Drawbacks of the Curvy Latina Stereotype

With the growing body positivity movement, the “women come in all shapes and sizes” mantra has been voiced both in everyday conversations and in the mainstream media. But with just a glance at Hollywood’s leading ladies, it’s clear that the catchphrase doesn’t apply to Latinas.

The sensual curves of Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Salma Hayek have created a curvy, sexy stereotype of Latinas, leaving many who don’t measure up, and even those who do, dissatisfied with their bodies.

“It’s a Latino mystique,” said body image author, teacher and speaker Rosie Molinary. “It has become the storyline for Latinas and creates an incredible pressure whether or not [they] are close to fitting it”.

The voluptuous Latina stereotype has become an ideal among Latina youth. And like all beauty standards, this curvy ideal keeps Latinas paying for products and services that are marketed to help them reach the unattainable ideal.

“The whole point of standards is to keep us as consumers. The more that we feel a level of unrest with our appearance, the more effort we would put into an ideal; and the more effort we put into fitting an ideal, the more we consume,” said Molinary, whose book “Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing up Latina” highlights Latina body image in America.

Many people believe that because the curvy ideal celebrates thighs that touch, it must be healthier than the more common white, thin ideal. But according to co-founder of Beauty Redefined, a non-profit that aims to redefine ideas of beauty and health, Lindsay Kite, the curvy ideal affects Latinas just as much as the thin ideal affects their white peers.

“The curvy ideal values thinness just the same, but Latinas have to meet those other ideals too: big behinds and big breasts,” said Kite. “That contributes to eating disorders just as much as the thin ideal does.”

The results of a survey by Self Magazine in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill show that three out of four American women have disordered eating behaviors.

Latinas have historically been left out of eating disorder research, leaving researchers with the assumption that Latinas and other minorities were less likely to suffer from disordered eating. But recent studies have found that Latinas have eating disorders and body image concerns at rates similar to those of white women.

And according to Kite, women who are closest to the curvy ideal are at the same risk of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction as those Latinas who seem to be the farthest from the ideal.

“Girls and women who are often closest to those ideals are the people who feel the farthest away. They’re the most critical of themselves … because they are valued primarily for their appearance,” said Kite.

That’s why Kite believes it’s important for young girls to surround themselves with positive, less critical people.

She suggests that girls make friends with people who aren’t critical of themselves and other girls’ or women’s bodies and who aren’t preoccupied with their looks.

But not all Latinas are interested in the curvy ideal.

Dana Heymann, 16, has no desire to look like Jennifer Lopez. But the young, slim, fair-skinned, light-eyed Argentine is miffed over the stereotype that tells her she’s not really Latina because she’s not so bootylicious.

“I am full Latina, but I don’t fit the stereotype of curvy or anything, and I don’t really like that stereotype that every Spanish girl has to be curvy because, no, that’s not true,” said Heymann. “It sometimes just slips my mind, and I’m like ‘wait I am Spanish.’ I sometimes think it’s because of the way I look. I’m not tan, I don’t have curly hair, I don’t have the big butt or big boobs.”

Heymann, unfortunately, is not the only young girl questioning the validity of her ethnicity because of the limited representations of Latinas in the media.

When researching for her book, Molinary spoke with a host of Latinas who all felt restricted by the fact that there was just one working Latina for a handful of Latino countries. They hoped for a wide scope of working Latinas who could illustrate to both Latinos and non-Latinos the range of Latina beauty.

Molinary believes that putting Latinos in decision-making positions could help remove the curvy stereotype.

“There’s a significant amount of diversification that needs to take place in Hollywood. On the screen is great, but I would argue that it’s even more important behind the scenes. There needs to be someone to say ‘this is not OK,’” said Monlinary.

Molinary’s call for diversity is important because she believes that young girls must understand that bodies of all shapes, sizes and colors are beautiful.

Here are three strategies Kite believes will help young girls on their path to fighting unreal beauty ideals:

1. Surround yourself with positive people: Our friends and peers can have a big influence on how we feel about our bodies, so try to spend time with people who aren’t critical of themselves or other girls’ and women’s bodies. At the same time, do your best to stop saying negative things about your body out loud. When a friend or family member makes a negative comment about her body, remind her that she’s beautiful. Set a goal with her to recognize when you’re saying negative things, and stop yourself by replacing it with a compliment for yourself or someone else.

2. Go on a media fast: Choose a day, a week, a month or longer to steer clear of as much media as you can. That way, you can see how your life is different without all of those messages and images; and when you return to viewing and reading popular media, you will be more sensitive to the messages that hurt you and those that are unrealistic. Tuning out of media will help girls better recognize what real bodies look like all around them and the wide variety of bodies that are considered attractive and desirable in their own lives.

3. Be critical of the media, not yourselves or others: We need to feel an obligation to put media under closer inspection for the influence it has in our lives. Next time you are flipping through a magazine or watching a movie, train yourself to ask important questions about what you see. If you don’t like the answers you find, remember you can turn away from the messages that hurt you. Ask yourself:

  • Do you feel better or worse about yourself when viewing or hearing this media? Do you believe the females in your life would feel better or worse about themselves after viewing or hearing this media?
  • Who is advertising in these pages or on this screen? (Look for ads and commercials, and you’ll see who is paying the bills for your favorite media messages)
  • Who owns the TV show, movie, magazine, video game or website you are viewing? (Research the company and its owners and you’ll find out who the powerful decision-makers are behind the scenes of your media of choice)
  • Is the media you read and view promoting real health or impossible ideals meant to make you spend money and time? Who are those messages promoting impossible ideals usually speaking to?
  • How are women and girls presented here? Are they valued for their talents and personality? Do they look like the females in your life? Which body types are presented as beautiful or desirable?

Career Spotlight: Medical Professional

From la pisca, manual labor to a successful PhD in Nurse Practice, Beatriz Bautista is an exemplary role model, not just for Latinas, but to all women.

Can you tell us more about your background?

I’m from Edinburg, TX but spent most of my childhood in Idaho. My grandparents came to this country thanks to the Bracero Movement, and I grew up with them picking seasonal crops, such as onions, apples and cherries.

What was your childhood like?

(smiles while reminiscing) I remember at 16 years old, besides going to school, I was driving those big trucks that have all of the apples and crops.

Having no background in the medical field, what made you choose this career?

Yes, I am a first generation student and I had no idea what I wanted to be. I wanted to help sick people. I was hungry for knowledge. I came to understand and told myself if you want something you have to work for it.

When I graduated high school, my grades weren’t the best, but then I enrolled in University and learned that if you work hard for your grades, school becomes easier and easier. I first enrolled in a Gen Ed, program because I was undecided, then I knew what my vocation was.
Who is your personal role model?
My tia, she is a LVN, licensed vocational nurse, and worked as a public health nurse. She also did medical translations; she was one of the few Latinas in the medical field in Idaho that spoke Spanish. I appreciated how solicited she was, being bilingual made her worth for 2.

Has being latina and a woman ever been an obstacle for you?

For me being a latina is something you wear proud, you have the gift of diversity. Knowing two languages makes you worth for 2. Latinas are known for loyalty and their charisma, as well as nurturing and sensitive individuals, once you know how to appreciate your culture it should make you fearless and stoppable.

Do you have any advice for young girls who are interested in the medical field?

Work on your GPA, if you have good grades a lot of doors will open, not to mention the endless opportunities that are available; scholarships, work-study. If you struggle with science, biology and math, my suggestion is to get tom know your teacher better. They are there to help you, especially if you show an interest or curiosity for the medical field.

There are also programs that offer help and guidance in the field, such as HOSA and Med-Ed, you can also volunteer at a hospital.
Hispanic parents, especially if you are a first generation student like myself, may not value education as much and want their kids to be working right away. I tell you, YOU CAN DO BOTH! Through out my education I was always working, I paid for my studies; there was a point in my life where I was 3 professions: a nurse, a student and a mother. Don’t loose focus, and you will find success. A lot of Latinas come from households where the parents do not understand how important an education is.

Do you have a personal story or anecdote that you would like to share with our readers?

When I was accepted in University, I was afraid. I felt a lot of responsibility, being the first person in my family to go to University. My grandfather has always believed in me, which also made me nervous and afraid to fail and let him down. But at the same time it made me stronger and fearless. I needed to prove myself that I could do it. After I got my first A in college, everything else seemed to make sense and I started getting more and more As. I think it helped that I was always hungry for knowledge; I was passionate about what I was doing.

You have been awarded Nurse Practitioner of the Year and now hold a PhD, what is next?

I want to get my Menopause Certification, NCMP, specialize in this hormonal change that a lot of Latinas and just women in general do not understand. I want to be there for them during these hard times, and help them understand what they are going through and get through it better.

 

Dr.Bettyis available for mentoring and to answer any questions you may have on the field.

 

Please contact the author to get in touch with Dr.Bautista.

Traditional Dating

There are common stereotypes that Mexican families have strong conservative traditions when it comes to dating. One common stereotype is dating within one’s culture.

It may have been like this a long time ago specifically for our grandparents and great-grandparents during a time where things were more traditional, and the world wasn’t so modern.  As a 22 year-old Latina I can say first hand that things have changed tremendously, at least for my family. Times have changed and my parents have coped with things they were not used to when they were my age. I constantly hear from my parents how strict it was when they were growing up.

When love and culture clash:
It all comes down to your family, and how easy they are on coping with traditional change. If a family is really close to their rural Mexican roots, they will have their own set of customs such as going out in a group, instead of alone with the date. For example, in Mexico, one common expectation is getting the father’s approval since he is the head of the household. For women, the guidelines are more strict because the father is letting their little girl  go off with another man.

Debora Hernandez, a senior at the University of California, Riverside stated, “As an individual you always want to please your parents and make them proud, but I have always been very independent and moved to the beat of my own drum.”

Victoria Servin, an editorial-translator intern for Latinitas and Linguistics and Translation student at the University of Texas at El Paso, explains how she followed her mother’s wishes, “Personally I didn’t want a boyfriend in high school so it didn’t really bother me too much. I never really felt the need to rebel against my parents and I didn’t do it out of spite, I guess I just agreed.”

In Mexico, your family is your biggest dating pressure.

Essentially, you are not only dating the man/woman, but you are dating the family; almost becoming part of the family in which they expect you to hold conservative values. Another common conception is that girls are not officially allowed to date until they turn 15, the age they become a woman and have the option to have a quinceañera.

When asked about dating in high school at a young age, Victoria Servin stated, “My mother didn’t want me to have a boyfriends because she didn’t want me to fall under the hispanic teen pregnancy statistic. She wanted me to go to school, or travel, she didn’t want me to date anyone.”

Today the Mexican-American culture is really not much different from other cultures in the U.S. Like all concerned parents, my parents did have some influence over who I dated. They wanted to meet them and learn more about them, rather than “I’m going out with so and so.” And questions most parents ask, “Where did you meet him?” “What does he study?” “How old is he?” etc.

On the other hand, some parents are less eager to want to meet every person their daughter dates.  Servin comments, ”Most mexican moms want to know who you go out with, my mom doesn’t want to meet anyone; I think it’s because no matter who I date, it’s not going to be good enough.”

Today, women are also seen as more independent and as  the breadwinners of the house. Melissa Garcia, a graduate from the University of California, Riverside states, “I think my parents main concern is that I date someone that can support me, but as a 2012 Latina, that is not needed anymore. I think I am capable of fending for myself.”

We all have different experiences especially since we all come from different backgrounds. What are yours?

Music Review: Jessy J’s ‘Hot Sauce’

Jessica Spinella, also known as Jessy J, is an emerging Latina musician.

Her father is from Mexico and her mother is from Texas. She began playing the piano and the saxophone at a very young age and went on to studying jazz at the University of Southern California. After graduating, she toured with artists such as Michael Bublé.

‘Hot Sauce’ is her third album, which displays more of a Latino vibe. Paul Brown, a smooth jazz legend, is the producer for the majority of the album. Together, they blend several sounds and rhythms, creating an electric performance. The album also features several musicians such as Joe Sample, Harvey Mason and Gregg Karukas.

‘Remember The Night’ is the first track on the album and it showcases Jessy J playing the saxophone. It is an upbeat track that transports you to the streets of Latin America. Tracks such as ‘Hot Sauce’ make you connect to Jessy J’s Latin roots, and the salsa feeling that compliments it gives you an urge to dance. There are certain tracks that have a slower beat, such as ‘Rio Grande.’ It starts out with smooth sounds and harmonizes between two saxophones.

This album is full of great smooth jazz. For those who prefer some sort of vocals, have a listen to ‘In A Sentimental Mood.’ With Saunders Sermon on vocals, this song is fascinating and extremely catchy. If you have never been a fan of jazz, give this album a chance; you might change your mind. It’s a great album to have on your iPod, and Jessy J is a musician to keep an eye on.

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