Tokenism and Bridging the Gap
In a world in which we have global icons of most hues and persuasions, it is easy and quite dangerous to assume that every discipline is without prejudice. Unfortunately, it is a tangible reality to many that they will never be able to truly compete within the creative industries, because of the socio-cultural biases against them: whether based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality or indeed any persuasion that might cause you to tick a 'different' box on an NHS form. Thankfully, in light of this, there are some that are using their powers for good - and this is where Sara Jafari’s zine Token comes in to play.
Token is a purposeful and pointed name choice for the creative-writing based tome, but don’t overthink it; it’s simply for those tokenised. If you are unfamiliar with the term then you might gather a better idea if you look at any of the media, television and films you saw regularly while you grew up and note the lack of diversity between the stock minority characters that filter through them and their lack of place within the core story arcs. This isn’t about polarising any views or being alarmist, it’s about creating a space to tell the stories that haven’t been told yet in a relatable way. In an accessible way.
Thinking contemporarily one cannot ignore that, finally, western media is beginning to acknowledge all of its inequalities and so it is encouraging to see that in a more localised level someone is doing the same. Jafari herself, an Iranian lass from Kingston-upon-Hull by way of Brighton is simply trying to facilitate for other like minded storytellers what has been scarce to find up to this point; a platform.
It is an interesting concept to explore and one that is certainly overdue. Stories that illustrate a non-stereotypical or more candid view within a different social group are only just beginning to be told. It shouldn’t be groundbreaking that Issa Rae’s HBO series portrays black people as a main supportive cast to a major audience. And with that said, barring sitcom icon Will & Grace, what show illustrates being gay without the pitfalls of rampant casual sex and drug use? And that’s on television that is comparatively better represented than the literature that does get published.
It seems that our generation is collectively sick of having to try to fit into the rigid exoskeletons that have been left for us by the Yuppies and baby boomers and thus there is, thankfully, a growing swell of drive to create something new. Thoughts, words actions and zines like Token are just the beginning of a welcome step toward more representative reading.
- Words: Nicholas Hayden