Nominations for the 2023 Brit Awards were published last night and are causing controversy online after no women were nominated for the Best Artist category. Only 42% of the year’s nominations went to female artists, and on top of that in the ‘Pop / R&B’ category there were no R&B artists included.
The Brits discarded gendered categories last year - merging the best female and best male into an overall best artist category - in a landmark move applauded for its inclusive intentions after artists like Sam Smith and Will Young highlighted the issue that gendered awards exclude non-binary people. In theory it should help democratise awards too, removing the notion that being a certain sex or gender is a point of difference in terms of how we perceive and award art.
But there were fears that by removing gendered categories – as opposed to adding new ones for other genders – women and non-binary artists would still lose out when we, as a society, still live in a patriarchy that values male contributions to society above anyone else. In theory removing gendered categories might be a good idea, but in practice the world is not removed all of misogyny and transphobia with one act of inclusivity.
That’s what appears to have happened here, women and nonbinary artists have ultimately lost out as the Best Artist category nominates Central Cee, Fred Again, George Ezra, Harry Styles and Stormzy despite worthwhile offerings from Charli XCX and Florence + The Machine. Now, viewers are sharing their criticism online.
Let's get one thing straight though: you can critique the fact women and non-binary artists have been excluded from the Best Artist category without resorting to transphobia or condemning gender-neutral awards as a whole. Right now, Sam Smith in particular is facing wholly unfair criticism for calling for the awards to be gender-neutral in the first place. They alone did not decide this rule, nor do they deserve to be bullied online simply for highlighting the very real fact that award ceremony's are generally not inclusive environments for non-binary people. The Brit Awards could, if the awarding body chose to be, gender neutral AND inclusive to women and non-binary people - this is not an either or situation.
Sam Smith does not deserve to be bullied online for highlighting that awards are not inclusive for everyone.
But the criticism online doesn't stop there. The best pop and R&B category is more inclusive in terms of gender, but not genre. Nominated artists include Cat Burns, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles and Sam Smith – all of whom are pop artists despite UK R&B music thriving this year with hugely underrated offerings from Bellah and Tiana Major 9.
The Brit Awards have not commented on the backlash and are yet to respond to Grazia's request for comment, with winners announced at a star-studded ceremony at London's O2 Arena on Saturday 11 February. Keep an eye on the speeches then, there’s bound to be a sly dig or two this year…