The VMAs lead the way with gender neutral categories: should other award shows follow suit?
So, MTV just released their comprehensive list of nominees for this year’s Video Music Awards.
There are a few things we took note of right away – one of those things being the fact that Cardi B is leading the pack with a whopping 10 nominations (wow). Another interesting point was the fact that for the first time, MTV partnered with Instagram to reveal the results and released them via IGTV, the latest IG update shaking the nation. Case in point, this has certainly been a year of firsts for the award show.
Their nonconventional approach should come as no surprise, though, given their history. The VMAs have always been the type of event to go rogue and do things less traditionally when compared with other award shows like the Oscars, Grammys, or even the Teen Choice Awards. Perhaps one of the elements that most distinguishes the VMAs from other shows is genderless categories.
To clarify, by this we mean that rather than having categories such as “Best Male Artist” or “Best Female Solo Artist of the Year”, they simply have “Best Artist” and “Best Solo Artist of the Year.”
The award show went gender-neutral for the first time last year, and reactions to the change were mixed. While some argued that it’s about time we stop distinguishing artists by gender in acknowledging their success, others argued that gendered categories ensured a more equal playing field, and that women would have a fair amount of representation.
It’s no secret that there are inherently sexist mechanisms at work within the music industry, and concepts like the #MeToo movement have highlighted many of the struggles women face while trying to advance their careers. Thus, we wouldn’t want the move to backfire and see a resulting decline in female artists winning awards.
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That said though, having gender-neutral categories also acknowledges the fact that there are countless gender-neutral artists, who don’t identify as male or female and would likely not feel comfortable being categorized into one category or the other in their nomination, and would thus be excluded altogether. Having a non-gender specific category makes sure to include and consider everybody regardless of gender.
It may seem like a small change, but consider the implications. If other award shows like say, the Oscars, were to follow suit, the “Best Supporting Actress” and “Best Actor in a Leading Role” it would just be “Best Actor.” This would, technically, diminish the amount of awards given out altogether, and could potentially make things more competitive.
While no solution seems perfect of obvious, it seems as though the VMAs are pushing things in the right direction. Women continue to hold their own in nominations (did we mention Cardi’s up for 10 noms? I think we did). And this shift towards ditching gendered awards, while a significant change, could help lead the music industry to be entirely more inclusive in their recognition of talent.