Criticising The Brit Awards for ditching gender categories is wrong

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Brit Award trophies

The move puts the Brits in line with other shows of the same ilk (Picture: JM Enternational/REX/Shutterstock)

‘What a load of woke garbage,’ Piers Morgan tweeted. ‘Won’t be long before it’s illegal to call yourself a man or woman.’

He was responding to the Brits’ announcement that from 2022 onwards, the categories of Best British Male and Female, as well as International Male and Female, will be scrapped in favour of a simpler, genderless Best British Artist and Best International Artist.

Obviously, exhaustingly, predictably, it gave folks online – who think giant leftie mobs are trying to erase the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ from the face of the earth – plenty to shout about. 

It’s probably not my place to unpack the ins and outs of that particular minefield here, but I will say that author Juno Dawson did an excellent Twitter thread recently, pointing out that ‘no trans or non-binary person srsly [sic] thinks that’.

The fact is that this move from the UK’s most prominent music awards ceremony really doesn’t need to cause that much fuss.

In my opinion, it should be enough that it makes things fairer and more inclusive for non-binary artists like Sam Smith and Demi Lovato; but even aside from that, it puts the Brits in line with other shows of the same ilk, and makes them look a bit less antiquated.

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The Grammys, for example, ditched its separate Male and Female races 10 years ago, and now differentiates nominees by genre and – in some cases – by whether they’re solo or in a group. The iconic MTV Video Music Awards did the same in 2017, and to be completely honest I didn’t even notice.

As someone who’s intensely into his pop music, I have never really thought of the artists I like and mentally divided them into my favourite women and my favourite men.

I would urge you to hold back from making this another chapter in the anti-woke culture war

I’m far more likely to have a favourite solo artist, a favourite band, a favourite songwriter, or a favourite ex-group-member-who-went-solo-with-mixed-results than I am to have a ‘favourite male’ and a ‘favourite female’. And I think many others are the same. So what’s the point in separating by gender at awards shows?

Sure enough, alongside the merging of the solo categories, the Brits are introducing four new fan-voted genre awards as well: Best Alternative/Rock Act, Best Hip Hop/Grime/Rap Act, Best Dance Act and Best Pop/R’n’B Act.

I’m really excited about that, and to me, it makes far more sense than ‘best male’ and ‘best female’. It makes for more competitive like-for-like races, and frankly I’m baffled that anyone’s kicked up a fuss about it.

Granted, the Brits do need to work hard to ensure that all artists are judged on a level playing field, regardless of gender. Even today, far too many people continue to hold snobby biases against female musicians, thinking they’re not as credible (ugh, the worst word to describe music), or that their art can’t be taken as seriously.

Lest we forget that Best British Group, which has been unisex since day one, had never been won by an all-female act before Little Mix did it earlier this year – and even then, there were people like Noel Gallagher saying they didn’t deserve it. Going back to the early 2000s, the last time Best Pop Act was a thing, it was only ever won by boy bands and, er, James Blunt.

But hopefully, the Brits’ voters’ pool is swtiched-on enough by this point for us to have some tentative confidence that women and non-binary artists won’t be overlooked when the changes come into effect.

The fact that Best British Album has been won by more female solo artists than males (10 versus nine) is certainly encouraging; as is the fact that Best New Artist has become less male-dominated in the last few years (Arlo Parks won it in May). 

So to those who are outraged by these changes, I would urge you to hold back from making this another chapter in the anti-woke culture war, and just enjoy the fact that the Brits (and hopefully, in time, other awards shows) are finding better ways to celebrate art than a simple ‘men here, women here’.

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