Why It's Important to Give Your Friends Their Own Awards

At the end of 2016, when Nobel Prize winners were announced, I took to Facebook to tell the world how disappointed I was with the committee’s selection. 

“Not a single womxn won a Nobel Prize this year,” I wrote. “In fact, only about 6% of winners in the prize's 120+ year history have been womxn. And the United States and United Kingdom repeatedly produce the most winners, usually white and male. Perhaps they deserve them, but perhaps we also repeatedly fail to recognize the contributions of people of color, womxn, and those beyond the West — in all fields.”

It is now early 2017, also known as “awards season.” We’ve just had the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the BAFTAs, the Grammys, and in a couple weeks, we’ll approach the Academy Awards. What’s incredibly frustrating for me is that I feel as if I could just make that same Facebook status again and again. I’d edit the names and numbers for accuracy, but the underlying sentiment would remain true. Even the longlist (not just the shortlist) of nominees for the Carnegie medal, a British literary award for young adult and children’s literature, is all-white, despite it being a remarkable year of production for novelists of color. 

Sunday night, Adele won a Grammy for Album of the Year, though many had hoped — and indeed fiercely believed — that the honor would go to Beyoncé for Lemonade. In my own opinion, 25 was a beautiful record, but Lemonade was revolutionary. It was political, it was artistry, it was transcendent, and it was lyrically, musically and visually stunning. To her credit, even Adele expressed her disappointment in winning the Grammy, saying onstage that “the artist of my life is Beyoncé” and exclaiming in a post-show interview, “What the f*ck does [Beyoncé] have to do to win Album of the Year?” But despite Adele’s best intentions, it was still a strange and difficult experience to watch her praise Beyoncé from above, as tears streamed down Beyoncé’s face. I do believe that she was moved by Adele’s words, but I also considered that she might be heartbroken that her hard work had amounted to so little. 

In the end, truly incredible people will continue to do incredible work regardless of how many awards — whether it's a Nobel Prize, Grammy, Oscar, Congressional medal, whatever — they accrue. But we can’t ignore that the people who do win these awards are awarded economic and social capital, whether or not they are given money with the award. The prestige of the title often means that winners often see more interest in and purchase of their work.

Gif from Gifmania

When we ignore the work of womxn, people of color and more on an international scale, we build a culture in which we can ignore the daily work of our peers with these identities. We perpetuate a system that disadvantages them. 

So this is where I turn to the second half of that Facebook status I made. “Celebrate the people in your life who do wonderful things, always. Appreciate them, tell them they're terrific. Because they are. And their friends, community and the world are indebted to them. It starts with us.”

Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, agrees. Following the Grammys, she said on Twitter: “Create your own committees, build your own institutions, give your friends awards, award yourself, and be the gold you wanna hold my g’s.” 

Gif from Vogue

Let’s face it — sometimes we deserve awards just for getting out of bed. The personal, societal, economic and cultural pressures on womxn are enormous. So when our friends manage to get out of bed, and produce brilliant work despite these pressures and barriers, we must show up for them. And beyond applauding their work, we must invest in it. Attend your friend’s poetry readings and music performances and plays. Encourage your friends to publish their research and then read it. Show others, that the work of your friends deserves recognition. Look to Beyoncé and Adele for inspiration. Be the kind of people that turn lemons into Lemonade.

None of the images used belong to Her Campus or the author.