When I was in journalism school I was one of just two Maori students in the class and it earned me an award for best bi-cultural reporting.

Not only that, but the sole Pacific Island student in our class literally won an award for best Pacific Island student in a show of tokenism so blatant we just had to laugh at it.

But of course, it's not that funny. Tokenism is a real problem, and it's a word that was thrown around a lot this awards season, particularly following Monday's Oscars ceremony.

Yes, the Oscars had its issues: Despite the #MeToo and #TimesUp furore at the Golden Globes, everyone at the Oscars seemed to have busted out their brooms to collectively sweep it quietly back under the red carpet.


A straight, white man hosted again and made all kinds of jokes about the lack of diversity in Hollywood as if he wasn't part of the problem.

Others accused the Oscars of tokenism when it dished out awards to LGBT films and people of colour but the main acting awards still went to white people.

But here's the thing about tokenism. Sometimes it's blatant and undeniable, like when you give the only Pacific Island person an award for being the best Pacific Island person.

Sometimes though, you have to take a step back because what often feels like tokenism can actually be the beginning of representation.

Sure, the best acting awards went to white actors. But none of them were undeserved.

Also, three of the five women nominated for best actress, and all five women nominated for best supporting actress were over 40. Alison Janney, who won best supporting actress is 58 and Frances McDormand, who won Best Actress is 60.

It was McDormand who rallied all the women in the room to stand up, and who implored her colleagues to employ inclusion riders to ensure diversity in their projects.

Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig was the first female director nominated in eight years (and just the fifth in Oscar's 90-year history). And of the other directing nominees, one was African-American and one Mexican.

Guillermo del Toro won that award, and his film The Shape of Water picked up the top award for best picture - a movie about a mute woman, a misunderstood outsider who is feared because he's different, and an overarching message of acceptance.

A man ushered the stars off stage instead of the usual female model and Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph got the most laughs of the night when they called Hollywood out on being #sowhite.

In the awards, a trans story (A Fantastic Woman) won best foreign language film; a gay love story (Call Me By Your Name) won best adapted screenplay and an African-American horror story (Get Out) won best original screenplay, making Jordan Peele the first African-American to win that award, ever.

So yes, they could've talked more about Weinstein and #MeToo, but when they did it at the Globes they were accused of tokenism then, too - all talk and no real action.

They had a specially planned Times Up montage during the Oscars and that was it because, in the words of Tarana Burke, the founder of MeToo: "It's not a gimmick. We have real work to do".

In the real world, the movement is actioning real change; they're working on legislation changes, campaigning for pay parity and they've created a legal defense fund of more than $28 million to help less privileged women and have taken on 1000 cases so far.

Trust me, I know it often feels like people are doing the bare minimum and often it's hard to draw the line between representation and tokenism. I'm not saying we should be grateful for any scrap of representation we get, because lord knows that representation is often problematic - brown kid with gang ties or funny fat woman, anyone? - but we have to start somewhere.

Think about how Will and Grace and Queer Eye paved the way for Looking and The L Word, how Sex and the City paved the way for Girls and Insecure, or how we've finally reached a point where most new productions are going out of their way to include people of colour, LGBT people and women with actual storylines and who don't all look the same.

Again, sometimes tokenism is what it is. Like when JK Rowling decides a minor character from Harry Potter is suddenly gay or Jewish, or gives her one Asian character a name which doesn't make sense, proving Cho Chang was just there for the sake of being there.

What I'm saying is, let's take a minute to step back and decide which is which, and hopefully along the way, take a minute to recognise how far we've come.