By Cassie Rodriguez
“We want more actors of color in roles that don’t continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes.” – Gina Rodriguez
A few weeks ago, I was asked to research tweets pertaining to my topic of sexualization of Latinas in mass media. When searching #latina or just latina, many pornographic images popped up, which is truly disturbing and disappointing. This further proves that Latinas are ruthlessly oversexualized whether we like it or not.
When searching “latina stereotype,” many tweets showed outrage and disappointment over how Latinas continue to be stereotyped in the media and how often times, these stereotypes do not represent the Latina population as a whole.
The long-standing root of all problems when it comes to the misrepresentation of Latina/Hispanic women in media comes from archetypes and stereotypes often used in media. These stereotypes are often seen in one of three forms:
- The old maid/abuela who can’t speak english (Consuela, Family Guy, Flor, Spanglish, etc. ) In the 1980s, the long-used black housekeeper “Beulah” stereotype began to be replaced by elderly Latinas representing domestic workers. Late actress Lupe Ontiveros estimated that she played a maid over 150 times on television and other media. (race relations.about.com)
- The sex-crazed, submissive Coke bottle-shaped “take me now!” seductress. This stereotype arguably proves most problematic due to the effects it has on the way Latina women are viewed and treated. The more we present Latinas as sex objects, the more Latina women find themselves objectified and unheard- not taken seriously as a result of the media’s idea that we are only good for one thing.
- Spicy. Fiery. Temper, temper, temper. This stereotype enforces the idea that Latina women cannot control their anger, and have short fuses and are likely to make drastic, irrational decisions and definitely make a scene. This is very similar to the “ghetto” stereotype media and society has placed on African- American women when they are angry. I once had a friend who told me she almost felt like she “wasn’t allowed” to get angry in public without the accusation of her being ghetto. This is a feeling I started to encounter as I got older, late teens/early twenties. It sometimes feels like Latina women cannot get angry without immediately being written off as “irrational” and “crazy.” Oh, don’t take her seriously. She’s just spicy. You know how they are.
The main problem with these stereotypes (the second and third ones in particular) is the impact it can make on young Hispanic/Latina girls who view this media. What happens when a generation of girls are given the notion that they are expected to be sexy, perfect, submissive and dirty? This is a toxic environment that we are creating for our girls and it can really hurt them in the long run. Living with these expectations can often times lead to girls trying anything they can to speed their development, look more like adults and desperately seek acception by their peers. With this idea in mind, girls also give in to sex earlier because that is what they believe they are supposed to do. All of this inevitably will lead to the surrender of childhood, and growing up way too fast. What’s at stake is their self esteem and linking of their self-worth to their looks and more specifically, their sexiness. This means we could potentially create a generation of girls who lack self-confidence and devalue themselves if they don’t fit the mold.
Other Twitter reactions spoke words of encouragement to today’s Latina youth, and understood that the current model of Latina representation is potentially dangerous.
Solution? Yes please.
One of the best ways we can avoid the broad stereotyping and negative images of Latina women in media is by creating more inclusive roles for Latinas that have a much more dynamic range. Shows like Ugly Betty with America Ferrera and Jane the Virgin with Gina Rodriguez do a great job of putting Latinas in a positive light in the sense that these characters are NOT any of the stereotypes we are so used to seeing. We need to let young Latinas know that it is okay to be awkward. It is OKAY to be weird or like reading over makeup and yes, it is okay to say no. And it is okay to get angry. You are allowed to have feelings and you should never feel the need to fit some oversexualized idea America (and the world) seems to have about women of color. Hispanic/Latin heritage is something to be celebrated and proud of, and the day we can tell our girls that they are “Latina enough” just by being themselves is the day we can start building a better, more inclusive future.
More importantly, having positive roles in the media that are non-stereotypical opens up a world of better representation and opportunities for Latinas.
“The only thing separating women of color is opportunity.”- Viola Davis
#Latina #LatinaStereotypes #latinasinmedia