As we know, mainstream media is infamous for propagating images of unattainable beauty ideals. Positive image campaigns have been born in response to the problem, but their voices continue to be silenced. Campaigns that do have a platform to be noticed, like Seventeen Magazine’s Positive Image campaign, are sponsored by the same organizations that perpetuate the idealized images. For this reason, these campaigns are not offering a real diversification of the images of women. In addition, the voices of women of color are being silenced even within the framework of positive body Image campaigns. In addition to dealing with the Media’s ideals Women of Color, and Latinas in particular, must deal with conflicting cultural ideals. In Latin culture, women of color are expected to be thicker and curvaceous. The two conflicting ideals have additional effects of women of color, and statistics show that the accounts of eating disorders has grown heavily in the Latina population in the last decade. Despite these facts, the battle against eating disorders and the media’s portrayal of women continues to be a white women’s issue.
This lack of intersectionality could also be found in the 80’s growing queer movement. As the movement for gay men grew in San Francisco, the voices of gay black men remained silenced. For this reason, Marlon Riggs focused his work on the lack of representation of the subculture of homosexual Black males. According to Marlon Riggs mainstream media works by “silencing a minority’s attempt at ending its subjugation”.
In line with Riggs approach I hope to bring light to women of colors’ perspective about thin ideals in the media. Riggs understood that in order to represent his subculture in the media he needed to showcase the voices of the community. He also wanted to showcase voices in a way that is both playful and striking. In line with his technique, I hope to create a magazine issue that features the voices of women of color, offers resources that feature women of colors’ perspective, and informs audiences about the lack of women of colors’ inclusion in the positive body movement.
According to Gregg Bordowitz, minority communities “who may not fit the image of what advertisers want television viewers to imagine as the kind of people who want a particular product is excluded from the field of representation.” For this reason Latinas were largely excluded from mainstream media. However, in recent years marketers have realized that the Latin@ population is quickly becoming the majority. Marketers are now scrambling to include Latino actors and actresses and use Latino artists to sell products. The down side of the boom in Latinos in the Media is that they often fulfill “token” roles and their images continue to one-dimensional and homogeneous. Latinas continue to be cast for roles where their number one assets are their bodies and their spirited attitudes. Borowitz tactic was to use television itself to offer representation and to inspire activism. Similarly, one of the facets of my manifesto is calling to get more Latinas represented in mainstream media.
The Media Ecosystem
In The Media Ecosystem Antonio Lopez discusses the way marketers and advertisers use humans needs, as outlined in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to hook consumers attention (79). According to Lopez, the top three needs employed by marketers are sex, fear, and humor. A marketers job then is too incite these needs in audiences and then associate them with a brand or product. Along these lines, I theorize that Latinas are often used to advertise because they can incite these three needs. Firstly, one Latina stereotype is that they are curvaceous and sexy. For example, as Lopez describes in The Goddess of Light, Shakira is used in a Pepsi commercial to portray a sexy leather-clad vixen that sells sex (and Pepsi) to Latinos. Latinas in the media can also incite fear because they are often portrayed as fiery and feisty. Take for example Sophia Vergara’s hot-tempered character in Modern Family, who can often be found intimidating and screaming at other characters. The third need often employed by advertisers in order to sell is humor. Humor is often incited by the “otherness” of Latinas on screen. Take the many renditions of funny Latina Maids on screen, and recently Enda’s character in Fox’s sitcom Dads played by Tonita Castro. Tonita plays a Lucy Ball-esque character, complete with two-liners, that is used to provide comedy relief through her lack of English skills, sassy character, and constant fear of ICE. Although there is nothing wrong with playing sexy, fiery, and humorous characters these seem to be the only ones available to Latinas because they are easier to market. It is time for more diverse Latinas to play different roles.
Video is a great way that you can use visual media to engage audiences and create change. According to the Witness reading, video has many positive impacts: it can have strong emotional impact, it can illustrate visual contrasts, and it can even provide visual evidence. The process of making film also has positive outcomes: it is a way to build coalitions and it is a way to read a wide audience. It does not require literacy and importantly, it can help combat stereotypes by allowing you to reach new diverse audiences. However making video is time-consuming and expensive. Because of the constraints of video construction, my project may work better if I don’t make a video, but instead I can incorporate videos with compelling stories that are already available on YouTube and that deserve to get more attention. Because of the impact of film I do want to include a list of films that have studied body image, and importantly, discuss body issues from the perspective of women of color. For example, I will provide a link to filmmaker Darryl Robert’s documentary that examines the unrealistic standards of beauty dictated to by pop culture and the fashion industry and provides insight into the idea of skin color and how women of color navigate two spaces. Another plan of action in my manifesto will be to call for the creation of a documentary that discusses body image issues from the Latina perspective.