Tokenism Takes a New Form
Tokenism is an awkward thing to experience.
So, it started when a Random House marketing manager sent a ham-handed email. She asked if I’d like to read and share The Trying Game as part of October’s ceremonial Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. However, rather than offer consolation and solace, this book and the way it treats women in our shoes triggered and left me sad. Discarded. Ghosted.
Tokenism From the ‘Mommy Club’
The Trying Game Reveals Tokenism, published on Medium explains how and why.
My thinking and writing behind this piece took on greater clarity after a phone chat with Jody Day. Our discussion brought into focus the pronatal forces in our society. My book response, Jody affirmed, was to be expected.
I expressed my frustration at the one-dimensional way women like Jody, Lisa Manterfield, Dr. Marni Rosner, and so many of us are portrayed — not just in this book, but in society more broadly. We discussed how tokenism creates the impression of social inclusiveness and diversity in order to deflect accusations of discrimination.
By the way: how many of you have experienced this in your social interactions?
Time to Ask For More
“Jody,” I said, “squeezing us into the last chapter felt just plain weird.”
Perhaps the better editorial decision, I suggested, would have not to include us at all. That would have eliminated the tokenism and the odd treatment.
Jody took a different view. She proposed that this was, in fact, a step forward as we’d normally not enter the equation at all. Rather, this presented an opportunity to ask for more.
Brilliant, as always!
First Step: Acknowledge the Problem
That said, I sat down and wrote the following:
“Infertility and childlessness complexities (and the multi-billion-dollar industry that surrounds them) are immense. We need more daylight on these topics and the unproven treatments sold to women.
Those of us in Generation IVF are learning as we go to address the cultural misunderstandings and judgements in the trying times we now live. We recognize that in the balance of probability, childless outcomes — circumstantial, social, biological — are increasing and deserve more space and more context. We need this not simply in this book, but in reporting, culture, and research more broadly.”
Furthermore, I’d like to emphasize that this problem is particularly intractable in the United States. I’ve noticed, in my research and conversations, that other countries show a greater willingness to apply a critical eye.
Let me add that finding a home for this piece was not an easy lift. That’s because the ‘mommy-club’ prevalent in the United States today, by and large, act as the gatekeeper in many publishing houses, magazines, and production houses, deciding what does and does not get published and produced. Kudos then to Anangsha Alammyan, editor of Books Are Our Superpower, based in Guwahati, India, for greenlighting this piece.
Welcome your thoughts.