When we talk about representation, we must be able to determine what constitutes as such. Representation is having x at every aspect of the operation. It is about acknowledging that different life experiences build a different understanding of a topic. Tokenism on the other hand is when x is used as a token of diversity, meaning they are often only visible in advertising materials.
As consumers, the visible difference between tokenism and representation is hard to determine - and that is the problem. Tokenism serves as a hologram, where no further action is taken to improve representational efforts - you can see it externally, but internal representation within x organisation or institution is not real.
I write this to point out that representation is not a trend. It’s not a hot topic. It is not something that you discuss and then discard like other corporate initiatives. It should feel natural and it must be effortless. It should not be utilised as a catalyst to boost one's image.
Representation seems to be accepted when it comes to knowledge, but not when it comes to lived experiences. Additionally, it seems to stop applying when it comes to personal matters such as one's personal identity. Therefore, is it important to note that representation is more than a word. It’s not just about gender identity, race or orientation. It’s about lived experience, economic class and more.
As consumers, we should not fall into false representation traps, as difficult as they may be to notice them. You should be conscious, particularly when it comes to buying from your favourite designer or when picking up your go-to publication. Dig deeper. Try to find answers. When you see people of colour in advertising materials, ask yourself - who contributed in the story telling and direction of the advertisement? Look for those in decision making roles. When we see a plus-sized model on the catwalk, ask yourself - who designed the clothes? Do they understand a plus sized body? What sizes do they go up to?
These are pivotal questions we must constantly ask ourselves because it is important that we are able to identify authentic stories. Representation is not a trend. To honour the true meaning of representation, we must study the history of each region and its landscape. We must study societal and cultural differences and most importantly, we must acknowledge that lived experience is an integral part of the process.