A music award won gender neutral. It ended up with all-male candidates

On Saturday at a glitzy event in London, pop star Harry Styles was named artist of the year at the Brit Awardsthe highest honor in Britain’s equivalent Grammy.
But for some watching the televised ceremony, the recognition for the pop icon was a bit of a letdown because Styles triumphed in a category that did not have a single female nominee – an unintended consequence of the decision just over a year before the Brit Awards to merge his Best Male and Best Female Artist of the Year categories at a top gender-neutral award.
In recent weeks, prominent figures in Britain have been discussing the implications of this change in its visibility female musicians. The British experience shows the difficulties that can arise from removing gender categories.
On stage, Styles made it clear that he was aware of the conversation. “I know my privilege here tonight,” she said, “so this award goes to Rina, Charli, Florence, Mabel and Becky. These are the names of five British pop stars — Rina Sawayama, Charli XCX, Florence Welch, Mabel and Becky Hill — who were not nominated.
Three years ago, the British Phonographic Industry, or BPI, which organizes the awards, faced a dilemma after singer Sam Smith announced they were non-binary and used their pronouns. This made Smith ineligible for the show’s artist of the year awards, which had long been split into “best male” and “best female” categories.
When the BPI announced it would scrap gender categories for the 2022 awards, the move was praised by British musicians and newspapers. This decision did not immediately lead to the exclusion of women: Last year, Adele won the first award for best artist. This year, however, the list included four men alongside Styles.
Francine Gorman of Keychange, an organization which aims to increase female and non-binary participation in Europe’s music industry, said the all-male list was “a real step backwards” for inclusion. Smith also criticized the list. On Wednesday, concern over the issue reached the UK parliament, where the Women and Equalities Committee held an inquiry into misogyny in music. Caroline Nokes, the chair of the committee, said afterwards that she believed the Brit Awards had acted “too soon” to remove the gender-based categories, given the barriers women face in building careers in music.
An all-male shortlist “was always going to happen sooner or later” because of the unequal nature of Britain’s music industry, said diversity consultant Vick Bain. Women make up only about 20% of artists and 14% of songwriters signed to UK labels and publishers, Bain said.
The BPI has not announced any steps to avoid another all-male shortlist at next year’s awards. YolanDa Brown, president of the BPI, said this week that the organization will review the nomination process and determine if changes are needed to support women. That could include expanding the number of candidates, he said.

Leave a Comment