When Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles walked the CMA Awards red carpet in November, she knew her attire would draw plenty of attention, which is exactly what she wanted. The 45-year-old wore a white suit with a hot pink train, with the words, "Play Our F---in Records, Please & Thank You," emblazoned on her outfit. While Nettles acknowledges one outfit worn one night can't instill a monumental change, at least right away, she is proud to have done her part to at least shed light on a problem that impacts female artists, including herself.
"There's been a ton of press pick-up, including the New York Times," Nettles said in an op-ed penned for Glamour magazine. "People kind of knew there was a disparity in country music. But I think when you look at the actual statistical information behind it, when you really understand those numbers, it's staggering. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative did a study and found that of the top 500 charted country songs from 2014 to 2018, only 16% were by female artists.
"That is tragic," she continued. "Those numbers reveal a truth that artists share and lament over but haven't had the actual research to back up until now. I want to continue the conversation, on both a corporate level and a programming level, because it needs to change. It is beautiful how one spark can set aflame —hopefully — a movement. I'm calling it #EqualPlay to underscore equal pay, because it's the same gender pay gap that's happening across so many industries and in our culture at large."
Nettles went on to explain that, of the 16% of songs played by female artists, the average age of the artist was 29, compared to 42 years old for men, furthering the gender-based imbalance.
"That says a lot about what we value socially — the pressures that are put on women in terms of ageism and beauty," the mother of one stated. "It also tells me that women aren't offered the same support to be able to continue their careers. If you're working in the music business, your life is very much dependent on travel. Touring is really the only way to make a living anymore.
"So if you're a working mother who doesn't have the resources to support your family and take your child with you, you're suddenly presented with a high-stakes proposition: Am I going to be gone for months at a time without seeing my child?" she continued. "If that’s a no, you’re forced to choose. This is just a microcosm of the same challenges women feel all over this country in terms of the lack of support where working moms and childcare are concerned."
Nettles decided to wear the attention-getting outfit after she found out the show would be celebrating talented women.
"When I learned that the CMAs were going to be celebrating women, and that the hostesses were three women, I thought, 'What a fantastic opportunity to continue the conversation and to take it beyond the applause tonight, and to shed some light,'" Nettles shared with PopCulture.com and other media. "With all the rumblings that we've heard for years of the under-representation of women in country music –– obviously we all know the numbers."
Photo Credit: Getty / Taylor Hill