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The ARIA’s finally introduce gender neutral category to 2021 awards

Organisers of the ARIA Awards, Australia’s biggest music award ceremony, update the event to celebrate and recognise non-binary artists.

Organisers of the highest-profiled Australian music awards have confirmed that in 2021, gender-based awards will be booted to “embrace equality and the true diversity of the music industry”.

In other words, the event will not have a ‘Best Female Artist’ or ‘Best Male Artist’ music category.

Image: Twitter

In lieu of this, there will be a ‘Best Artist’ category with ten nominees, as opposed to five nominees each for the previous binary categories.

ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd commented that this move is directed at including more non-binary artists who do not identify as either binary of male or female.

Herd stated:

“The time for separating artists based on gendered categories that exclude non-binary artists altogether has passed.”

ARIA chair Natalie Waller noted that the removal of gender-based categories will be significant in its own right but especially because this year, the award ceremony will be live-streamed on YouTube, due to the ongoing consequences of the pandemic.

“We are incredibly proud to enter the next chapter of ARIA’s ever-evolving journey by removing the gender-based award categories, reconstructing the way in which the event has been traditionally held,” Waller said.

On a larger scale, Australia has always been a bit behind – the U.S Grammy Awards removed all gendered categories in 2012.

On a smaller Aussie scale, the Music Victoria Awards booted binary categories in 2018 and replaced them with ‘Best Solo Artist’.

Popular Aussie muso Tash Sultana does not identify as male or female.
Image: NME

Regardless, this is a hugely welcomed decision, even amongst academics.

Dr Catherine Strong of RMIT University, who has researched pop culture’s gendered aspects, is in favour of the ARIA’s move. She commented to SBS News:

“It is really good at the end of the day that people are having these discussions in that organisation,”

“But there are still some big stalwart organisations in the Australian music industry that hasn’t been having these conversations in the way they needed to. It is very encouraging to see this taking place – and hopefully it will lead to much more.”

However, all is not perfect.

Dr Strong states that there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made, where unconscious bias remains a big problem:

“People don’t realise that there are a whole bunch of ways that we judge whether or not an artist is good that are often attached to their gender in ways that we don’t realise,” Dr Strong said.

“So the danger in having a category where you put everyone in together is that you could turn around in three years from now and realise only men have been nominated because there is still unconscious bias in the music industry around who does good music.”

Regardless of what the pandemic holds for our freedoms, the 2021 ARIA Awards will take place online on 24 November.