Don’t you just love all that backslapping and air-kissing, with luvees and darlings thanking their cats, hamsters and anyone else within spitting distance, including many others that we’ve never heard of or are ever likely to?
You either love ’em or hate ’em, yet The Oscars, for example, are still watched by a staggering 26 million people worldwide– down from around 50 million viewers in 2000. The arguments over The Oscars’ sexism and racism have rumbled on for years and will probably continue for the foreseeable future, but a new element has crept into the fray– gender, or non-gender depending upon your point of view. Recently a rumour emerged that The Brit Awards were going to scrap male and female categories in order to accommodate non-binary artists, which in turn sparked a debate over inclusivity and diversity. The Grammys and the MTV Movie and TV Awards have already made the move to gender-neutral awards, which presumably includes people who have chosen non-binary as the preferred way of identifying themselves. Mind you, it’s worth adding that the MTV Awards are voted for by the general public and not a bunch of cigar-puffing, millionaire, stuffy has-beens.
This move was highlighted by the singer, Sam Smith’s recent announcement that he had decided to go non-binary by using genderless pronouns, preferring to be referred to as they and them.
“Today is a good day so here goes. I’ve decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM.
You’re one of the first people to use these pronouns with me.” “Thank you. That feels really beautiful.”
(In response to radio DJ James Barr using them/they in an interview.)
Why Not Just Add A Non-Binary Category?
It goes without saying that there are inherent biological differences between men and women, yet the gender argument is blurring those previously indelible lines somewhat, to the extent that some feel it necessary to eliminate those lines completely. Is it healthy to negate or even deny the differences? Some younger commentators are suggesting that the previously used gender lines are antiquated, but they don’t give much in the way of solid reasoning. Could it be that in this new era of inclusivity, PC and LGBT rights, those in the so-called margins, such as non-binary, are feeling left out? If that is the case, why don’t the event organisers opt for a new non-binary category instead of eliminating male and female categories for best actor, best singer, etc? Besides, assessing and opining on art is so subjective that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. (Or would that be better worded as another person’s meat…?)
It’s been suggested that eliminating the traditional gender categories would give an unfair advantage to men, since most award ceremonies are said to be unfairly skewed in men’s favour. Much in the same way that The Oscars has often been accused of sexism, racism and generally stuffy attitudes for as long as one can remember. Many important questions are raised by the elimination of gender in such award ceremonies, regardless of their inherent banality, that reach further and further into society and so many other arenas, such as sport for example. Would those who are demanding a more inclusive society suggest that sports teams be gender-free by throwing men and women into the same teams? Rugby, football (soccer), basketball, baseball? Or would they suggest that sport is completely different? If so, why is it completely different? Surely they can’t have it both ways? As a point of interest, the Davis Cup is all-male, with its female equivalent being the Federation Cup and the mixed (both sexes) version, the Hopman Cup. Is the Davis Cup now treading on thin ice by continuing with its brazenly gendered view of the world or are they simply recognising that men and women possess different physical characteristics?
Are You Feeling Excluded?
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others ~ George Orwell, Animal Farm.
Clearly, equality and inclusivity are distinct yet related perspectives and most of us wouldn’t argue with the truism that women should be paid as much as men, regardless of their role. Much the same could be said if you were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual, but now we have yet another category to deal with– non-binary. This is a new gender category for most of us and whilst those who have declared themselves as non-binary have done so in a spirit of diversity and, in their own words, by being brave, it does seem to stretch the issue of inclusivity by cancelling out the male and female genders in award ceremonies and other such events. Many people of a non-binary flavour are said to be feeling left out, or excluded, to use the neutral terminology. But since this is a new category it’s hard to see how they could be feeling excluded because it’s never come up before. It’s also worth pointing out that gender should not be confused with sex. As far as I am aware, non-binary is a gender issue and shouldn’t be confused with asexuality, which is a person who is not sexually attracted to others– or, in biological terms, an animal or plant that doesn’t require a mate to reproduce. Therefore non-binary is a conscious gender choice made by an individual who doesn’t want to be referred to in the traditional way as either male or female– a system of identification that appears to have worked quite well since the dawn of time.
Non-binary people have a variety of identities. They can feel masculine, feminine, neither, both or fluid — the list goes on.
That statement alone is enough to confuse the heck out of anyone, but don’t fret, because, in the not so distant future, binary genders themselves will soon feel marginalised. And it doesn’t stop there, because gaming has traditionally been a male arena, with some groups suggesting that instead of “Women in games”, you could say “Diverse genders in games” or “Marginalized genders in games”, thus mollifying those who may feel excluded. For example, the upcoming game Cyberpunk (pictured) is doing away with traditional genders as you and I know them, allowing gamers to choose their character based on non-binary, transgender or cisgender body types. But hang on a sec– what the heck is cisgender? It’s defined as:
Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth is a cisgender woman. The term cisgender is the opposite of the word transgender.
So why is cisgender even “a thing”?, I hear you ask. Apparently, it’s a term that says, “I recognise that trans people exist.” Phew! I’m glad we cleared that one up, since I was under the impression that yet another gender or non-gender category had been created. And if, like me, you’re wondering about some of this gender terminology, suffice to say that binary is taken from computer binary code, i.e., binary is either a 1 or a 0, but non-binary is neither. And what is with all this categorisation, anyway? My understanding of marginalisation has always been that it’s the result of labelling and pigeon-holing, which surely collides with the view that minorities shouldn’t be labelled as such.
Why Don’t We Just Scrap Gender Altogether?
With so many groups being offended and/or excluded today, wouldn’t life be simpler if we just said goodbye to any form of gender whatsoever? I mean, if binary gender is so offensive, why don’t we all just refer to each other as they or them and completely marginalise he and she? But what would happen to our beautiful languages? Don’t fret though– English is already one step ahead of the game since our nouns are not gender-assigned. A chair is a chair for example and it’s neutral in English. However, it starts to get a little tricky in Spanish, French and Italian where chairs and tables are feminine, but wine glasses are masculine. On the other hand, the singer, Pink, has decided to bring up her daughter in a gender-neutral household, implying that references to males and females are stereotypes. Will that lead to a gender conflict for her daughter, Willow?
But wait, an award for best actor wouldn’t work, would it? Especially since the very word, actor has always been regarded as a male-related noun. What on earth should we call them? Best performer in a motion picture?
Scrapping gender, in principle, may sound like a great idea for diversity’s sake, but in practice, we’d have to rewrite all of our languages resulting in total chaos and a breakdown in social order, thus putting the award ceremonies’ gender orientation in a completely different perspective.