by Katelyn To
Asia Kate Dillon is a non-binary actor. In 2017, Dillon wrote a letter to the Television Academy questioning the need for gendered categories. In the letter, they wrote, “I’d like to know if in your eyes ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ denote anatomy or identity and why it is necessary to denote either in the first place?” The TV Academy did not show readiness to do away with the distinctions, and instead, told Dillon to enter whichever category they felt comfortable entering. This left them with having to make the seemingly uncomfortable decision of entering the category for Best Supporting Actor, a category usually for male actors. While to some, this outcome may have seemed like a simple fix to a small problem, many people beg to differ, and this only highlights a larger issue that should be addressed: Should awards remain distinguished by gender?
Dillon is only one of many examples for why awards should be gender-neutral. However, like most propositions for a problem, it has its pros and cons. To add to the positives, making awards gender-neutral would level the playing field. This could appear as a negative reason as well, because “leveling the playing field” basically means that men would begin to dominate awards. However, people argue that awards should be given based on merit, and merit alone. MTV’s Video Music Awards and Movies & TV Awards became gender-neutral in 2017, and that year when Emma Watson won best movie performance, she said in her speech, “The only distinction should be between each outstanding performance.”
On the other hand, making awards non gendered would have its negative aspects as well. Like I mentioned before, men would probably end up taking home a vast majority of awards. The entertainment industry is already dominated by men, such as most lead roles being filled by men as opposed to women. Also for awards that are already non gendered, men are most of the nominations and winners, and men are the large majority of voters in award groups. Mark Harris, a journalist for Vanity Fair, said, “Merging gender categories would create a cosmetic definition of equality in an industry where we know that equality does not exist.”
So yes, non gendered award categories would not be perfect. But they’re less imperfect than leaving them the way they are now, and that is divided by gender. Perhaps not distinguishing by gender would allow men to win more awards than women, but the same already happens for people in different racial and ethnic groups, cultural groups, and more. Keeping them divided won’t solve the problem. The only way to allow society to progress is to place everyone on the same level, no matter their gender identity, race, religion, sexuality, culture, etc.