Job Search

What is Tokenism?

01 June

Montreal Careers - What is Tokenism?

Article by Fanny Journeau, HR at MA


As part of Pride Month and the work we do as the Sexuality group of Kaleidoscope, we thought to address the topic of Tokenism towards the queer community – have a good read


What is Tokenism?

Tokenism is the practice of only making a symbolic effort to help a group of people who are treated unfairly in society, but which is not meant to make changes that would help that group in a lasting way.


How does this manifest?

In the business world, tokenism would be a company that advertises diversity for the sake of sounding diverse, without actually being inclusive.

A similar concept is queerbating, which refers to fictions (films, series…) in which creators hint at, but do not actually depict LGBTQ+ representation.


What are examples of tokenism & queerbating?

This practice, grew out of a response to desegregation laws (especially in the US) wherein an employer would hire one black employee for a basic, low-wage job in order to give the appearance that they were acting in accordance with the law.

It could also be advertising a company’s logo with the pride flag during pride month or pride week, without doing anything to educate on the subject the rest of the year.


In the entertainment industry, this is often manifested through the act of portraying stereotyped versions of queer characters:

A stereotyped gay man would be portrayed as emotional, who mainly cares about fashion and is useless in fights or stressful situations.

Queer people are often put into one of these categories:

For men: the gay best friend/ the sissy (Ken - Toy Story 3), creepy/psycho person (silence of the lamb), the assistant obsessed with their boss ( Gaston in beauty and the beast or Mister Burns and Smithers in The Simpsons)

On the other hand, lesbians are often portrayed as physically strong (Thor: Ragnarok - Valkyrie), who hate fashion & dresses. They are either characterized as rebel or evil (Ursula – The little mermaid).



What is the impact of tokenism?

Tokenization dehumanizes and builds stereotypes. Due to lack of knowledge, the representation of the group is only one dimensional and puts aside lived experiences that are multifaceted and unique. It is also misleading, since it gives the impressions that a business or a film is inclusive when it is actually participating to stigmatization and potentially harming the community.


How does MA try to avoid tokenism?

By working on educating, celebrating and promoting all year around:

  • 1st of December 2021 - World AID’s day: Tik Tok Videos about HIV 
  • 14th of February 2022: Flags, Cupcakes and Drinks event to learn about the meaning of the flags 
  • 31st of March 2022 – Trans Visibility day: Bingo Trans story themed Bingo
  • 17th of May 2022 – International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: Beach Tennis & Mini Golf Fund raise for queer charities
  • June 2022 – Pride Month: Article about Tokenism – Sexuality Spectrum Documentary viewing – Visit to Queer Museum – Pride Parade hang out




Cambridge Dictionary

On the impact of business tekenism

On US origin

On queerbating


Related articles to What is Tokenism?

Hidden Blogs

Don't see your role?

Don’t worry we are always on the lookout for great talent in a range of positions, just upload your CV and we’ll get back to you!