Everything is fake-deep nowadays.
For years, the lack of diversity in the outdoors has been put on full display—TV, magazines, social-media, you name it— where it is still heavily dominated by white people. Every time I lurk on some outdoor brands social media platform, I can’t help but laugh when I read their bio because it usually says those two words that make me cringe: inclusive community. Then, I proceed to look at their work and once again it is nothing but a sea of white people complimented by a drowning tokenized minority. You know…….. tokenism.
So, what exactly is it?
To really break it down for you:
Tokenism, is nothing but lip service to diversity. It is when brands say that they are inclusive, yet they merely give the illusion by displaying a small number of underrepresented groups.
Still don’t get it?
Let me give you an example: Next time you’re scrolling through one of your favorite outdoor social media platforms (with the exception of REI, because I freaken love them) take a look at their feed, is it as diverse and inclusive as they announce it to be?
Right now you’re probably thinking: Yeah, they have a black person, and an asian person too, Oh, no, they actually have two black people ! See ! See! Their inclusive !
That my friend, is tokenism.
When a brand chooses to only display a small number of minorities it achieves its goal of simply casting an illusion. It tokenizes minorities and/or underrepresented groups by showcasing:
that one token black person or
that one token asian person or
that one token hispanic person.
Get the picture?
When that one token minority appears, they usually carry, “the burden of representation,” which means that they are simply serving as a symbol to represent an E-N-T-I-R-E community.
Now, don’t get me wrong when it comes to tokenism intent is the driving factor and not ALL brands tokenize minorities. There are some outdoor brands out there that really want to be diverse, inclusive, and representative of all races, genders, sexual-orientations, etc., but they just don’t know how. So, here are three tips that I devised that will effectively diversify your outdoor brand.
TIP #1: Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out
If there is one thing I’ve learned about society, it is the inherent fear that so many people have when it comes to speaking to someone who is different from them. So many people have lost the value of having a conversation of going beyond a simple hello. Reaching out to someone who is different from you does not have to be hard. For instance, I’ve had three people within the last month DM me on instagram asking me how they can diversify their brand and If I was willing to collaborate with them. Those three people were complete strangers, yet their intent was pure and they had a deep desire to work with and showcase underrepresented groups. By simply reaching out to me we were able to forge new friendships, understand each other at more than just face-value, and we both benefited by gaining access to each others various networks.
TIP #2: Chime In On The Conversation By Disconnecting To Connect
Yes, I understand social media is H-U-G-E, but don’t substitute face to face interaction for the virtual world. If you truly want to work on diversifying your brand while still honoring inclusivity and representation than you have to be willing to educate yourself about underrepresented groups. Attend events or seminars in your area that hold open discussions about matters that speak to you, and learn to build relationships with people who are different from you. By doing this, you are literally opening yourself up to the world and forming connections. In return, you learn a transferrable skill: the ability to talk and connect with people who are different from you, and you can now apply that to your brand when targeting your new audience.
Tip #3: Representation Matters, But So Does Intention
Your brand is a depiction of yourself…..when people view your brand you are revealing your true intentions. If your brand solely focuses on catering to white people then just go ahead and own up to it and state that in your mission/vision statement, but if you are truly genuine when it comes to diversifying your brand then you have to be willing to change your intentions. To truly diversity your brand YOU have to be committed to inclusivity. It is SO much more than just posting a few underrepresented groups on your website. Truly start immersing yourself in different cultural experiences and start treating people as individuals rather than a potential token.
I hope my three tips will help in some way, shape, or form.
So, with all that said, I will leave you with this: Diversify your life and your brand will augment that.