Only men are nominated in the new best artist 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.