I am a Latina woman. I am proud of my heritage and proud to be Hispanic. But I have noticed that the medias portrayal of Latina women is unfair and sexist, to say the least. I googled Latina, and you know what showed up?
Long, dark hair.
Sound like your average American woman? An executive? Maybe an attorney or a physician?
No. These are basic descriptors that define the Latina in media. Latinas are most often depicted as maids, or hair stylists, or just “arm candy” to a successful business man. A drug-dealer, if he is Hispanic, or an older, wealthy executive, if he is white. Apparently, the Latina never dates or - gasp - marries, an African-American or Asian. Or is a lesbian or transgender.
A typical Latina in the movies or on TV is urban, loud, nosy, curvy, flirtatious, uneducated, and works as a housekeeper or janitor, a waitress, a hairstylist, or a clerk. Young or older, she is likely to have many kids and/or a large family with whom she lives. Her husband or boyfriend is usually jealous, abusive, macho and a womanizer.
Both Hispanic men and women have fiery tempers and are clearly together because they are good lovers. The Latina man engages in occupations that range from gardeners or manual laborers to drug dealers if they are younger; older men tend to be gardeners, mechanics, or butchers. Few are educated; most, it seems, are immigrants who barely speak English.
The Latina is rarely seen as an educated, independent, strong, powerful woman at the top of her chosen field. Even actresses who are that way in reality—think Latina power-players Sophia Vergara, Eva Longoria or Jennifer Lopez — tend to play women who exemplify the stereotype, thus promoting and even condoning it. No matter the occupation, the Latina is always dressed in a suggestive way or behaves flirtatiously, no matter her age. She is rarely seen as an athlete, or honor student, or as an executive or high-level professional.
During her free time, the Latina in media tends to like to dance, drink - tequila, of course - and gossip about anyone and everyone. She tends to be dramatic: a telenovela diva who loves to cook and eat, and make trouble for anyone whom she thinks is treating her or her family unfairly. And, no matter what a louse her husband may be, she will stick to him because he is a good lover or good father, or he doesn't know any different. She is a saint and a sinner, devoted to a fault. Men love the Latina. Women, especially white women, are jealous of her beauty, of her comfortableness with her body and her curves, and of her natural sex appeal. While there are a few, newer movie and TV shows that portray Latinas as just women, not as a women who is Latina, most rely heavily on the stereotype.
This is unfair to Latinas overall. Because of these stereotypes, a Latina in business may not be seen for her skills or for her intelligence. A Latina in the military may not be seen as tough enough. Latinas may be seen as sexual beings and thus sexualized and harassed in the workplace. They may also be viewed as subservient and not independent or authoritative enough to hold a position of power. Women are often maligned for being the “weaker” sex. Latinas also have the added burden of being viewed as less intelligent, more devious, and more likely to use their feminine wiles to get what they want than their non-Latina sisters. In the future, hopefully the media will portray Latinas for who they are — women, imperfect, real, down-to-earth women, who hold a variety of jobs, who have a variety of hobbies, and who are authentic to their cultures yet independent in their thinking.