Food & Beverage Media Has A Tokenism Problem — How Do We Create A More Equitable Future, Together?
This Toolkit for Recognizing, Disrupting, and Preventing Tokenism in Food & Beverage Media is part of our award-winning initiative, Equitable Representation in Media.
It draws from 2+ years of research, 100+ interviews with media professionals, and industry-wide Town Halls to help you:
🔍 Define tokenism & identify 6 key examples of tokenism in food & beverage media
🤯 Comprehend how tokenism operates in larger systems of oppression
🚫 Expose the false promises of tokenism that perpetuate its existence
💡 Draw inspiration from organizations driving progress in media
✊🏼 Take action to disrupt practices of tokenism at your workplace
❓What is Tokenism / Tokenization?
We use the below definition:
To recruit an individual or small number of people with marginalized identities in order to give the appearance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the workplace while ignoring and/or continuing the root causes of inequity.
The concept of "token" and "tokenism" date back to the Civil Rights Movement and have often been referenced in academia since then. A few examples:
Malcolm X’s interview with Louis Lomax (1963):
“What gains? All you have gotten is tokenism — one or two Negroes in a job or at a lunch counter so the rest of you will be quiet.” (In response to Lomax's comment, "But we have made some gains…")
Tokenism and Women in the Workplace by Lynn Zimmer (1988):
“The token's marginal status [is] as a participant who is permitted entrance, but not full participation…someone who meets all of the formal requirements…but does not possess the ‘auxiliary characteristics’ (race, sex, and ethnicity)... Consequently, they are never permitted by ‘insiders’ to become full members and may even be ejected if they stray too far from the special ‘niche’ outlined for them.”
👀 What Does Tokenism Look Like in Food & Beverage Media?
Tokenism presents in two key areas:
CONTENT: Food & beverage media treats BIPOC foods as trends with limited relevance.
BIPOC-centered stories use language and visuals that reinforce stereotypical ideas;
Are designated for only a certain "relevant" time (e.g., cultural heritage months); and
Assumes uniformity by using one (or a few) individuals to represent an entire cuisine and/or people.
PEOPLE: Food & beverage media use token individuals to perform "diversity" for their readers.
4. BIPOC food professionals are rewarded for competing with one another for a few token spots;
5. Pigeonholed into writing exclusively about their cultural background, regardless of interest; and
6. Placed into situations without decision-making power over how their work is being represented
🎯 Why Does Tokenism Continue?
Tokenism is a form of systemic racism, sexism, classism, heterosexualism, etc. - not its solution. However, it continues to be perpetuated because it perpetuates two major falsehoods:
1. The organization that hires, supports, and promotes the token believes in equality for marginalized individuals, with internal and external systems in place to support them where necessary
2. Marginalized individuals have a chance to fight for a better future by achieving token status within the same systems that once oppressed them
Tokenism is embraced by those in power and the privileged majority because it offers a veneer of social progress without challenging the fundamental dynamics of existing oppression. This way, tokenism deflects and delays real change by encouraging inaction from all parties.
🛠️ Read the Full Toolkit
Join the thousands of media professionals who have already incorporated the insights from our 24-page toolkit to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces.
Take the first step towards combating tokenism via our comprehensive guide. Enter your email to gain full access to our entire Resources Library, including a digital PDF copy of our groundbreaking research on tokenism in the food and beverage media sector.
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📖 Table of Contents
What is Tokenism/Tokenization?
Tokenism & its relationship to systems of oppression
How Does Tokenism Happen in Food & Beverage Media?
6 ways that tokenism affects media workers & content
What You Can Do to Address Tokenism
Immediate actions for disrupting the current system
People, organizations, and publications leading by example
The Methodology of This Toolkit
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