I have decided to start a magazine/website to discuss how the representation of American and Latina women in the media affect young Latinas. I plan to divide my investigation surrounding these key questions:
- How are Latinas represented in the media and what cultural significance do these representations have?
- What is the fictitious Latina body?
- How does the Latin@ ideal differ from the dominant white ideal of beauty?
- What consequences does the appropriation and commodification of a utopian image of the Latina have on young Latina women?
- How can we rectify the representations of Latinas in the media?
- How has the body-image movement been filtered through a White perspective and how can women of color weigh in on the body-image debate?
Real Women Have Curves
If Latinas are not represented maids they are they are sexy foreign Vixens. We need only look at the Latinas in the media – Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Eva Mendez, Penelope Cruz, Selma Hayek, Shakira – to see the lack of body type diversity being represented. There is one token break in the narrative: American Ferrera. Who was the star of both Real Women Have Curves and later Ugly Betty. Real Women Have Curves was premiered at Sundance and won the Audience Award. It is a coming of age story of a young ambitious Latina girl who dreams of attending Colombia, but first must first deal with her clashing cultures and her self-image issues. The film is one of the few that has dealt with the issue of body image in a Mexican-American context.
Beauty Redefined Foundation
Beauty Redefined is a foundation that helps girls reject the harmful media messages. Two twin sisters who received PhDs in study of the image and body image started the foundation. Their blog was of particular interest to me, because it features articles that bring women of color into the discussion. In the article “Beauty Whitewashed: How White ideals Exclude Women of Color” (see link below) discusses how women of color are affected by media beauty ideals that not only champion extreme thinness but also whiteness. They discuss the lack of representation of women in the media and also go into the hegemonic representations that are available (they feature Sofia Vergara, Beyonce, Halle Berry to this end).
Diet Pepsi Skinny Can Fiasco
During Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York a couple years ago, Pepsi launched a new “taller sassier new Skinny Can” in “celebration of beautiful, confident women” and they feature Sofia Vergara – the curvy Latina – in an effort to show that all bodies are beautiful. Not only is Sofia supposed to champion a “diverse” body (they neglect to mention Sofia is a model!) but she is featured on the advertisements with a scarily thin arm. I found this problematic in many respects. First women like Sofia Vergara are becoming the “token” Latina image, an image that is still unattainable by many Latinas. Moreover, the fact that companies feature a “curvy” model but Photoshop her even thinner to match a Pepsi is not only perpetuating a message of negative beauty ideals, but it is packaging the message for Latina women.
Social Media Campaigns
Lets Talk About It
The National Organization for Women Foundation launched the Let’s Talk About It project, which encourages women to speak about their body image in a Vlog format. Through this video campaign all women, including women of color, are invited to discuss their body struggles and successes.
Redmund Amsterdam is a feminist collective that tackles the dominant white body ideal. They sponsor dialogues on the web and also host events/talks about the creation of imagery of women of color in the media. They recently hosted the Redmond Summer Event where they discussed issues of ethnicity, fashion, beauty ideals, and cultural appropriation through an intersectional perspective.
Here is there rad video promotion for that event:
and a link to an interesting article “Who’s Being Left Out” on their blog:
About-Face is also an organization that helps girls reject harmful media messages that may affect their body image. They are currently running a campaign that involves writing letters and emails to companies that have harmful advertisements and petitioning a change. However, this campaign does not mention issues of intersectionality.