Jennifer Nettles Pens Essay About Her CMA Statement Cape Train

This is not just another story about a country star’s red-carpet style. It’s more What Message Are You Sending than Who Are You Wearing.

In a new essay penned for Glamour, country singer-songwriter Jennifer Nettles is continuing the conversation about all of the gender disparities in country music.

And she used the CMA Awards red carpet as a way to shine a spotlight on the issue.

The fitted white suit she wore that night back in November had a Christian Siriano-designed cape train that flowed behind the suit, and that train was embellished with the work of street artist Alice Mizrachi. It said, “Play our (expletive)* records. Please & thank you.”

“When I stepped out on the red carpet and made the reveal, there was this collective gasp and giggle at the same time. I thought, Yeah, this is going to work; this is going to do exactly what I wanted it to do. It was an opening up of a conversation for the whole rest of the red carpet. And now it’s blossomed even further in such a beautiful way,” Nettles wrote.

She goes on in the essay to lament the fact that of the top 500 charted country songs from 2014 to 2018, only 16 percent were by female artists.

“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,” she added.

And the numbers, she explains, just keep getting worse. “For women in country music, what happens is that even out of that 16 percent who are being played, the average female is 29 years old. For men, the average mean age in that group is 42. That says a lot about what we value socially — the pressures that are put on women in terms of ageism and beauty. 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? 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.”

When the new year rolled around, Nettles reflected on her #TopNine of 2019. “Here’s to more dreaming, in all the ways, in 2020!!”

* Nettles didn’t exactly use the actual expletive on her cape. “I knew that if I actually used the expletive, media outlets might veer away from picking up the pictures,” she wrote. “So I thought, if I make it more cartoonish, if I use symbols for the letters, everybody will know what it means and it will be more effectively digested.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.