21st Century Tokenism

Aug 23, 2010 @ 11:03 am | By TheFeministGriote | 1 Comment

“Tokenism does not change stereotypes of social systems but works to preserve them, since it dulls the revolutionary impulse.”-Mary Daly

Individualism use to be an ideal and goal that everyone use to strive for. Whether it was being the token Black guy/girl, the token homosexual, or the token nerd of the group no one I knew growing up felt comfortable be your token anything. Individualism use to be a sacred talisman that everyone treasured. When Dr. Laura went on her infamous N-word tirade on her show Dr. Laura highlighted, reminded, and further proved to people of color how those in the majority often think that we minorities are ALL the same. The majority seems to think that ALL Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Italians,Irish, gays, and any group that isn’t part of the the coveted majority are all one-size-fit all. Its as if people of color and those who identify with an alternative lifestyle are not individuals we are just part of a group and being part of that group corrodes the individual self and psyche which makes it acceptable for the majority to treat the “others” as a whole.

Now fast forward to the 21st century. We live in a society where everyone is a parody of themselves. Nikki Minaj has birthed a Barbie movement that has young Black girls/women dressing up an acting like real life Barbies. Montana Fishburne the daughter of famed actor Laurence Fishburne wants to be famous and wants to follow in the foot-steps of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton by having a sex tape. The only difference is Montana Fishburne staged her sex tape leak to further fuel her career in porno that she is trying to craft for herself, which to my knowledge Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton sex tapes were “leaked.” As our society evolves it appears the less we actually want to spend time cultivating our true selves. It is now chic to be a stereotype or a fraud. MTV’s show “The Real World” is a perfect example of how personalities have become so cookie-cutter. All one has to do is merely find a persona you like and adopt it as your own. “The Real World” usually has the token gay guy or girl, a country bumpkin who is extremely conservative, the jock, the playboy, the girl next door, and the sociable semi-cute girl who uses alcohol as an excuse to be her true promiscuous self. Not only are people openly applying to be the token and adopting stereotypes and wearing them like accessories people are now starting to collect these tokens within their social arena’s. It appears that every “fabulous” heterosexual female must have a gay best friend. This practice is so common and rampant among teen girls and adult women of all races that Teen Vogue wrote an article on the phenomena the title of the article is called “The gay best friend (gbf).” Carrie Bradshaw had a gbf, Nene from RHOA has a gbf, and of course who can forget the cult classic show “My so called Life” the character Angela Chase played by Claire Daines had Ricky her uber gbf that went into the girls restroom with all the other girls.

This tokenism is not only prevalent among straight women and gay men its also very active in the dating scene. I often find myself being treated like a caricature than a person. I have a shaved-head listen to socially conscious music/neo-soul so people automatically assume I am a vegetarian, that I burn incense all day, and quote Malcolm X.  Yes I am a staunch pro-Black woman, but I eat meat and also have a an affinity for pop-music. I have had men call me soul sister and fetishize me like I am some figure from their righteous Black porno fantasy. I feel like they’re not seeing me they’re seeing some warped version of what they think a “conscious Black woman” should be. This is problematic this type of rigid labeling and assumptions make it impossible to show my true self. I have even had female friends treat me like a token. As if I was their personal guru who had all the right answers about love, who always knew what was going on in the world and in politics, and I was being used as their proof that they weren’t as shallow as the general public thought they were because I was their resident Sister Souljah. I am not a scarf or the latest fall accessory. I am a human being who is fallible and who is constantly evolving.

It pains me every time I see a fraudulent relationship between straight girls and gay men. The relationship reeks of phoniness from a mile away. Both parties are pimping each other. The entire relationship is founded on a sick twisted need the straight girl depends on her gbf to upgrade her fashion sense and the gbf relies on straight girl as his personal doll and project that he can play dress up with. I have a bevy of gay men in my life and I never ever treat them like they’re on my personal glam squad. First off, I have loads of fashion sense and a very strong understanding of how I want to represent myself stylistically. I don’t need a fairy god-mother to help me get dressed for the ball. I think it is very sad and disgusting that more and more are forgoing real personalities and picking up masks. Human beings are not accessories and should not be treated as such. Human beings are beautifully complicated and we should embrace each others complications and individuality. People cannot be mass produced and for human consumption. We cannot allow mass media to dictate our human interactions.

Categories: Mind Over Chatter

One Response to “ 21st Century Tokenism ”

  1. Of course I agree…these days everyone acts as if they were on a reality show. Their pride levels are outrageously high, they overdress for the simplest occasions, and they amp up their personas to grandiose heights…its almost as if they truly believe there is a camera crew following them. We’re so used to celebs private lives being put on the forefront, that with sites like facebook and twitter…our lives are put out there as well, so people want to assume full-celeb status…thus the phoniness.
    And as reaction to putting up a front and entertaining the crowd…individuals end up submitting their true selves to stereotypes subscribed to, by the general public. As far as the correlation between gay males and straight females…I feel as if many women are in constant pursuit of “fabolousity” (as Kimora Lee would put it)…and gay men are just another make-up kit or pair of platform pumps that puts them closer to it. But of course their relationship is symbiotic…straight women wants, as you said before a “fairy god-mother”, and gay men get something out of the deal as well. Most gay men gravitate to attractive females…why?…because those females bring them closer to attractive (trade) males. I’ve known many gay dudes who admittedly latched unto straight girls because of the hotties they attract. You’re right its a disgusting trend…but then again we live in a world where everyone wants something from you…so is there a such thing as “real” person or friend?

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