• October 9, 2006
  • Posted by Marc

Our Dialogue With Ken Miller of Tokion

Yesterday,  Ken Miller (the Editor and Chief of Tokion) and Sara and I exchanged a few emails about the comments we posted on the website over the weekend.

After speaking with Ken on the phone last night we both agreed that it would make a lot of sense to post the email exchange on the site so that people can get a better idea of where Ken is coming from.

Here’s goes:

To the Wooster Collective:

Before you rush to judgment…

Yoko Ono
Cindy Sherman
Sofia Coppola
Sam Taylor Wood
Nikki S Lee
Cecilia Dean
Nicole Phelps
Hope Atherton
Miranda July
Dana Schutz
Valerie Faris
Joanna Newsome
Elizabeth Peyton
Vivienne Westwood
Luella Bartley
Stella McCartney
Lance Still
Sally Mann
Cecily Brown
Tina Fey
Amy Sherman-Palladino
Amy Poehler
Carolyn Strauss
Inka Essenhigh
Amy Larocca
Sophie Wong
Nicole Phelps
Lucy McKenzie

Are just some of the women among the artists and creative professionals invited to speak at this year’s conference. Unfortunately, they were unable to attend, for a wide variety of reasons.

As that list shows, it isn’t hard coming up with talented women working in art, design, fashion, photography, film, new media, publishing and marketing. Which is why we have editorially supported many female creatives over the years. It is also why an inspection of our invite list for this year’s conference would show that it was balanced.

Nevertheless, I would like to STRONGLY emphasize that Tokion and Creativity Now doesn’t use considerations of gender, race, etc., as a factor for editorial consideration. We support people based on the fact that they’re doing great work. And we believe that creating a list of potential conference participants based only on their gender is quite literally patronizing to all of the incredibly talented panelists we did invite based solely on the merit of their personal achievements. If we were to now begin adding speakers based just on the fact that they were women, we would be insulting all of the women who were already invited based just on the great work they are doing.

I think it is important for us to be clear that the final speakers list we emailed out is simply a reflection of the reality of who was willing/available to confirm for the conference. We are a small, independent institution with limited resources, and the speakers at the conference are incredibly busy people who are donating their time. Because this is the case, sometimes some of the people we would like to have participate are not available. We do not pursue an agenda that deliberately excludes speakers because of gender, race, sexual orientation or any other factor beyond their availability, but we do not have a quota system for invitees, and we are opposed to the concept on both political and practical grounds.

In a perfect world, there would be an equality in gender, race, religion and sexual orientation on each panel, as their would be throughout all of the creative professions and in the world at large. We are disappointed that this equal representation will not be the case this year. But we remain the same magazine that has the singer/songwriter Becky Starck as a lead feature story in our current issue, had the actress Jena Malone on the cover of the previous issue and had a photograph by Nan Goldin on our previous cover, to site just a few recent examples among many.

We understand and share your concern about the composition of this year’s panelist list, and we sincerely hope that it will be a non-issue in years to come. But we would find it extremely regrettable that this dialogue might in any way create the impression that future panelists (or as-yet-to-be-announced panelists for this year’s conference) were chosen on the basis of their gender, race, or any other criteria beyond their personal work and accomplishments. And we would also hate for this debate to take away from the positive things that the current confirmed participants have contributed to the creative community.


Ken Miller
Editor In Chief

Here was our response:

Thanks very much for your note.

First, please understand that our opinion is not that Tokion as an organization is biased against women.  We’ve read Tokion for years and do indeed know that the magazine has for many years celebrated some amazing creative woman in its pages.

That’s why we - and a lot of other people - are so upset over the fact that Tokion is moving forward with this event on Saturday, knowing that they have not secured a single woman for a panel.

While we understand that Tokion attempted to have women on the panels, to say that you tried is just not enough for us.

It’s not the process that matters, it’s the results.

And in this case, the results are sending a message that is unacceptable for us - under any circumstances.

We feel that if you took this issue more seriously, you would understand that there are many things that Tokion could have done, and still can do, to rectify this situation.

1. Reach out to more woman.
2. Consider rescheduling the event.
3. Ask for assistance from people like us, the speakers themselves, other organizations, etc.

Our interest is in only one thing: Trying to compel you to change this situation between now and Saturday.  We have nothing against Tokion, only the conference itself.

We’d love for you to call us to discuss. Perhaps there are ways that we can help.  We’re home tonight at 212-6XX-6DDD. Mobile is 917-4SS-9DDD.

Also, please let me know if you would like me to post your note and our response?  Please let me know.  We’re home most of the evening.


Sara and Marc

To which Ken responded:

Sara and Marc,

Actually, there are going to be some women panelists, they just haven’t been announced yet because they were late confirmation. But it would be a pity if people got the impression that we invited them in response to the protest, rather than based on their work. It takes a long time to get anyone to agree to be in the conference (and this year we were in a scheduling conflict with the Frieze art fair), so everyone you see at the conference has been invited over the course of at least a month, and often, many months or even years.

Even with the inclusion of these speakers, the conference makeup will still not be anything close to ideal. My understand is, that being the case, your proposal is that we cancel the conference entirely and not have any kind of creative dialogue at all? That seems like a disappointing route to take.

But I understand your concern and I think your suggestions are reasonable. In fact, we already acted on a couple of them on our own.

> We feel that if you took this issue more seriously, you would understand that there are many things that Tokion could have done, and still can do, to rectify this situation.
> 1. Reach out to more woman.
We do take this very seriously, and we have reached out to a broad array of panelists at every stage of organizing the conference. I guess, at the end of the day, you can either choose to believe that or not…
> 2. Consider rescheduling the event.

As I mentioned in my last email, we are a small, independent institution, with a full time staff of only four people. Really a tiny blip on the cultural radar, when you think about it. We’d rather put on the event, have people discuss their frustrations with it and then try and make next year better. (And trust me when I say that we have a new list of frustrations, rewards and hopes for next year every time we do it.)
> 3. Ask for assistance from people like us, the speakers themselves, other organizations, etc.
We do. That is part of why I’m comfortable sending out that list of invitees - because every invitation has required the assistance of numerous people who can all corroborate that we have been working with an equitable invite list. It’s also a matter of necessity: we’re too small to be able to do this on our own.

But I do also want to be clear that we get very uncomfortable when it is suggested that we invite anyone based on their gender. We try to be fair - we really do - and that particular solution seems pretty unfair to everyone involved. So, while situation WILL be changing (slightly) between now and Saturday, it is not because we’re setting up a gender-specific screening system.

We’ve spent a fair time trying to come up with another solution and haven’t come up with one. If you can think of one that doesn’t involve a quota, I’m all ears. I’m not kidding when I say that - we’re at least as bummed about this as you are.

And yeah, feel free to post that last email and this one.


Then later…

Sara and Marc,

I’m remembering to mention one other point I forgot to say before… You suggested that we delay the conference. We actually DID delay announcing the speakers for the conference. We usually do it about a month in advance, and this year we did it about a week in advance. That was a decision that will probably cost us in terms of ticket sales, and as an independent magazine, that was a very difficult decision to make.

I really, really want to emphasize that I disagree with the idea of highlighting the additional panelists’ gender over their personal accomplishments. They were all part of a long list of invites we sent out at the same time. I hope they get equal treatment.

Again, thanks for your concern and your input. Feel free to send more,


To which we responded:

thanks Ken.  we’re having dinner in a few minutes at bond street sushi across from our house.  do you want to join us?  The one thing that I guess we’d say at this point is that we don’t see it as a problem to invite great women because they are women. i do know you want women represented there and I do understand that getting women on the panels may be difficult. but there are a lot of amazing women out there, as you know.

join us for a beer if you can.  our mobile number is 917-4d-9dd5.  Most likely we’ll be at the sushi bar for the next few hours.  marc is wearing a blue baseball cap.


So our hope is that this email exchange clarifies a couple of things for people.  We’re hoping to meet up with Ken for a beer later tonight to see if there are things that we can do to help.  The bottom line is that we want to support the Conference - we want it to be successful.  But we can’t support it until Tokion takes the issue more seriously and works around the clock to diversify the panelists.  There is still time.

Our suggestion to Ken - Create a new panel at the Conference specifically about this issue.  We’d even volunteer to moderate it. The panel would not be about Tokion or specifically about the Creativity Now Conference, but about the issues that are raised by this discussion..

More to come….