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9:32am on Tuesday, 23rd November, 2021:



One item in the news yesterday concerned the decision to scrap the categories of best male and female artists in the Brit Awards. This was prompted by complaints by artists who identify as neither male nor female that they couldn't win either award.

This is fair enough, but isn't without its problems. The original reason for having separate categories was that in an industry dominated by men it allowed women to win something. Later, the reason became one of balance: if there's only one category, people will complain if it's dominated by one gender (which was the case with the "Best British Group" award until Little Mix won it this year). It doesn't matter if the winner is indeed objectively the best act: accusations of structural sexism or whatever will surely flow. The idea that adding more judges of the under-represented gender would fix the matter relies on the assumption that judges are not impartial and will vote along party lines. Having gender categories for acts does not challenge the integrity of the judges in this way, at least where gender is concerned; they may of course still show bias in other areas (perceived race being the most notable one).

Removing the gender categories for solo awards, then, merely pushes the issue up a level and makes decision-making less transparent: some years, individuals will win not because they're the best act, but because they're the best act among the gender that hasn't won for a few years.

One solution would be to keep gender involved but move away from a binary categorisation. Let "Best Female Solo Artist" stay and have "Best Non-Female Solo Artist" alongside it. This would be open to artists who identify as being: male; both male and female; neither male nor female; anything else that comes along later. The "Best Female Solo Artist" category would be open only to artists who exclusively identify as being female.

Although this looks as if it would satisfy feminists and genderless people alike, as always with identity politics there are issues unseen by people who don't have problems in whatever dimension is under consideration. I'm sure the "Best Non-Female Solo Artist" approach must have been considered and rejected, but I don't know on what grounds. Would anyone care to fill me in on what the arguments against it are?

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