The BRITs, which puts a spotlight on the UK music industry every year, embraces inclusivity as it goes gender-neutral with award categories for its 2022 show.
The BRITs confirmed on Nov. 22 that its 2022 show will move away from the “Female” and “Male” categories, and will introduce new gender-neutral awards: Artist of the Year and International Artist of the Year.
Since the BRITs started in 1977, it gave awards with gendered categories, including the most recent Male and Female Solo Artists, and International Female and Male Solo Artists.
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In a statement, the award-giving body said the move was to celebrate artists “solely for their music and work, rather than how they choose to identify or as others may see them, as part of the BRITs’ commitment to evolving the show to be as inclusive and as relevant as possible.”
For years, artists have called for more inclusive BRITs award, including Sam Smith who identifies as non-binary and uses pronouns they/them. Smith, whose album “Love Goes” reached No. 2 in the UK charts, felt unable to enter the gender-based categories in this year’s awards.
In response to the controversy, Smith posted on social media in March, “Music for me has always been about unification, not division. I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let’s celebrate everybody, regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class.”
On the changes in the 2022 show, BRIT chair and Polydor Records co-president Tom March said in a statement, “It is important that The BRITs continue to evolve and aim to be as inclusive as possible. It feels completely the right time to celebrate the achievements of artists for the music that they create, and the work that they do, irrespective of gender.”
With these changes, Dua Lipa and J Hus, who won Best Female and Male Solo Artists respectively, and Billie Eilish and The Weeknd for International Female and Male Solo Artists, will go down in history as the last winners of the gendered categories.
However, not everyone welcomed the changes.
British TV host Piers Morgan lambasted the BRITs on Twitter for its decision to forgo gendered award categories.
“What a load of woke garbage,” Morgan tweeted with the link to a Daily Mail article. “Won’t be long before it’s illegal to call yourself a man or woman.”
Meanwhile, UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries described the move of the BRITs as a “sad decision,” pointing out that scrapping of the gendered categories will lead to female artists not being represented fairly.
After she was told that the change was made to accommodate non-binary musicians in the categories, she said, “If you wanted to look at who used to win awards for novels and many things in the past, men always dominated, and my concern would be that women were not fairly represented moving forward. So I would just be concerned on the gender balance issue.
But among those who have let go of gendered categories is the Grammy Awards, which made an overhaul of its awards categories in 2012 where male and female categories were merged for best pop vocal, country vocal and R&B vocal performances.