Why Aren't Any Women Nominated for the Top Prize at the American Music Awards?

AMA's Women
Photo: Photo Illustration: Images from Getty

Who run the world? If you ask the folks behind the American Music Awards, it’s apparently not girls.

Earlier this week, I practiced due diligence as a psychopathically loyal Little Monster and made sure to vote for Lady Gaga as Favorite Female Artist in the Pop/Rock category for this year’s AMAs. She’s up against Alessia Cara and Rihanna, whom, by the way, I also love.

It was then, after flipping through the entire list of nominees, that I realized something glaringly odd: there are no women in the running for Artist of the Year, the awards show’s most coveted honor. Drake’s there. Ed Sheeran’s there. Bruno Mars is there. Kendrick Lamar is there. The Chainsmokers (really?) are there. But nope, no women.

The prize has previously gone to female stars such as Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Ariana Grande, so did someone simply forget that women also dominate the music industry?

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According to the “about” section on the official website of the AMAs, the selection process for nominees is a regimented one.

“American Music Awards nominees are based on key fan interactions as reflected in Billboard magazine and on Billboard.com, including album and digital song sales, radio airplay, streaming, social activity, and touring,” it reads. “These measurements are tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen Music and Next Big Sound.”

This is somewhat reassuring since the list is based on logical, statistical reasoning, not some twisted agenda to try and shut women down, which is what I first assumed. But this speaks volumes to the world we live in today—and the fact that we’re all literally listening to the voices of men over women.

While women are nominated in female-specific categories (like the Gaga one above), men still rule the nominations for categories that include all artists. If you do the math, over 50 percent of the people nominated for awards come Sunday night are men. Only three (!!!) nominated solo female artists have a shot at beating out men and winning in categories that are not female-specific. That’s mind-boggling.

Lorde, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Halsey all released music this year. Did we forget? Halsey expressed her opinion last month, calling the nominations a "missed opportunity."

The American Music Awards has followed this statistical approach for years. It represents what the people want, and it’s based in fact. So is it on us, the listeners, for choosing to support male musicians over female ones throughout the year? It's sad to be handed the numbers, proving that we haven't been.

Women in 2017 are, arguably, facing a precipice. Since the 2016 election, they have seen proposed legislation that threatens their wellbeing. But groups of outspoken women—and people who support them—have also gathered to run for office, fight for reproductive rights, and, most recently, speak out against sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond.

If you’re not down for women, you’re simply not down.

So what can we do to fix this? Support women. Whether you're the DJ choosing which tracks to air, the concertgoer purchasing tickets, or the streamer curating your Spotify playlist, your actions influence today's artists' success.

Awards shows historically reflect changing times. The Oscars have thankfully become a little more diverse because the Academy finally listened, and people of all backgrounds are slowly beginning to be represented in film. MTV changed the name of its beloved Moonman to the Moon Person at the Video Music Awards, and the MTV Movie & TV Awards introduced gender-neutral awards.

For the AMAs 2017 Artist of the Year, I voted for Drake, because he’s hot, he supports women, and he’s talented. But truthfully, I wish there had been more female options to choose from—someone badass, empowered, inspiring. Someone like Lady Gaga. Someone like Beyoncé. Someone like Rihanna.

The makeup of this specific awards show, and its top prize, is unfortunately a reflection of what the people want. It’s simple math. Thankfully, we can change this math. We can send a positive message, especially young girls, that supporting women, from the starlet in the school talent show to your female peers at work to the seemingly untouchable hit-makers attending the AMAs, can go a long way.

So go ahead: Listen to Taylor Swift’s Reputation on repeat. Jam to Katy Perry’s Witness. And change the statistics for 2018.

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