for acts such as Pharrell Williams and John Legend, composed the letter, which read in part: “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.”
Portnow later acknowledged his “poor choice of words” in a letter, which also announced a Grammy task force “to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community.”