Last night, MTV became the first mainstream film and TV awards to adopt gender-neutral performance categories, removing the traditional distinction between actor and actress. Emma Watson took home the award for best actor in a movie for her work in Beauty and the Beast, while Millie Bobby Brown won best actor in a TV for Netflix’s smash hit, Stranger Things.
In her acceptance speech, Watson took a moment to comment on the significance of the new award category. “The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience,” she said. “MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone. But to me, it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. And that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories.”
The main award ceremonies, like the Golden Globes and the Oscars, still have separate categories for actors and actresses. This position has increasingly challenged by people like Watson and also actor Asia Kate Dillon, who identifies as gender non-binary.
Watson has long been associated with issues of gender equality, and is a strong advocate for greater female inclusion. She also took the moment to comment on her character Belle, in the latest version of Beauty and the Beast. “The villagers in our fairy tale wanted to make Belle believe that the world is smaller than the way she saw it, with fewer opportunities for her – that her curiosity and passion for knowledge and her desire for more in life were grounds for alienation,” she said. “I loved playing someone who didn’t listen to any of that. I’m so proud to be a part of a film that celebrates diversity, literacy, inclusion, joy, and love the way that this one does.”