What’s more important – women’s rights or Sam Smith’s feelings? We’ve had a loud and clear answer to that maddest of questions over the past few days. It’s Sam Smith’s feelings. Of course it is. The right of this ear-piercing nonbinary balladeer not to suffer the indignity of winning an award with the word ‘male’ on it – despite his obviously being a bloke – takes precedence over the right of female pop artists to have their own sexed awards category and to pick up gongs for their work. Smith’s eccentric identity trumps your right to win prizes, ladies. Suck it up.
This is the news that all the nominees in the Brit Awards’ gender-neutral Artist of the Year award are men this year. Or people assigned male at birth, I should say. Harry Styles, Stormzy, George Ezra, Central Cee and Fred Again. Not a lady in sight. (And no, Mr Styles, the fact that you occasionally don polka-dot dresses and ruby booties and talk about sprinkling ‘nuggets of sexual ambiguity’ into pop culture doesn’t change that you’re a fella.) The media are shocked. In our girlboss era, not one girl’s up for artist of the year? ‘Why are no women nominated for best artist?’, asks a startled BBC.
It’s their surprise that is surprising. Gender-critical voices warned that collapsing the male and female categories into one flabby, woke, unsexed Artist of the Year field would disadvantage pop’s women. Even the Brits itself seemed to see the downsides to genderfluidity. In 2021, in response to the trans lament that having male and female categories excludes those, like Smith, who fantasise that they’re post-sex, the Brits said it would make changes. But if change ‘unintentionally leads to less inclusion, then it risks being counterproductive to diversity and equality’, it warned. That’s now happened. The infinitesimally small number of nonbinary pop acts are included, women are not. In 2023, anyway.