by Joan Smith
Friday, 13
January 2023
Reaction
10:32

The Brits go ‘gender-neutral’ and women disappear

Only men are nominated in the new best artist category
by Joan Smith
Harry Styles is one of the nominees for the gender-neutral category

Who could possibly have predicted that would happen? The top category in a major music award goes ‘gender-neutral’ — and this year’s nominees are all men. The Brit Awards scrapped the best male and best female categories last year, ignoring warnings that the decision would lead to the exclusion of women. Five male artists, including Stormzy and Harry Styles, are in the running in 2023, with not a woman — or a gender-neutral person — in sight.

Last year, the Awards dodged a bullet when Adele was the winner in the first ‘gender-neutral’ artist of the year category. But it takes someone of her star status to push through the ranks of famous men who are much more likely to get onto the short list. The same will happen if other awards ceremonies, such as the Oscars, decide to merge the best actor and best actress categories. 


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Separate male and female categories are one of the few mechanisms that exist to protect women artists, actors and authors from male-dominated prize lists. The then Orange prize for fiction was created in the 1990s to challenge the absence of widely-admired female authors, such as Angela Carter, from Booker prize shortlists. The exposure is invaluable, and there is no doubt that the Brit Awards decision will damage women’s careers.

But there are wider implications. This is another example of what happens when an organisation decides to address a problem that doesn’t exist; sex is binary and few people genuinely believe that artists who ‘identify’ as gender-neutral are neither male nor female. The comically self-obsessed singer Sam Smith comes to mind — he was excluded from nomination in the best male artist category at the Brit Awards in 2021 after adopting ‘they/them’ pronouns — but it’s hard to see why up-and-coming female musicians should pay the price for his delusions.

The poverty of the thinking behind the change is evidenced by the hugely successful Marvel actor Hugh Jackman. “I don’t know why it’s split into two genders when we all know it’s a much bigger spectrum than we’ve been thinking in the past,” he mused

We don’t know any such thing, but Jackman went on to suggest that “we should maybe break down any of those categories that end up being divisive and unnecessary”. Thus speaks the authentic voice of privilege, belonging to a man who was happy to accept Golden Globe and Tony awards in the ‘best actor’ category. 

Recognising the reality of sex is essential for the health, safety and economic success of women. The ideology that promotes the notion of ‘non-binary’ identities is irredeemably hostile to women, encouraging the self-hatred that already damages so many teenage and younger girls. Something that sounds fluffy and nice leads to practices such as girls wearing breast binders and taking puberty blockers, rather than feeling comfortable in their own bodies.

Last year, when Adele won at the Brits, she said she understood why the best artist category had become ‘gender-neutral’, but added that “I really love being a woman and being a female artist”. Women cheered, but this year the dire consequences of the decision are plain to see. It’s sexism in a new, fashionable guise. And wherever it makes inroads, from boardrooms to prize ceremonies, women are the losers.

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Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
15 days ago

I’m a fan of sex-specific acting awards, although my reasons differ from this article. It’s not so much ‘giving talented women attention’ or crafting an equal playing field. Rather, I find it easier to compare two female actresses performances with each other than one female and one man. A good example is the 1978 war film The Deer Hunter. We have three performers at the top of their game: Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Christoph Walken. De Niro and Walken, being men, will articulate certain character moments / emotional beats in a different way than women.
Music is similar. Women sing differently to men. This is certainly true if you are interested in choral music. There’s a reason Libera and the Vienna Boy’s Choir can create a certain, almost angelic sound. Another good example is The Sound of Music, where songs are perfect for either sex (Edelweiss and The Hills are Alive). For a modern example, there’s a beautiful rendition of Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian) by singer Eileen. Now, a man can sing Carol of the Bells and a woman can sing Edelweiss. But I’m not sure you can compare both covers in the vein of an artistic excellence award. This is a problem I recall American Idol ran into a few times.
Granted, I am no expert in theatre, music or filmmaking (novels are my art medium). Yet women and men approach the performing arts differently to each other. This is probably because performance is intensely physical. The human body is used to express emotion and thoughts – literature and painting cannot match this.

Richard 0
Richard 0
15 days ago

Good points raised and nice examples. I think Joan Smith is doing great work to expose the insanities of gender ideology but although women would seem to be the primary ‘losers’ in their cynical game, in reality, female AND male lose out (apart from our sanity trying to get our heads around this craziness). We all need this difference.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
15 days ago

Fair points. I hadn’t thought about it like that.
I do know that my comment (where I was mildly disagreeing with the main gist of the article) was never published.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
15 days ago

“Yet women and men approach the performing arts differently to each other.”
Wait, are you implying that men and women are different? Oh, my! I will now need special counseling and significant levels of pharmaceuticals to get through the day, as I had finally accepted the government – approved narrative.

William Shaw
William Shaw
15 days ago

Don’t worry. Next year the will be an unspoken, behind the scenes quota for women in the awards list.
There are quotas for women in every aspect of society and if they are not enforced by organizations voluntarily governments have stepped in the pass laws to enforce them… female representation on company boards, female political candidates, female representatives/MP’s, females in the police hierarchy, females in the military, etc.
It’s a very long list.

Last edited 15 days ago by William Shaw
Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
14 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

And the year after there will be more women to take advantage of “positive discrimination”, at least we are told one of the reasons for changing gender is to access those privileges

The Real Karen
The Real Karen
12 days ago

The need for gender-specific awards is about more than performance quality. Until the number of meaty, complex acting roles written for female characters equals those written for men, until women’s chops as musicians are given the same endless journalistic discussion as men’s, until women are better represented as executives and powerbrokers in the arts and music industries, the chain of discrimination earlier in the process requires addressing at awards time. I’m reminded that when Sarah McLachlan founded the all-female Lilith Fair tour in the 90s, the then-prevalent booking myth that women’s acts couldn’t be booked together because audiences preferred male musical acts. Until the playing field is actually level, it’s wrong to pretend it is at awards time. 

Jim Jam
Jim Jam
15 days ago

We are living in a dystopia.

Dog Eared
Dog Eared
15 days ago

I expect the LGBT+ community are celebrating this as a win for two reasons – firstly, they have successfully tied the ceremony in knots on their behalf, secondly the absence of women in the shortlist will be a total victory.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
15 days ago

Joan’s stuff is always very reasonable but here she unwittingly identifies the paradox at the heart of feminism. Women are the equal of men in every respect – except those respects in which they require special treatment.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
15 days ago

You miss the point. The vast majority of trannies are men identifying as women. So a new “gender neutral” category will de facto give 1/3 representation to men, 1/3 to men pretending to be women, and 1/3 to women.  The imbalance is structural.
And as a right wing straight chivalrous male who likes women, I have no issues with agreeing that women are equal to men, yet still happily treating women as special. 
Any proper bloke thinks like that.
You miserable little women-haters make me sick.  

William Shaw
William Shaw
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Totally incorrect. The majority of “trannies” are not male to female. The majority of those who change their appearance to present in the image of the opposite sex are females who undergo surgery and chemical intervention to present as male. It’s just the case that females presenting as male are incapable of making any impact in physical sports and are not perceived to be a physical threat by men the way male to female individuals are by females.
So it would be 1/4 male, 1/4 female, 1/4 male to female, and 1/4 female to male.

Last edited 15 days ago by William Shaw
Lillian Aldus
Lillian Aldus
15 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

No, ‘transmen’ may undergo more actual surgery and ‘transition’, but the majority of the ‘transwomen’ i.e. men pretending to be women without actually transitioning in any meaningful way, far outweigh them. Just men in frocks infiltrating places where they do not belong.

William Shaw
William Shaw
14 days ago
Reply to  Lillian Aldus

The overwhelming majority of young trans-sexuals are female to male.
Before is was shut down, the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service case load increased from 97 in 2009 to 2,590 in 2018, with girls comprising 76 per cent of cases.

Last edited 14 days ago by William Shaw
ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
14 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

…. thereby demonstrating the effect of a sustained propaganda campaign delivered through the mass media without any sort of critical judgement

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
11 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Female to male is a relatively recent phenomenon of social contagion usually affecting young teen girls. The leading edge though has been male to female gender impersonation, i.e. transcismen. Transcismen are the ones wielding the power to rape, intimidate or murder as demonstrated by hundreds of cases like donna Doug Perry, Archy Tally or Sinthia China Blast, and so many others in womanface. Few are afraid of the girls who impersonate males, most of them aren’t rallying to be transferred into men’s prisons or get into men’s bathrooms or boxing rings b/c they would be frequently annihilated. This is such obvious common sense those who claim otherwise are dishonest, dissembling to try to prove a misogynistic stance.

elizabeth shannon
elizabeth shannon
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Ooh dear, sorry Frank, we women are not equal to men in every respect. I cannot go and work on an oil rig, handling those heavy metal pipes the way men do. Nor can I work on a building site doing the structural work with heavy steel rods nor any of the lifting jobs that require bulky muscle-bound bodies, the types of bodies only men have.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
15 days ago

Awards for singers, actors, writers etc are not simply an objective assessment of quality but a means of drumming up publicity and sales and the awards are influenced by many commercial aspects. If more men are nominated it may have nothing to do with the quality of the artistic production but much more to do with the a desire to promote the fame of artists who are likely to generate more revenue. If the majority of people buying the artistic product have a gender preference, or are thought to have a gender preference artists of that gender will get a disproportionate number of awards.

If women are thought to buy more songs by handsome baritones and tenors than beautiful altos and sopranos and women are thought to make most of the purchases then awards will tend to go to the former rather than the latter. I have no idea what the sexual buying preferences are in fact but it is likely men and women tend to have different preferences and different buying habits. Women make up the bulk of novel buyers and as a result books appealing to men’s tastes get little exposure in Book awards.

In many sports men are generally better than women so it is reasonable to have a woman’s category but in many other endeavours where artistic judgement is involved women are not worse but may well be different in what they produce.

Scott McArthur
Scott McArthur
15 days ago

This is the real paradox of late stage feminism, by insisting that women can be equal to men in everything and anything they have forced women to compete in spaces and venues where Nature has given men genetic advantages – hence women are pushed down the hierarchy.
I am waiting for the bulk of Academic Feminists to break with the Third Wave and Queer Theorists to begin exploring Feminism as maximizing the power and protection of inherently Female traits – like motherhood.

Last edited 15 days ago by Scott McArthur
John Riordan
John Riordan
13 days ago

While I strongly sympathise with women on this (actual women, not just people claiming to be), I still can’t help but laugh at yet another gender-politics absurdity that we’re all supposed to contemplate with a straight face.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
15 days ago

Well, I am also for keeping the sex categories, but for all the female downvoters: it is not quite that obvious. You would have separate categories if 1) the two sexes are doing different things so they are hard to compare, 2) One sex cannot be expected to get in on quality alone. Would your average feminist accept either? If you insist that women do things the same as men and are equally good, then where is the justification for giving them separate prizes?

Adam Grant
Adam Grant
15 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The Marxists DO insist that women are functionally the same as men, and that they are equally good at everything in the same ways. Eliminating the women’s category is in effect an experiment to determine how that idea plays out in reality.
This will play out in two ways simultaneously. On the one hand, reasonable people will think a bit and call to bring back the women’s category. On the other, the Marxists will insist that the women are being held back by systemic sexism alone, and that all prize awards must be vetted by an equity committee, who will also ensure that blacks, indigenes, the differently-abled and the morbidly obese get a share of the prizes not less than their fraction of the population.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
13 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You would have separate categories if 1) the two sexes are doing different things so they are hard to compare, 2) One sex cannot be expected to get in on quality alone.

This proposal contributes nothing to the debate, because it fails (or, more precisely, does not bother) to define “different” in the first instance or “quality” in the second; nor does it explain who gets to decide these things, or how they are decided.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
13 days ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

On the contrary: If we want some agreement that women should have a separate category, it is a prerequisite that we agree either that the output of the two sexes is too different to sensibly compare, or that a straight comparison on neutral criteria will lead to results that are unacceptable for other reasons. If there can be no agreement and it is all a matter of who has the power to decide, there is no debate to contribute to. All we are left with is a power struggle. You try to grab all the goodies for yourself and your friends, and I try to grab all the goodies for myself and my friends. In which case: let the best man win.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
12 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

OK – so who decides whether separate categories are required, and on what basis? How are you going to apply objective judgement to things which are inherently subjective? I’m happy to consider any examples you may have.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
12 days ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

How to decide? Majority consensus, basically. You need something that the majority of the people in the business, who judge, and the movie-going public, who consume the results, think make sense, reasonably represents the available field, and provides winners that are worth paying attention to. If it moves too far away from that (no matter who makes the decisions) people will stop paying attention and the awards wither away. To take some strawman examples, dividing the awards by weight, like boxing bouts, would be rejected as ridiculous, dividing by language or sexual orientation would lead to the less common languages or sexual orientations being completely ignored, and putting programming manuals and novels in a single category would be too weird for anyone to bother about.

How to judge? Again there is some agreement both among performers and in the paying public about which acts would be good and which would be awful or boring. There has to be – if there are no quality distinctions or no agreement on what they are the whole idea of giving out awards is pointless. The specific judges try to apply their own judgement, tempered by the fact that they feel themselves as part of a larger group that has this kind of consensus.

In the hard sciences some people propose the idea that there is no such thing as reality and/or no way of deciding what it is. Unfortunately the idea is self-defeating (like someone saying ‘I am lying’) because if there is no reality or no way to access it, the very idea of doing physics is totally pointless. In art or culture the standards are in part socially determined, so that they belong to a cultural community rather than to some inhuman objective reality. But it remains the case that you can judge which criteria make sense and which acts are better (up to a point) by reference to this socially determined reality. If you decide to opt out of that and insist that it is all a question of power, and you want the power to do things differently from everybody else, well, then there is no social reality that you and the others share, and making awards or discussing quality is simply a waste of time.

The only exception here would be advertising or propaganda. Here there is no question of truth or quality or beauty or respecting a shared cultural reality, just a matter of tools used by the powerful to manipulate and control the masses. Is that where you want to be?

Last edited 12 days ago by Rasmus Fogh
Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
10 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Majority consensus, basically. You need something that the majority of the people in the business, who judge, and the movie-going public, who consume the results, think make sense, reasonably represents the available field, and provides winners that are worth paying attention to.

Sorry, Rasmus, but your post is just a very long-winded way of saying, “We need to put a bell on the cat” (i.e. the conclusion reached by the mice in the fable regarding what to do about their predator). The types of award discussed in the piece (Brits, Golden Globes, Tonys) are decided by “people in the business”, and there are already separate awards voted for by the audiences/consuming public.

If it moves too far away from that (no matter who makes the decisions) people will stop paying attention and the awards wither away.

This is already happening; TV audiences for award shows like the Oscars and Golden Globes have fallen off a cliff in recent years, largely because of the issues the article raises.

The only exception here would be advertising or propaganda. Here there is no question of truth or quality or beauty or respecting a shared cultural reality, just a matter of tools used by the powerful to manipulate and control the masses. Is that where you want to be?

I don’t get this bit at all; are you talking about awards for advertising or propaganda? And so far as manipulation and control of the masses is concerned, we’re already there, and have been for quite some time, whether we want that or not. (Disclaimer: I don’t.)

polidori redux
polidori redux
15 days ago

Sometimes we dispute irrelevancies. Kate Bush, for all her occasional weirdness, got it right in her, not so naïve, three minute pop opera “This Woman’s Work”. If you don’t understand the vital difference between men and woman, (and their equal importance to us all) after watching this, then no earnest feminist tract will help you. Captain Darling plays the husband. Gorgeous chick, by the way.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXzx–YefD8

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
14 days ago

If that picture is “gender-neutral” then I’m a China man.

Anthony Michaels
Anthony Michaels
13 days ago

It is kind of fun to watch an intersectional car wreck, but this kind of thing makes us all stupider and makes society worse.
Turns out that tradition is sometimes better, and serves purposes that are difficult or impossible to articulate. What’s lost may not become visible for a long time, if ever.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
15 days ago

Awards for creative endeavours should be gender/sex-neutral. There’s no earthly reason for separation.

This is not sports, where biological differences are an obvious factor in performance. Nor is there a potential safety factor, such as in changing-rooms, toilets, prisons etc.

Some years there will be a skew towards either of the sexes, but that will depend on creative output for that year.

Women-only shortlists are an insult, suggesting, as they do, an inbuilt incompetence that needs to be compensated for.

Tom Scott
Tom Scott
15 days ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

An interesting, if rather biased and simplistic interpretation

Last edited 15 days ago by Tom Scott
Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
12 days ago
Reply to  Tom Scott

Biased against whom? I don’t care which sex gets the most, or all, nominations or wins. The point is that the best performances should win.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
14 days ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

And we go full circle…. Gendered awards for arts are a compensation for the biases in the commissioning… female stars are required to be young, look good and sexy whereas male stars can be a much wider range of ages and can play a wider range of characters (or so we have been told over many years).

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
13 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

Awards are generally given for the things that people do that other people like to watch. Not for the things that people might have done in some kind of parallel universe and that audiences might have liked if only their tastes had been different. If you think that everybody should have an equal chance of winning a Brit award, how about starting with the boring, the stammering or the tone-deaf?

Last edited 13 days ago by Rasmus Fogh
William Shaw
William Shaw
15 days ago

“the Brit Awards decision will damage women’s careers”
Am I alone in thinking that the women don’t deserve careers if they are not as good as the men?
If equality is the objective then a meritocracy is the answer.

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
13 days ago

None of this ungendering goes far enough. Separate men’s and women’s categories in sport should also be abolished. Sisters, you have demanded equality on the basis that you were being unfairly kept down by men; now it’s time to compete on a level playing field. (Side-benefit: the US women’s football team will be consigned to history.)

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
11 days ago

Heaven forbid we should nominate people for awards on merit.

Smith probably thinks Beth Mead is the best footballer in Britain because she won Sports Personality.

Max Price
Max Price
15 days ago

Makes me think of Chess with their seperate open (Men’s) competitions and women’s competitions.
Maybe female artists just aren’t as good as male artists.
I highly doubt that The Brit Awards as an institution is a cauldron of misogyny.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
15 days ago
Reply to  Max Price

I left a not too dissimilar comment, but I have just found out it is limbo…

miss pink
miss pink
15 days ago
Reply to  Max Price

My thoughts exactly. Number of downticks you’ve got is interesting!

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
15 days ago
Reply to  miss pink

Ah, I win;)

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
15 days ago

Yes and no.
I see where you are coming from, but perhaps this is a situation where women should try harder or maybe, as you say, there aren’t that many of “stature”. This is not like sport, where women can scarcely be expected to compete over men, or single sex spaces. Awards for artistic output has not real reason to be gendered, unless women are not quite good enough.
Said that, I am all for mens and womens awards, perhaps because I am used to them, but at the same time I can’t feel outraged if they went. I would just see this as a harbinger of things to come, and where it really may matter.

Last edited 15 days ago by Andrea X
Arkadian X
Arkadian X
15 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Ah, i have come out of limbo.
Not sure what I have said that deserves so many downvotes, but hey…

Kasia Chapman
Kasia Chapman
15 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

We are going round in circles. Women have the ability to be as good as men in all arts. Therefore, there is no need for gendered categories. But lo and behold men are getting more prizes! This is clearly sexism, prejudice, discrimination. Therefore, we should include more women so that the ratio is better. Down goes the idea of merit. But hang on, isn’t it what the awards are about? The best in the field? Eeeer yes but no but yes but no …

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
15 days ago
Reply to  Kasia Chapman

Perhaps the issue is that “equal representation” is a red herring.
I find all women lists an abomination, but an Oscar for best actress less so (perhaps because it gives us more good stuff to look at). The commenter at the top made some valid points, much more that the author who made pretty much none (except about the absurdity of pandering to a “non binary” individual, whatever that might mean).

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
14 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Not “equal representation” but “equal outcome”
the liberal agenda is not about excellence in that sense

polidori redux
polidori redux
14 days ago
Reply to  Kasia Chapman

Men and woman are of equal worth, but can take an interest in different aspects of life, and sometimes it shows. Vive la difference, as we have apparently forgotten how to say. Why shouldn’t there be a separate award for girl things?

Last edited 14 days ago by polidori redux
Tom Scott
Tom Scott
15 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

To say women should try harder is rather silly.
Male/ female categories have stood the test of time and I’m pretty sure that 10 years from now no-one will remember who won the best ‘ non- binary’ category.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
15 days ago
Reply to  Tom Scott

The author said that herself.
Art is not sport; the need for gendered categories is not that clear cut.

regine lemberger
regine lemberger
14 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Art is not neutral. It has evolved through the centuries. Often the precursors (eg, Impressionists in painting etc) have been first vilified before eventually being appreciated.
So it all depends who the judges are what criteria they use to select the best artists. It is still a ‘man’s world’ ..
Also to have 2 lists have the advantages to give their their chances to more artists to be being known to the public.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
14 days ago

Then why stop there. We can have a category white singers and one for black singers, both for men and women. Then we can have the over 50’s and the under 20.
You are spoilt for choice.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
14 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

MOBO

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
13 days ago

So it all depends who the judges are

Well said; no-one in the comments, and not even the author, had thought to point this out before. As an example of the effect this can have, Martin Amis’s London Fields didn’t make the Booker shortlist in 1989 because two female judges “felt that Amis treated women appallingly in the book”. (Disclaimer: there will no doubt be many, and likely more, examples of female contenders for prizes suffering the same biased treatment.)

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
13 days ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

Very true indeed (although I am not familiar with your example), but it doesn’t necessarily follow that, as Regine’s comment states, that it is a “man’s world” or that the alternative would be any better (as your example demonstrates). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe we should give up on this kind of prizes altogether and stick to something more measurable, like sales. After all how many duds have won the oscar for best films? And how many emmys and golden globes did Better Call Saul win? (hint: it is none, despite all the nominations it got throughout its existence)