The BRITs could scrap gender-specific categories in the future – why do some people see that as a bad thing?

Gender shouldn't be an issue when it comes to judging music

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get some sections of the internet unnecessarily riled up, it’s things changing that won’t affect the people moaning about them in any way at all. Today’s example: reports that the BRITs could scrap gender-specific categories by the 2021 ceremony.

If said reports are true, we’ll no longer see pop stars divided into Best Male and Best Female. It’s hardly a big deal – some awards ceremonies (e.g. the Grammys since 2012 or the MTV VMAs since 2017) have long operated under simple Best Solo categories that bring together everyone regardless of gender. But, for some people, this move is inconceivable; a step “too far”, an action so heinous it will stop them voting and watching ever again.

The potential change-up is being linked to Sam Smith’s recent announcement that they will no longer be going by “he/him” pronouns. Smith’s decision is likely not the only force behind the idea to revert to genderless categories but it is a reflection of society in 2019. Institutions like the BRITs should reflect the world around and ours is one that is changing, in which minds are opening and becoming more accepting, and people are freer to express their identities as they feel comfortable. In two years time, when this “shake-up” could be brought in, the world will have moved on leaps and bounds again and gender-specific lanes will probably seem even more archaic. 

What’s so bad about grouping everyone together in a bid to be more inclusive anyway? Non-binary and gender fluid people aren’t demanding you must also change your pronouns and your life will not be affected by someone changing theirs. There are bigger things happening in the world right now to expend your energy getting worked up about than a harmless music awards ceremony, whether you can get your head around the idea that not everyone feels comfortable packaging themselves in the boxes of “traditional” gender constructs or not. 

Sam Smith

Sam Smith

There’s the argument, of course, that women will be the ones to suffer from changes like this, made by the likes of world-renowned feminist icon Piers Morgan. But that idea in itself is a little patronising and sexist too – it suggests that women aren’t good enough to beat the men they’re nominated alongside. It seems like Morgan and others have forgotten about the existence of Dua Lipa, Florence + The Machine, FKA Twigs, M.I.A., and need we mention the world-conquering star that is Adele?

That’s just on the British side. If anyone fancies telling Beyoncé, Rihanna, Halsey, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Cardi B, Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and countless others that they don’t stand a chance against their male counterparts then please give us a heads-up so we can make sure to get those ringside seats. The fact is female artists are making some of the most inventive music out there so, if anything, it’s the men who should be fearing for their trophy cabinets.

If the BRITs are aware enough of potential backlashes to discuss changing their categories, you’d hope they’d be aware of the need to avoid something like the Grammys’ 2018 egg-on-face moment when the then-president of the Recording Academy tried to blame the lack of female winners on women themselves. Continuing to improve diversity within the voting ranks should prevent any controversies from taking the limelight away from future winners.

Here’s another thing – music isn’t defined by gender. Of course how you identify and your experiences as that person will likely influence the music you make, but it shouldn’t be how we judge the end results. Anyone can make good music or bad music, anyone can play any instrument they like, anyone can work in whatever genre they want or make up something completely new. Gender, race, age, and sexuality shouldn’t come into it, just the songs, albums, and performances themselves.