Gendered Award Categories: Outdated or Unrepresentative?

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Anushka Searle writes in response to the announcement that the “Brit Awards ‘will review’ male and female categories”

The Brit award categories ‘British female solo artist’ and ‘British male solo artist’ appear outdated, as they reference the sex of the individual consequently isolating protentional nominees of other gender identities. In the light of Sam Smith’s recent announcement, that they identify as non-binary, it seems that award categories will need to adjust accordingly. Though, an issue arises when we consider how this could affect another minority representation. If the categories (mentioned above) were combined to form the non-gendered category ‘British solo artist’, would this mean that fewer individuals are nominated, leading to many minority groups being underrepresented? One must consider that we don’t live in an ideal world and that the music industry, and the media in general, are polluted with racism, sexism, and homophobia. Therefore, the solution cannot be to decrease the representation of some to increase the representation of others. Award shows must adjust to modern identity, however, everyone must be equally represented and purely judged on their talent. Most artists, especially smaller artists, are overjoyed just to be nominated. Therefore, we can’t decrease the nominees of two categories into just one, as smaller, struggling artists will be overshadowed.

Even though eradicating gendered categories does seem to be the best solution to include those of every gender identity, as a woman I find all female categories empowering. It’s exciting to simply focus on female creatives, and to allow them the opportunity to not be overshadowed, and to win purely on talent. Though it was empowering to witness Emma Watson become the first recipient of the MTV Movie and Television Awards’ category ‘Best movie performance’-as it has recently become gender neutral- I can’t help but be sceptical. If they had given the award to a male actor after changing the category to be gender neutral then there would have been outrage in the media, however, because it was awarded to a woman the MTV Awards were applauded. This suggests in my view that award shows are tampered with in order to be politically correct, whether there is a “public” vote or not. Combined categories therefore seem more iniquitous than separate gendered categories.

In the past, gendered award categories have been targeted as being ‘archaic and unnecessary’. However, “non-binary” is new terminology that has just begun to enter vernacular and therefore, it is unfair to use the word ‘archaic’, as the world has only just begun to understand what non-binary entails. It is also unfair to suggest that gendered categories are ‘unnecessary’, when in fact they have been necessary in order to increase the representation and support of female creatives. In conclusion, award shows need to be more representative of everybody. However, one must make sure that equality is always considered, and that changes made to represent one social group don’t diminish another grouping in the process.

Image Credit: Pink News