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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Brits scrapping gendered awards isn’t woke nonsense – it’s common sense

But whatever occasioned this bout of self-examination, the Brits have come up with a solution that not only makes sense and responds to the imperatives of popular culture but also arguably improves the Brits awards themselves. 

So out go Male and Female categories, in comes Best Artist, where Sam Fender can test his mettle against Little Simz (whilst Adele walks away with the prize, sorry Ed). But alongside that, the Brits have added four new award categories, divided by musical styles. Because what really matters when it comes to recognising and celebrating diversity in music is not gender, but genre.

It is worth noting that the Grammy Awards in the US, widely regarded as the most commercially significant and historically long running popular music award in the world, has never bothered with male or female categories. What it does have is a lot of different musical categories, creating a field wide enough for a huge range of talent to be given a chance to shine.

The Grammys, indeed, takes that to an absurd extent, with more than 60 categories, resulting in a day-long ceremony that could strip even the most dedicated music lover of the will to live. The four new Brits categories sound about right, celebrating the best Alternative/Rock Act, Pop/R&B Act, Dance Act and Hip Hop/Rap/Grime Act. And as 2008 Best British Female Artist award winner Kate Nash once pointed out, “female is not a genre”.

Whatever inspired this change, I think that in a few years’ time we’re going to look back and think “What took them so long?” To judge music by gender is not just anachronistic and borderline insulting, it’s kind of silly.

Still, a note of caution. Because there remain questions about how effective this move will be in promoting genuine equality of opportunity amongst the musical sexes. For putting aside woke questions of what pronoun to employ at an award ceremony, the commercial reason to separate musicians by gender makes sense only if you are trying to enact some form of positive discrimination, counterbalancing the notion that one gender might have an innate advantage over the other. 

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