Smart Latina vs. Sexy Latina

Ed. Note: Please click the headline link to see the video.

Bashing Latina Stereotypes

When I saw this video, Latina Role Model, by the artist Maya Escobar, it did for me what she intended:  Made me think hard about the ways I am seen and the ways I project myself.

In my teens and 20s, I remember being surprised by young men who believed that because I was Cuban, I would quickly and joyfully be their Hot Tamale. Like, seriously? I have felt supremely insulted by that.

When I have been asked why I am not “more Latin” what they really mean is why I am not more “Calientica.” Ay! That hot-cha-cha-Mami-rica perception of Latinas is strong in our American culture. But, that’s never been me. I’ve been more “The Hot-Headed Latin.”

For example, at work, when I got angry about something, it was a pretty good bet someone would say my emotion was due to my “fiery Cuban-ness.” Well, my Scottish-American relatives are just as fiery, but that side of my DNA never was cited.

On the flip side, I definitely enjoy breaking into accented, finger-waving, chusma Spanglish. I often do it for a laugh. It is a personification of my strong, opinionated self. It plays right into stereotype. And, I know it.

So, while I have chafed at being labeled as that “hot-headed Latina,” I have played the game too and used it when it worked for me. The hot-headed Latin can get away with saying things that the Nice Southern Girl can’t.  (I live in Nashville, remember.)

Being both Smart & Sexy Latina

So, some questions:

Let’s talk about this, break it down, maybe shatter some stereotypes, and bust our own too.

Here’s what Maya says about it:

I perform over-the-top representations of different identities. I group together these representations (characters) as a means of challenging limited perspectives of what women are like, and in this case, what Latina women are like.

This character is supposed to be an intellectual, accomplished, socially conscious woman- who will forever be seen as the “Sexy Latina.” The low quality video blog is meant to mock scenes in movies, where the hot high school teacher walks down the hall and all the boys undress her in their minds.

But I am not taking a negative or positive stance either. I want to question the role Latinas play in perpetuating this persona, and question if that is even a bad thing? Are we limiting ourselves by continuing to have this same conversation, even though the behavior persists, are we enforcing it by bring more attention to it?

OK, ready. Set. Go.

Habla.

Maya Escobar is a performance artist whose work has exhibited all over the world. Her identifications as a Latina-Jewish artist, dyslexic blogger, activist and educator are indexed by the blogs she keeps, the visual and textual links she posts, the books, articles, and blog posts she cites, the public comments she leaves, and the groups she joins. Maya’s site is mayaescobar.com, where you can watch her character videos.

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By Carrie on January 21, 2010 · Posted in featured, videos

22 Comments | Post Comment

Sra. López says:

This is an excellent post and an excellent video. It really does make you think.

I am really not qualified to speak from a “Latina perspective” on this topic because I am Anglo. (If you read my blog, you’ll know I’m Sra. López only because I married a Salvadoran.)

That being the case, I can’t speak from personal experience on Latina stereotypes, but I would like to contribute an opinion or two on topics that are pretty closely related.

For example, it really bothers me that the Latinas picked as reporters and journalists on Univision and Telemundo seem to be more for the purposes of eye candy than to report the news and add intelligent commentary — not that they aren’t intelligent women, but I think the sexism by the head honchos over there is pretty evident, not just on the news, but on other programming as well… And English language channels aren’t always much better. I think Western women in general – no matter what their race, fight very hard to overcome the sense that we are valued more as objects of sex/beauty, than for what’s inside.

It’s very frustrating and I don’t envy the difficult job many women have of raising daughters in this world. (I have 2 sons) … With my own self esteem issues, I can’t imagine what a challenge it would be to raise a girl who is confident in herself and who doesn’t let Hollywood, fashion magazines, men, or even other females, get her down.

I don’t know the solution to achieving true equality, but I think talking about it all is a good start.

Posted on January 21st, 2010

Angelica Perez says:

Very interesting…The role model I immediately identified with was the socially-conscious, smart role model, which made me realize how loaded that role is. Being an accomplished and educated Latina comes with so many expectations — the whole giving back to the community, serving your community, being a role model and mentor for others, etc. — that’s not something that an accomplished non-Latina woman has to worry about (or feel committed to).

With regards to the sexy role model — I always say that there is no sexier woman than the one that exudes confidence in herself and who she is — the sexy clothes are just extras…

Great conversation…

Posted on January 21st, 2010

Latina Role Model on Tiki Tiki « Maya Escobar says:

[...] Tiki Tiki: Stories with Cultura, Color and Sabor, thanks to post by Carrie Ferguson Weir entitled  Smart Latina vs Sexy Latina. Check out the post and be sure to leave your [...]

Posted on January 21st, 2010

Ana Lilian says:

I guess I just never even thought of myself as the Sexy Latina…but a cute one yes! LOL! But once I´m on the dance floor, then the sexy comes out and it´s all good.

But,seriously, I guess I just lack the perceived-Latina sassy-ness as I´ve never felt that bias towards me.
I will definitely agree with dear Sra. López that the media, especially the Hispanic media, is completely promoting the hot Latina stereotype, and not much of the smart Latina one. Why do their “news” anchors feel they need to have their breast augmented to be taken seriously?

Posted on January 21st, 2010

Kikita says:

I think it is inherent in our culture to be “hot” in every sense of the word because we are so passionate.

I love what Maya was trying to accomplish and say with her video, but I found that she couldn’t hide or deny her Latin sensuality even when she was trying to play the part of an “intellectual, accomplished, socially conscious woman.”

This DID make me stop and think, but what I realized is that I tend to shoot for a 3rd type. I go for “Classy Latina.” You know, the one that can wear the big hoops and sexy top with a pant suit. Someone like Ingrid Hoffman or Karla Martinez.

Posted on January 21st, 2010

C. Morales says:

My impression is that Latina women play into the stereotype because Latino men often expect them to, and they are threatened by a smart woman. It is not just non-Latino men who expect a mujer caliente and nothing more.

Posted on January 21st, 2010

Liz says:

How you project yourself, depends on you, no matter what. I, like Ana, never felt that I was looked at differently because I am Latina. I don’t see my self as a Sexy, Hot, Latina(I hope my husband does, though). Hell, I’m 33, been married for 12 years, and have 3 kids. I don’t get “chifles” anymore… ): LOL!

This is directed towards the younger, single generation. How they present themselves as the future “Latina Generation”, depends on how they are raised. It’s up to us, as moms, to teach our daughters to go and be the BEST they can be. It’s up to me to raise my daughter to know what it right from wrong. Do guys really still think that girls are still destined to be “home/baby makers? Really??

Forget Hollywood. Forget the Media. Heck, forget the evening news. If those ladies felt that they need to have their lady lumps hanging out in order to get the job, then I feel sorry for them. But, it is what it is.

I will raise my daughter to know that education is the key to being classy and sexy! Not exposed Humps and Lady Lumps! Also, I will raise my boys to see women and they see themselves. Whether they marry a Latina or not.

Ay, me pase de mas! he he!

Posted on January 21st, 2010

SUZ says:

A smart and fun video commentary on the stereotypes of women in general…the educated intellectual, the hot babe, the innocent women. I like that Maya uses humor to deflect the extremes. Also that she creates a fine line between integrating the different role types. This is interesting because everyone is never just one thing…but we may choose to identify one way.

Posted on January 21st, 2010

Melissa Garcia Logan says:

I think it’s part of a male dominated culture. Many women have this problem of having to manage male expectations in their professional lives, whether it is living with objectification or men projecting their need for nurturing from any woman they meet. I’ve had jobs where men thought it was okay to flirt with me and expected me to fulfill some messed up hot secretary fantasy, and I’ve had jobs where men I worked with expected me to be maternal and when I was driven, I was labeled aggressive. I’m not a dog, I’m not a hooker, and I’m definitely not your mother, guys.

I think we have to teach men when they’re children that women can fill many roles and to expect them to be as capable and androgynous as any man performing the same duties. By the same token, I don’t know how I feel about using gender or sexuality as an asset to get ahead, my feeling is that anything you do that is manipulative in nature, is skirting unethical, if not flat out crossing the line.

Having a sense of humor about stereotypes though, I don’t know if I see a problem as long as you don’t go too far and reinforce them. If it’s clear it’s a joke and part of the joke is how ridiculous stereotypical behavior really is…

Posted on January 21st, 2010

Carrie says:

I love the feedback, ladies. All great points and fabulous reflection.

I am left wondering this, after reading Ana and Liz’s comments: Is stereotype/perception felt/seen at a greater level when we don’t live in predominately Latino communities?

This comes to mind because your comments made me realize I never thought too much of my Latina side and my American side until I lived in cities where there weren’t a bunch of Cubans running around me everywhere. My otherness was apparent and pointed out. It was almost like, wow, I am different?

Interesting!

Posted on January 22nd, 2010

Marta says:

I don’t fit into the Sexy or Brainy Latina mold at all. Probably because I look very Anglo – light skin, blue eyes. I blend pretty seamlessly into my So Cal suburban life.

Except for the Latina “chispa.” That’s always the big giveaway right there. =D

Posted on January 22nd, 2010

Liz says:

Carrie,

I emailed your post to my niece, whose studying at Penn State, this is what she had to say:

Well, I agree with her lol. A lot of people especially here in Pennsylvania, see me as exotic because I’m Hispanic. They expect me to speak Spanish all of the time and a lot of them expect me to be kinda stupid and slutty. But when people get to know me, they find out that I’m extremely smart. Smarter than most people they encounter. And it sucks because I’m always having to prove myself to people and to teachers. But in the end, I’m the one that’s dropping jaws for my intellect and not for my attractiveness =)

The end haha. Hope that helps.

I am one PROUD Tia!!! (:

Posted on January 22nd, 2010

Carrie says:

Liz, aha! Thank you for sending the post to your niece and validating my theory. I love how your niece wrote to you and the “stupid and slutty” line made me bust out laughing — especially because she obviously is not.

Gracias, proud Tia!

(Maybe she needs to write for the Tiki Tiki? hmmmm?)

Posted on January 23rd, 2010

Veronica says:

Great video and excellent points.

I think that this expectation for Latinas to appear sexy is one reason why I reject the hot mom movement. I wish there was just as much social pressure to be smart Latinas, smart moms, smart women as there is to be hot, sexy, etc.

Posted on January 23rd, 2010

Latina Women Respond « Maya Talk says:

[...] on TikiTiki Blog: stories with cultura, color and sabor, in a post by Carrie Ferguson Weir called Smart Latina vs. Sexy Latina.  Carrie asked [...]

Posted on February 3rd, 2010

Ana says:

People that worry to much about to be sexy what they going to do when they get old? On the other hand, if you focus about to be smart it has NO age. I always admire people that are smart if they use this gift in the right way. People that worry about been sexy all the time have a little problem because it is really superficial.

Posted on April 5th, 2010

Essays by Latina Bloggers and Writers says:

[...] OK? By Nilki Benitez.What are You? by Lizzie Bermudez.soy de tortillas y tamales by Tessa Lemos.Smart Latina vs. Sexy Latina by Maya Escobar.She is Easy Book Fodder by Ailen Arreaza.Tosotones 101: Or, How My American [...]

Posted on July 21st, 2010

RichardAlois says:

I’ve got a Latina girl friend and she’s very smart, sexy and just a very super-nice person.
RichardAlois´s last [fabulousness] ..Chocolatina

Posted on November 11th, 2010

» Latina Women Respond Maya Talk says:

[...] on TikiTiki Blog: stories with cultura, color and sabor, in a post by Carrie Ferguson Weir called Smart Latina vs. Sexy Latina.  Carrie asked [...]

Posted on November 20th, 2010

» Latina Role Model on Tiki Tiki Maya Talk says:

[...] Tiki Tiki: Stories with Cultura, Color and Sabor, thanks to post by Carrie Ferguson Weir entitled  Smart Latina vs Sexy Latina. Check out the post and be sure to leave your [...]

Posted on November 20th, 2010

Alexandra says:

I do get angry when I can’t show strong emotion without someone saying, “she’s Colombian…watch out!”

Hate that.

Off to watch the video now.

Thank you for all the awesomeness you’ve brought to my life, TikiTiki.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..Im Gonna Kill Him

Posted on May 19th, 2011

Freddy Avellaneda says:

I agree with the fact that many news anchors are placed on the media to serve as symbols to attract both men and women. I heard once that “a smart women is always beautiful” no matter what. But these news anchors/reporters are getting by based on their physical features, not their brains(some of them) and I believe that this is because past research shows that Beauty is what attracts an audience, brains will always be second. I am not fond of this, but this is a reality.

Posted on October 8th, 2012