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Why It’s Time To Nix Gender-Specific Acting Awards

Do gender-specific acting awards still make sense in 2019? The debate on whether or not separate statues should be handed out to a “Best Actor” and a “Best Actress” during awards ceremonies has been heating up in recent years thanks in no small part to a couple of awards bodies who clearly believe the answer is “no.”

In 2017 MTV, among other overhauls, nixed the distinction between “actor” and “actress” for their awards ceremonies. That year Emma Watson became the first performer to win one of MTV’s gender-neutral awards. During her acceptance speech, Watson expressed her support for the decision to combine the categories:

“With acting, you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The only distinction should be between each outstanding performance.”

Then there is the Television Critics Association, which already scratched the more traditional approach in favor of two broader categories: achievement in drama and individual achievement in comedy.

And why not? The term “actress” is nonsensical. There is no such thing. There is only the actor, someone who pretends to be somebody and/or something they are not. Dividing men and women up suggests that the two somehow require different skill sets when in reality they do not. If we applied this tired logic elsewhere, then we should also make male and female distinctions for other industry professions such as directing, cinematography, hair and makeup or editing; however, that’s not the case because everybody within those fields is performing the same tasks. The siloed acting categories are thus needlessly redundant.

It’s also a matter of inclusion. Performers who identify as non-binary are automatically ruled out of this outdated binary system and thus do not qualify for the prestigious recognition of say an Oscar, even if that actor turned in the most deserving performance.

One of the more common arguments for maintaining the status quo is that by bunching the categories into one super-category, you run the risk of further ostracizing women from potential awards contention; however, as Michael Schneider points out on Variety, the opposite seems to be the case with this year’s TCA nominations. Only one male (Billy Porter) was nominated in the drama category. Likewise, only one male (Bill Hader) was given the nod in the comedy category.

So do gender-specific acting awards still make sense in 2019? Clearly it is this blogger’s opinion that ‘no it does not.’ The world is changing and society is slowly but surely growing to accept those who were for far too long forced to live as outliers.


Those are my thoughts on the topic. What are yours? Is it a bad idea to combine actor and actress into one category? If so, how come? Sound off in the comments below, I’d be very interested in hearing what you have to say!

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