Grammy Awards 2021: Women Dominate This Category For the First Time Ever

The Grammy Awards have been a hallmark of American entertainment for decades and have been the backdrop for many culture-shifting moments. History is already being made at 2021 Grammys, which were postponed from their original date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grammy Awards trophy
A finished Grammy statue, wrapped in protective foam sits in a cardboard box at Billings Artworks in Ridgway, Colorado January 12, 2019 | Andy Cross/The Denver Post

The Grammy Awards’ struggles with gender and racial equality

In the era of #OscarsSoWhite, nearly every major award show has received criticism for not being inclusive enough of people from all walks of life. The Grammy Awards are no exception.

After Tyler, the Creator won the Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2020, the Odd Future artist took the opportunity to nudge the elephant in the room. He was grateful for his award but also acknowledged that whenever Black artists “do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in the rap or urban category.” He added that the word “urban” to him is “a politically correct way to say the N-word.”

The Grammys have also struggled with gender equality throughout its history. Over the past decade, roughly 90% of Grammy nominees have been men year after year. This coincides with the Recording Academy’s overhaul of the awards system, which separated artists in select genres by gender.

Diana Ross performs onstage at the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Diana Ross performs onstage at the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

The 1 Grammy category women dominate in 2021

The 2021 Grammys are providing a glimmer of hope for those wanting to see greater gender equality across the board. For the first time ever, all the nominees for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance are women.

Fiona Apple, Haim, Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief, Grace Potter, Brittany Howard are all nominated for their outstanding work. The Best Rock Performance category in itself is a big honor to win, as it previously used to be split into three separate categories before 2012:  Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and Best Rock Instrumental Performance. 

For many years, these rock categories only sometimes included a women among the nominees, such as Tina Turner and Melissa Etheridge.

Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple performs on ’30 Years of Rolling Stone’ | Chris Canole/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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Women in rock music have often been dismissed

Rock music has famously been a boys’ club since its inception; for many years, people doubted if Tina Turner could be the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll given that the genre was popularized by men.

Rockstar Joan Jett can attest to the inherent misogyny in rock music and the patronization that women in rock music are often subject to. Her hit song “Bad Reputation” was inspired by real-life events where she was told that she needed to act more prim and proper and present an image of a respectable woman instead of a rebel.

Jett told SiriusXM in 2020 that the song was an expression of how she felt. “The way I look at it is ‘Bad Reputation,’ it’s not like I’m out shooting people or being bad. It’s not a hurtful bad reputation, it’s not ‘bad’ in the sense that people think of the word ‘bad,'” she said. “My reputation, if it’s ‘bad,’ it’s for being strong, and my parents told me when I was five that I could be whatever I wanted as a girl, I could be anything. I believed them. I guess that is kind of the ‘bad,’ being able to say, ‘I’m gonna do what I want and you can’t tell me ‘no’ – especially if I’m not hurting people.”