Towards a genderless world, one film festival at a time

In August, the Gotham Film & Media Institute announced that the Gotham Awards will go genderless.

In 2020, Berlin Film Festival had announced switching to the gender-neutral acting category in awards, which means that both the male and female actors will compete in one category.
In 2020, Berlin Film Festival had announced switching to the gender-neutral acting category in awards, which means that both the male and female actors will compete in one category.

By Reya Mehrotra

We are moving towards a genderless world and major award functions and film festivals are dropping male and female categories to embrace a genderless category that recognises an artist on the basis of their performance rather than segregating them.

Gotham Awards

In August, the Gotham Film & Media Institute announced that the Gotham Awards will go genderless. The Outstanding Lead Performance and Outstanding Supporting Performance categories are replacing the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. The move was based on the 24-year-old Gotham Breakthrough Actor Award, which will be renamed as Gotham Breakthrough Performer Award and has been genderless since its inception.

Berlin Film Festival

In 2020, Berlin Film Festival had announced switching to the gender-neutral acting category in awards, which means that both the male and female actors will compete in one category. In May this year, at the 71st Berlin Film Festival, the first ever gender-neutral acting award was given to German actor Maren Eggert. She was handed over the Best Leading Performance Silver Bear for her role in the 2021 film I’m Your Man, in which she plays a researcher. Celebrities like Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton have welcomed the decision that paves way for a socially progressive environment wherein actors with different sexual orientations are not discriminated against and left out.

San Sebastian Film Festival

Another film festival that has adopted a gender-neutral avatar is Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival. The 2021 edition had the new categories of Silver Shell for best leading performance and best supporting performance that replaced the gendered Silver Shell for best actor and best actress awards. The first gender-neutral acting award for best leading performance was given jointly to Jessica Chastain and Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl.

Lucille Lortel Awards

The Lucille Lortel Awards that honour excellence in off-broadway theatre announced in October that the actor and actress categories for both plays and musicals will be replaced by Outstanding Supporting Performer and Outstanding Lead Performer. A new category— Outstanding Ensemble—has also been introduced for the first time.

Brit Awards

The pop music honours of Britain are the newest ones to get rid of the separate categories. The Artist of the Year and International Artist of the Year will be the two new gender-neutral categories replacing the gendered ones. The show will also introduce new categories like hip hop/ grime/ rap act, dance act, alternative/ rock act and pop RnB act.

Golden Calf Awards

The Golden Calf Awards of the Netherland Film Festival are held annually in Utrecht. In 2021, they went genderless by removing separate categories for men and women. However, for the first time in the history of the awards, not a single woman won any film prizes in the important categories. So, though progressive, the move was criticised by many. The first gender neutral Golden Calves were awarded to Fedja van Huet and Yorick van Wageningen for their roles in De Veroordeling.

MTV Movie and TV Awards

In 2017, MTV discarded the male and female categories for its movie and TV awards. Actor Emma Watson won the best actor in a movie award, a category that included both male and female nominees. Watson won for her role in the Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast. She beat Hugh Jackman and James McAvoy to the award that was given by non-binary and gender-neutral actor Asia Kate Dillon.

Aria Awards

Australia’s top music awards—Aria Awards—have gone genderless starting this year by dropping the industry’s best male and best female category awards. The awards have been replaced by the best artist, which will now have 10 nominees instead of five.

Grammy Awards

The Grammys have been genderless since 2011. However, they have often been criticised for the uneven distribution between the two genders. In fact, 2018 saw #GrammysSoMale trending on social media after only male artists won all the awards.

Daytime Emmys

In 2019, Daytime Emmy Awards announced some gender-inclusive changes. Their category of Younger Actor and Younger Actress categories were replaced by Outstanding Younger Performer in a Drama Series. Additionally, the performers who were eligible in all Daytime Emmy acting categories were encouraged to enter the category that best fit their gender identity. This year, the Emmy Awards announced the removal of the words ‘actor’ and ‘actress’. Instead, they adopted the word ‘performer’ in order to be more gender-inclusive.

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