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Tokenism is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or gender equality within a workplace or educational context.The effort of including a token individual in work or school is usually intended to create the impression of social inclusiveness and diversity (racial, religious, sexual, etc.).
The social concept and the employment practice of tokenism became understood in the popular culture of the United States in the late 1950s.In the face of racial segregation, tokenism emerged as a solution that though earnest in effort, only acknowledged an issue without actually solving it. In the book Why We Can't Wait (1964), civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. discussed the subject of tokenism, and how it constitutes a minimal acceptance of black people to the mainstream of U.S. society.
When asked about the gains of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963, human rights activist Malcolm X answered: "Tokenism is hypocrisy. One little student in the University of Mississippi, that's hypocrisy. A handful of students in Little Rock, Arkansas, is hypocrisy. A couple of students going to school in Georgia is hypocrisy. Integration in America is hypocrisy in the rawest form. And the whole world can see it. All this little tokenism that is dangled in front of the Negro and then he's told, 'See what we're doing for you, Tom.' Why the whole world can see that this is nothing but hypocrisy. All you do is make your image worse; you don't make it better."Malcolm X highlights that tokenism is used as a tool by America to improve its image but fails in its attempts. For instance, in 1954, the United States ruled segregation in public school unconstitutional through the Brown v. Board of Education case. Malcolm X references Little Rock, Arkansas, where nine students sought to fight for their rights to attend school. On September 4, 1957, Arkansas National Guard troops were sent around Central High School to prevent the entry of nine African American students into an all-white school, defying federal law. President Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and enforced federal troops to uphold the law. While this marked the day that ignited change within Arkansas' school system for African-American children, desegregation did not constitute equality. All nine of the students were brutally bullied by white students and this behaviour was encouraged by the school's administration. Malcolm X's example of Little Rock exemplifies how tokenism can be intended to create the impression of social inclusiveness and diversity without bringing about any significant changes to the inclusion of underrepresented groups.
In the field of psychology, the broader definition of tokenism is a situation in which a member of a distinctive category is treated differently from other people. The characteristics that make the person of interest a token can be perceived as either a handicap or an advantage, as supported by Václav Linkov. In a positive light, these distinct people can be seen as experts in their racial/cultural category, valued skills, or a different perspective on a project. In contrast, tokenism is most often seen as a handicap due to the ostracism of a selected sample of a minority group.Linkov also attributes drawbacks in psychology to Cultural and Numerical Tokenism, instances that have shifted where value of expertise is placed and its effect on proliferating information that is not representative of all the possible facts.
A Harvard Business School professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, asserted back in 1977that a token employee is usually part of a "socially-skewed group" of employees who belong to a minority group that constitutes less than 15% of the total employee population of the workplace.
By definition, token employees in a workplace are known to be few; hence, their alleged high visibility among the staff subjects them to greater pressure to perform their work at higher production standards of quality and volume and to behave in the expected, stereotypical manner.Given the smallness of the group of token employees in a workplace, the individual identity of each token person is usually disrespected by the dominant group, who apply a stereotype role to them as a means of social control in the workplace. In order to avoid tokenism within the workplace, diversity and inclusion must be integrated to foster an environment where people feel connected and included. Employees must be hired on the basis of their capabilities rather than their gender, ethnicity, race, and sexuality.
Tokenism can also have an impact on mental health in the workplace. According to one study, racial minorities also experience heightened performance pressures related to their race and gender; however, many reported that racial problems were more common than gender problems.Being a token makes one appear more visible within the workplace, placing more scrutiny and pressure for them to represent an entire group. Anxiety, stress, exhaustion, guilt, shame and burnout can arise from overworking in efforts to become a good representative of their identity group.
In professor Kanter's work on tokenism and gender, she found that the problems experienced by women in typically male-dominated occupations were due solely to the skewed proportions of men and women in these occupations.For example, women are often underrepresented within the STEM field, where women also sometimes face more hostile working environments where discrimination and sexual harassment are more frequent. Women in STEM may experience greater performance pressure to work harder in a male-dominated field while also experiencing social isolation from the males within their workplace. The pressure to perform better can be influenced by the stereotype of women being less competent in mathematics and science. These non-inclusive measures contribute to the lack of women in STEM.
Professor Kanter found that being a token evoked three behaviour consequences of visibility, polarization, and assimilation.Firstly, tokens often felt that they were being watched all the time, leading to the feeling of more pressure to perform well. In attempts to perform well, tokens will feel the need to work harder and strive for perfection. Secondly, polarization implies that the dominant group are uncomfortable around tokens or feel threatened by them due to their differences. As a result, tokens may experience social isolation from the exclusion of the majority group. Finally, tokens will feel the need to assimilate to the stereotyped caricature of their roles. For instance, women will feel forced to perform the “suitable behaviour" of a woman in reinforcing the behaviour of stereotypes attached to which they are associated with.
There has been much debate surrounding the concept of tokenism behind women directors on corporate boards. Since men disproportionately occupy the majority of board seats globally, governments and corporations have attempted to address this inequitable distribution of seats through reform measures. Reform measures include legislation mandating gender representation on corporate boards of directors, which has been the focus of societal and political debates.All-male boards typically recruit women to improve specialized skills and to bring different values to decision making. In particular, women introduce useful female leadership qualities and skills like risk averseness, less radical decision-making, and more sustainable investment strategies. However, the mandate of gender diversity may also harm women. Some critics of the mandate believe that it makes women seem like "space fillers," which undermines the qualifications that women can bring to their jobs.
In politics, allegations of tokenism may occur when a political party puts forward candidates from under-represented groups, such as women or racial minorities, in races that the party has little or no chance of winning, while making limited or no effort to ensure that such candidates have similar opportunity to win the nomination in races where the party is safe or favoured.The "token" candidates are frequently submitted as paper candidates, while nominations in competitive or safe seats continue to favor members of the majority group.
The end result of such an approach is that the party's slate of candidates maintains the appearance of diversity, but members of the majority group remain overrepresented in the party's caucus after the election — and thus little to no substantive progress toward greater inclusion of underrepresented groups has actually occurred.
In fiction, token characters represent groups which vary from the norm (usually defined as a white, heterosexual male) and are otherwise excluded from the story. The token character can be based on ethnicity (e.g. black, Hispanic, Asian), religion (e.g. Jewish, Muslim), sexual orientation (e.g., gay), gender (typically a female character in a predominantly male cast) or disability. Token characters are usually background characters, and, as such, are usually disposable and are eliminated from the narrative early in the story, in order to enhance the drama, while conserving the main characters.
Tokenism, in a television setting, can be any act of putting a minority into the mix to create some sort of publicly viewed diversity. A racial divide in TV has been present since the first television show that hired minorities, Amos 'n' Andy (1928–1960), in 1943. Regardless of whether a token character may be stereotypical or not, tokenism can initiate a whole biased perception that may conflict with how people see a specific race, culture, gender or ethnicity.From The Huffington Post , America Ferrera states: “Tokenism is about inserting diverse characters because you feel you have to; true diversity means writing characters that aren't just defined by the color of their skin, and casting the right actor for the role".
Ethnic and racial representation in television has been proven as an educational basis to inform mass audiences. However, tokenism leads to a narrow representation of minority groups, and this trend often leads to minority characters being exposed in negative or stereotypical fashions.Research done as early as the 1970s suggests an early recognition and disapproval of tokenism and its effects on perceptions of minority groups—specifically, perceptions of African Americans. Tokenism seemed to be used as a quick fix for the complete void of major/recurring minority roles in television, but its skewed representation lacked room for thoroughly independent and positive roles. Throughout that decade, major broadcast networks including NBC and ABC held a collective 10:1 ratio of white characters to black characters, a much smaller margin of which had recurring African American characters. At that, the representation of African American women was much slimmer. The use of these token characters often portrayed African American people to stand in sidekick positions to their white counterparts. Research completed on token ethnic characters into the new millennium has found that the representation of males has grown in numbers, but has not improved in negative portrayal. Statistics on token ethnic characters still suggest toxic masculinity in African American males; threateningly powerful stereotypes of African American women; hyper-sexuality of African American and Asian women; and effeminate characteristics in Asian men and men of other racial minorities.
Just like television, tokenism in the media has changed over time to coincide with real-life events. During the years of 1946-87, The New Yorker was analyzed to determine how often and in what situations black people were being portrayed in the magazine's cartoon section. Over the 42 years of research, there was only one U.S. black main character in a cartoon where race was not the main theme, race was actually completely irrelevant. All cartoons from the earliest times depicted black people in the U.S. in stereotypical roles. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, cartoons were mostly racially themed, and depicted black people in "token" roles where they are only there to create a sense of inclusion.
Tokenism appears in advertising as well as other subdivisions of major media. Tokenism is interpreted as reinforcing subtle representations of minorities in commercials. Studies have shown that, among other racial minorities, Asian Americans are targeted by advertising companies to fulfill casting diversity, but are the most likely ethnic minority to be placed in the backgrounds of advertisements.
Black characters being the first characters to die was first identified in Hollywood horror movies of the 1930s, notes writer Renee Cozier. The Oscars ceremonies have received criticism over a lack of representation of people of color, as critics have pointed towards a lack of minorities nominated for awards, particularly in 2015 and 2016, when not a single actor of color was nominated. Around this time, minorities accounted for 12.9% of lead roles in 163 films surveyed in 2014, according to the 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report.
Since the release of the original three Star Wars films and the later three prequels, there has been much discussion, on Twitter and Reddit especially, of this use of tokenism.The character of Lando Calrissian (portrayed by Billy Dee Williams) and Mace Windu (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) have been cited as two human characters of a racial minority that appear on screen. Lando was one of the first developed black characters in a science-fiction film at the time. Loyola Marymount University Professor of African American Studies, Adilifu Nama, has stated that this character is "a form of tokenism that placed one of the most optimistic faces on racial inclusion in a genre that had historically excluded Black representation."
When the first film of the newest installment of the franchise, The Force Awakens, was released in 2015, the conversation shifted.Where in the past two trilogies the main three characters were two white men and a white woman, in the new trilogy the main trio consists of a black man (John Boyega), a Hispanic man (Oscar Isaac), and a white woman (Daisy Ridley).
Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film Black Panther portrays the heroes of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda as godlike. They possess otherworldly sophistication by virtue of their blackness, in contrast to longstanding tendencies in mainstream film toward tokenism, stereotyping, and victimhood in depictions of people of African descent. The superhero the Black Panther, a.k.a. King T’Challa, learns to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, even those in whose oppression he has been unwittingly complicit, such as the children of the African diaspora. As a result, the film can function as catalyst for reflection on the part of viewers in terms of how they might perceive more clearly the complexity, variety, and ambiguity represented by blackness, whether others’ or their own, and how they, too, might identify with the Other.
The Harry Potter series, written by author J.K. Rowling, has displayed tokenism through race and sexuality.[ citation needed ] Potter's first love interest, Cho Chang, was named after two Asian surnames. NBC Asian America reporter Kimberly Yam tweeted that the one use of Asian representation in the series had a name equivalent to “ching chong”. Rowling also revealed Albus Dumbledore to be homosexual weeks after the final book was released, though his sexuality is not mentioned in the books or films. Fans displayed disappointment against this representation, as Dumbledore would be the only gay character in the series, and his supposed love interest was Gellert Grindelwald, an immoral teen fascist.
In G.B.F., directed by Darren Stein, the film tells the journey of two closeted gay teens, Tanner and Brent, on their quest to popularity in high school. The film explores the theme of tokenism through demonstrating the desire of a homosexual male best friend by typically heterosexual women. The three most popular girls in school: Fawcett Brooks, Caprice Winters, and 'Shley Osgood believe that the key to winning the prom queen title is through acquiring a gay best friend. In media, gay best friends are displayed as sassy, effeminate, fashionable, and flamboyant, making them act as a stock character accessory to the main character.While Tanner and Brent plan to become popular through exposing their sexuality, the girls are disappointed to find out that Tanner contradicts the stereotypical gay men they have seen in television. The film shows how harmful it can be to associate gay stereotypes with gay characters.
Film critic Armond White cited the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll in 2022 as an example of tokenism.He wrote that the poll had become "a referendum on political correctness" which "prefers feminist, black, queer politics — not cinephilia.
The term "minority group" has different usages, depending on the context. According to its common usage, the term minority group can simply be understood in terms of demographic sizes within a population: i.e. a group in society with the least number of individuals, or less than half, is a "minority’. Usually a minority group is disempowered relative to the majority, and that characteristic lends itself to different applications of the term minority.
Employment discrimination is a form of illegal discrimination in the workplace based on legally protected characteristics. In the U.S., federal anti-discrimination law prohibits discrimination by employers against employees based on age, race, gender, sex, religion, national origin, and physical or mental disability. State and local laws often protect additional characteristics such as marital status, veteran status and caregiver/familial status. Earnings differentials or occupational differentiation—where differences in pay come from differences in qualifications or responsibilities—should not be confused with employment discrimination. Discrimination can be intended and involve disparate treatment of a group or be unintended, yet create disparate impact for a group.
Symbolic annihilation is a term first used by George Gerbner in 1976 to describe the absence of representation, or underrepresentation, of some group of people in the media, understood in the social sciences to be a means of maintaining social inequality. This term is usually applied to media criticism in the fields of feminism and queer theory to describe the ways in which the media promotes stereotypes and denies specific identities. Gaye Tuchman (1978) divided the concept of symbolic annihilation into three aspects: omission, trivialization and condemnation. This multifaceted approach to coverage not only vilifies communities of identity, but work to make members invisible through the explicit lack of representation in all forms of media ranging from film, song, books, news media and visual art.
LGBT stereotypes are stereotypes about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are based on their sexual orientations, gender identities, or gender expressions. Stereotypical perceptions may be acquired through interactions with parents, teachers, peers and mass media, or, more generally, through a lack of firsthand familiarity, resulting in an increased reliance on generalizations.
Stereotypes of East Asians in the United States are ethnic stereotypes found in American society about first-generation immigrants and their American-born descendants and citizenry with East Asian ancestry or whose family members who recently emigrated to the United States from East Asia, as well as members of the Chinese diaspora whose family members emigrated from Southeast Asian countries. Stereotypes of East Asians, analogous to other ethnic and racial stereotypes, are often erroneously misunderstood and negatively portrayed in American mainstream media, cinema, music, television, literature, video games, internet, as well as in other forms of creative expression in American culture and society. Many of these commonly generalized stereotypes are largely correlative to those that are also found in other Anglosphere countries, such as in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, as entertainment and mass media are often closely interlinked between them.
Microaggression is a term used for commonplace verbal, behavioral or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups. The term was coined by Harvard University psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals which he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflicting on African Americans. By the early 21st century, use of the term was applied to the casual disparagement of any socially marginalized group, including LGBT people, poor people, and disabled people. Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as "brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership". The persons making the comments may be otherwise well-intentioned and unaware of the potential impact of their words.
Occupational inequality is the unequal treatment of people based on gender, sexuality, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, height, weight, accent, or ethnicity in the workplace. When researchers study trends in occupational inequality they usually focus on distribution or allocation pattern of groups across occupations, for example, the distribution of men compared to women in a certain occupation. Secondly, they focus on the link between occupation and income, for example, comparing the income of whites with blacks in the same occupation.
Aversive racism is a social scientific theory proposed by Samuel L. Gaertner & John F. Dovidio (1986), according to which negative evaluations of racial/ethnic minorities are realized by a persistent avoidance of interaction with other racial and ethnic groups. As opposed to traditional, overt racism, which is characterized by overt hatred for and discrimination against racial/ethnic minorities, aversive racism is characterized by more complex, ambivalent expressions and attitudes nonetheless with prejudicial views towards other races. Aversive racism arises from unconscious personal beliefs taught during childhood. Subtle racist behaviors are usually targeted towards African Americans. Workplace discrimination is one of the best examples of aversive racism. Biased beliefs on how minorities act and think affect how individuals interact with minority members.
Occupational segregation is the distribution of workers across and within occupations, based upon demographic characteristics, most often gender. Other types of occupational segregation include racial and ethnicity segregation, and sexual orientation segregation. These demographic characteristics often intersect. While a job refers to an actual position in a firm or industry, an occupation represents a group of similar jobs that require similar skill requirements and duties. Many occupations are segregated within themselves because of the differing jobs, but this is difficult to detect in terms of occupational data. Occupational segregation compares different groups and their occupations within the context of the entire labor force. The value or prestige of the jobs are typically not factored into the measurements.
The representation of African Americans in speech, writing, still or moving pictures has been a major concern in mainstream American culture and a component of media bias in the United States.
Racism is a concern for many in the Western lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, with members of racial, ethnic, and national minorities reporting having faced discrimination from other LGBT people.
Racial stereotyping in advertising refers to using assumptions about people based on characteristics thought to be typical of their identifying racial group in marketing.
Homophobia in ethnic minority communities is any negative prejudice or form of discrimination in ethnic minority communities worldwide towards people who identify as–or are perceived as being–lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), known as homophobia. This may be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred, irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs. A 2006 study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the UK found that while religion can have a positive function in many LGB Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, it can also play a role in supporting homophobia.
Inequality in Hollywood refers to the various forms of discrimination and social inequality in the American media industry. There are many branches of the media industry, such as news, television, film, music, agencies, studios, to name some of the major players. In each one of these branches, there are many instances of inequality since Hollywood formed as the entertainment hub of America in the early 1900s.
Depictions of race in horror films has been the subject of commentary. Critics have discussed the representation of race in horror films in relation to the presence of racist ideas, stereotypes and tropes within them. The horror genre has conversely also been used to explore social issues including race, particularly following popularization of social thrillers in the 2010s.
Concepts of race and sexuality have interacted in various ways in different historical contexts. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race is understood by scientists to be a social construct rather than a biological reality. Human sexuality involves biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors.
The relationship between race and video games has received substantial academic and journalistic attention. Games offer opportunities for players to explore, practice, and re-enforce cultural and social identities. Because of the multifaceted cultural implications of video games, there may be issues of race involved in the player base, the creative process, or within the game's universe. Video games predominantly created and played by one racial group can unintentionally perpetuate racial stereotypes and limit players' choices to preconceived notions of racial bias, and issues of representation and harassment may arise in the industry and the player community.
The term "glass escalator" was introduced by Christine L. Williams in her article "The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the "Female" Professions" published in August 1992. The glass escalator refers to the way men, namely heterosexual white men, are put on a fast track to advanced positions when entering primarily female-dominated professions. It is most present in "pink collar" professions, such as those in hands-on healthcare work or school teaching. Feminized care professions often pay lower wages than stereotypically male professions, but males experience a phenomenon in which they earn higher wages and have faster career mobility when they enter feminine careers. This idea is akin to the more well-known idea of the glass ceiling, which explains the reality that women face when they fail to advance in the workplace. However, it has been found that men of minority backgrounds do not reap the same benefits of the glass escalator as men in the majority.
Identity safety cues are aspects of an environment or setting that signal to members of stigmatized groups that the threat of discrimination is limited within that environment and / or that their social identities are welcomed and valued. Identity safety cues have been shown to reduce the negative impacts impact of social identity threats, which are when people experience situations where they feel devalued on the basis of a social identity. Such threats have been shown to undermine performance in academic and work-related contexts and make members of stigmatized groups feel as though they do not belong. Identity safety cues have been proposed as a way of alleviating the negative impact of stereotype threat or other social identity threats, reducing disparities in academic performance for members of stigmatized groups, and reducing health disparities caused by identity related stressors.
According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), women and racial minorities are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Scholars, governments, and scientific organizations from around the world have noted a variety of explanations contributing to this lack of racial diversity, including higher levels of discrimination, implicit bias, microaggressions, chilly climate, lack of role models and mentors, and less academic preparation.
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"Non-white directors infiltrate the poll: Two by Edward Yang, plus Spike Lee, Ousmane Sembène, Jordan Peele, Djibiril Diop Mambéty, and Julie Dash, adding tokenism more than originality