Trends: Genderless Awards Categories

MTV Movie & TV Awards nominees Daniel Kaluuya, Millie Bobby Brown, and Emma Watson (Entertainment Weekly)

MTV Movie & TV Awards nominees Daniel Kaluuya, Millie Bobby Brown, and Emma Watson (Entertainment Weekly)

Last month, MTV announced that its MTV Movie Awards would be no more. Instead, the show would now involve awards for TV, and be called the MTV Movie & TV Awards. But that wasn’t the only new thing the cable network had in store for its new awards show: Certain major categories will be gender neutral.

This new gender neutrality spans the acting categories: Best Actor in a Movie (which includes Emma Watson from “Beauty and the Beast” and Daniel Kaluuya from “Get Out”) and Best Actor in a TV Show (which includes Donald Glover from “Atlanta” and Millie Bobby Brown from “Stranger Things”). Of course, some categories have always been gender-neutral, inkling Best Kiss, Best Villian and Best Hero.

There’s clearly a sea change happening, as mainstream culture has gotten hip and woke to the nuances of gender identity. And the young generation isn’t averse to asking for what they want, particularly in terms of representation. Actor Asia Kate Dillion, known for their role on Showtime’s “Billions” as a non-binary character (and TV’s first one at that!), wrote to the Television Academy and asked them to reconsider their binary male and female categories. This was a big ask: the Television Academy governs the Emmy Awards. The Television Academy was very receptive to Dillon’s letter, and Dillon decided to submit themselves under Best Supporting Actor

If the Emmys were to do away with gendered categories, the award show would be getting back to its roots. The Emmys enacted separate categories for male and female performers in 1951, its third year.

I hope this new gender consciousness grows until it becomes so commonplace we no longer need to remark on it.

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#ThrowbackThursday: Beyonce’s Pregnancy Announcement, 2011

Beyonce at the VMAs, 2011 (The Daily Mail)

Beyonce at the VMAs, 2011 (The Daily Mail)

By now, everyone in the entire world knows that Beyonce is pregnant with twins. (And if this is new to you, who are you? Do you even exist? I have so many questions.) The superstar revealed her pregnancy in an Instagram post to her personal account, followed by more shots of her pregnancy photoshoot to her website.

Remember, this is the second time Beyonce has unleashed a pregnancy announcement on the unsuspecting world. Way back in 2011, she announced her pregnancy at the MTV Video Music Awards (a.k.a. the VMAs). Technically, she announced it twice: once on the red carpet, cradling her bump while clad in a flowing orange gown, and then during her performance onstage. During the latter, Beyonce rubbed her bump and said to the crowd, “I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me.”

Of course, we now know that daughter would be Blue Ivy, age five.

Female/POC Video of the Year Winners at the MTV VMAs: By The Numbers

Singer Rihanna performs "Umbrella" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas September 9, 2007. Rihanna won the award for Monster Single of the Year for the song. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)

Singer Rihanna performs “Umbrella” at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas September 9, 2007. Rihanna won the award for Monster Single of the Year for the song. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)

When the nominees for MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMAs) were announced earlier this summer, acclaimed rapper Nicki Minaj pointed out the glaring absence of women of color in the Video of the Year category. She had a point: The video for her song “Anaconda” broke VEVO viewing records, racking up 19.6M+ views in 24 hours, and propelled a huge cultural impact. (I know you know of at least one person who dressed in one of Nicki’s outfits for Halloween.) To have Minaj’s video snubbed ignores all of those not-insignificant achievements.

I had a sneaking suspicion that the numbers were pretty dismal, not just for women performers of color, but also for women performers in general. I wanted to see exactly how skewed the numbers were, so I looked up the data.

First, some context:

31: Years the Video of the Year Award has been presented (this year will be the 32nd)

69: Number of solo musicians who’ve been nominated

16: Number of solo musicians who’ve won

67: Number of groups who’ve been nominated (including feature artists, not counting 2015 nominees)

15: Number of groups who’ve won (including feature artists)

 

Let’s look at the stats of the women:

13: years where women solo artists or groups won

0: years after the award began that the first woman artist was nominated (Cyndi Lauper in 1984, nominated during the Award’s first year)

6: years after the Award began that the first woman artist won (Sinead O’Connor in 1990)

4: times Madonna has been nominated

1: time Madonna has won (1998)

 

And the stats of women of color:

9: years after the Award began that a female group of color was nominated (En Vogue in 1993)

11: years after the Award began that a female group of color won (TLC in 1995)

1: times a women of color group won (TLC in 1995)

  • If you counted the “Lady Marmalade” group who won in 2001, which had Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott, and Mya, the number goes up to 2.

1: time Missy Elliott has been a double-nominee in the category (2001)

2: winners that have won twice (Missy Elliott in 2001 and 2003, Rihanna in 2007 and 2012)

1: time that Beyoncé has won (2009)

2: times that Beyoncé has been nominated, not counting her 2015 nomination (2007 and 2009)

 

You don’t have to be a math genius to see that Minaj was correct about the institutional bias in the music industry with regards to awards, and that this should not be tolerated.

This year’s VMAs will air on Sunday, Aug. 30th.

#ThrowbackThursday: TLC at the MTV VMAs, 1995

TLC at the 1995 MTV VMAs (NY Daily News)

TLC at the 1995 MTV VMAs (NY Daily News)

In 1995 (twenty years ago!), pop sensation TLC won the Video of the Year Award at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). This was pretty special for a couple of reasons: Not only were T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili the first all-women group to win the award, they were also the first women of color to do so.

They’re still the only all women-of-color group to win the coveted award. (The next closest group was the “Lady Marmalade” quintet from 2001, whose three out of five members were women of color.)

When the Video of the Year nominations came out earlier this year, star rapper Nicki Minaj rightly called out the nominations for their lack of diversity. (Beyoncé was the only woman of color nominated this year, up for her “7/11” video.) Let’s hope the music industry heeds her call, and ups the diversity quotient in the future. It’s absurd that it’s two decades from TLC’s historic win, and we still have to have this conversation.