Whilst more needs to be done to ensure improved representation of both women and non-binary people within the music industry, this is a positive step towards inclusive change

BY KEAH LILY, IMAGES VIA INSTAGRAM AND WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Earlier this week the Brit Awards announced they would no longer be using the gendered categories to identify the best male and female solo artists of the year. These will be replaced with two gender-neutral awards: Artist Of The Year and International Artist Of The Year. For many of us we can finally sigh with relief that the Brits have finally caught up and that assignment of awards will reflect our diverse society. For others this is an unwelcome and unsettling decision. 

British male and female solo artist categories have been awarded since the Brit awards’ inception in 1977, with Shirley Bassey winning the Best British Female Award and Cliff Richard winning the Best British Male. In 2021 British Female Solo Artist of the year was won by Dua Lipa and British Male Solo Artist of the year was won by J Hus.

Prominent pop star Sam Smith spoke out after being left out of the gendered Brit Awards categories for best male and female solo artist in 2021. They called for the awards to “celebrate everybody, regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class”. Shortly after this, the Brit organisers responded with a statement in March 2021 sharing “the gendered categories are very much under review”.

With organisations continuously virtue signalling and rarely following through with the actions to support, this follow-through decision should be refreshing regardless of whether you are for or against the removal of gendered categories. Along with the introduction of gender-neutral categories The Brits will be debuting four new categories, Alternative/Rock act, Pop/R&B act, Hip Hop/Grime/Rap act, and Dance act. 

Many have argued removal of the gendered categories will result in less women being nominated. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries responded to the decision with, “I would like to see how that would work in terms of fair gender representation.” Given the history of award ceremonies being dominated by men, these are valid concerns to have. The Grammys who did away with gendered categories in 2012 are a prime example of women being underrepresented in nominations. In 2020 just 20.5% of nominees were women and in 2021 28% were. The 8% rise in female nominees suggests there is hope for the future, that if we continue to champion diversity in all fields, nominees for awards like the Brits will be based purely on merit irrespective of your gender or sexuality.

I for one am excited for the awards ceremony in February 2022, hosted by the incredibly talented Mo Gilligan (our first Black host) and removal of the gendered categories is certainly a step in the right direction.

Praise to the Brits for making this change, creating a more inclusive space, which better reflects the society we live in. As with all changes, we do not know what the outcome of this decision will be, it may well be that in the future further changes are needed to make the awards fairer. But I believe an award ceremony that has courage and open-mindedness to make such decisions is a good starting point.

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