Feminist and Latina? No Way.

February 9, 2009 § 11 Comments

There have been so many times when I have told someone that I am a Latina and I have received the response, “Wow, but you don’t look it at all,” or even, “You don’t act it.” I have often been confused as to what these responses could mean. At first, I believed that it is based on ignorance. Many people do not realize that Latin America is an extremely diverse place in terms of culture, religion, and race. When I tell someone that I am a Latina, I often get confused looks because of my fair skin, sometimes I even get responses that doubt my Latin American heritage. I really don’t think that these comments are coming from a place of malice. I think that these responses are a result of the pre-conceived notions that many people have of what Latin Americans look and act like, which does not take into account the extreme diversity of a large region in the world.

This may seem a little off-topic, being that this is a blog that is primarily about feminism. There’s a connection, I swear. The confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone of the fact that I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants, that Spanish is my first language and that I am the first person in my family to be born in the U.S., is very similar to the confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone that I am a feminist. When many people hear the word “feminist,” their minds immediately jump to the pre-conceived notions of what a feminist looks and acts like. For example, I recently had a conversation with a peer who checked my legs for stubble immediately after I told him that I am a feminist. Hmm…This got me thinking about where these confused, surprised and doubtful reactions come from. Is it really just ignorance?

Perhaps we should examine the way that the media portray both Latinas and feminists. When a classmate tells me I don’t look or act like a Latina, what exactly does he or she have in mind? This is the second image that comes up on Google image search when you type in “Latina.” This is the third.

Clearly, it is not just Latinas and feminists that are portrayed in stereotypical and unfair ways. These are just the stereotypes that I have experienced personally. The media play a significant role in creating the preconceived notions that lead to the responses of confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive. We should be fighting these stereotypical and unfair representations in the media, as well as meeting misled preconceived notions on an individual basis with information and challenges to those notions. Not to mention the fact that the way women are portrayed, especially women of color, is a hot button feminist issue.

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§ 11 Responses to Feminist and Latina? No Way.

  • Phoebe says:

    That’s such an interesting parallel. I never thought about how similar the limited and unfair portrayals of both feminists and Latinas were. As a fair-skinned Latina, I also receive comments doubting my heritage all the time and it’s incredibly annoying.

  • Artemis says:

    I’m the same way. I look “Latina” in that I a slightly darker tan shade of skin and dark features. I don’t, however, walk around half naked with pants with words printed on my behind, yet people seem to expect that this is what all Latinas are like: (cheaply) sexualized objects.

    One white friend told me that I am “the whitest person” he knows, b/c I’m a total Sci-Fi/History/Ancient Latin geek. Latinos, especially those of the female variety, don’t appreciate Sci-Fi, or history, or dead languages.

    PS Love the blog.

  • […] of all the Women’s Glib writers to post on the site, and we joked that once readers saw her, they wouldn’t believe she’s Latina. But she is, and that has less to do with the fact that her parents were born in Cuba and more to […]

  • deniseletter says:

    Can I comment in spanish? Es muy buena reflexión la que he leido aquí, ambas las feministas y las latinas han sido victimas de como han sido vistas por la sociedad, antiguamente seria por el chisme ahora desde hace varias décadas son los medios,quienes con su tremendo poder se han encargado de dirigir la opinión publica y en cierto modo de mantener los prejuicios y la explotación de las mujeres como objetos sexuales y hogareños para vender un producto.Esos prejuicios cierran las mentes a todo lo que es distinto y verdadero porque prefieren seguir creyendo esas mentiras que les han vendido.
    Posdata: y tambien me encanta el sci-fi
    Saludos

  • Glow says:

    Sos cubano americana entonces,
    Soy nicaragüense, y feminista, y sí, cuando admitís que sos latina lo primero que chequean son tus piernas, creo que me voy a dar más vueltas por tu blog.

  • URG. ME FUCKING TOO. (You’re my hero for this blog post)

    I’m pretty much in the same boat as you. Except take your story, change it a bit by making the main character a “darker-skinned Latina” who was born second in an immigrant family from the Dominican Republic and we’re pretty much on the same page.

    One time, I was downtown and about to hang out with a friend and a younger friend of his and introduce her to the venues/record stores/local cafes/etc that we enjoyed and frequented. While at a coffee shop getting something to drink, my friend, without any pretext or preamble, excitedly yells out “Did you know she’s not black?!”

    Or the other time when he tactfully said “It must be hard, you know, being like, part of the [punk/underground] scene because like, the guys only like and date really really thin and pale white girls…”

    Then, of course from everyone in general, the countless “you’re cute but…I don’t date/like black girls/hispanic girls” or “you’re cute for a black/hispanic girl!” and “I’m not racist, but…” and “You act pretty white, though”

    Then, the Latinas in my school wouldn’t look at me twice because I was one of the “freaks” who betrayed their race…or else they didn’t figure I was Latina at all.

    And DON’T get me started on being a feminist or liberal…I must hate men, you’re a slut, you were raped, you’re a dyke, you’re a virgin who needs to learn how GREAT men really are (wink, wink) I must really wanna be white, huh, You’re so hipster for being colored, You shouldn’t speak/talk/think like that, It’s so Americanized/Liberal/Unlady like! (comments from mother and the Sonic Latina Horde I often find myself in the middle of around Holiday season)

    It’s like whatever though. I’m going to keep on doing it. Being a young, open-minded, crass, educated, angry Punk-& Alternative music lovin’ Latina of color. It’ll open the doors for the rest of us, right?

  • Diana says:

    Las mujeres latinas somos luchadoras, emprendedoras y muy fuertes! Las mujeres latinas, como cualquier mujer del mundo tiene el deber de defender sus derechos y de hacerlos respetar. El feminismo no es exclusivo de las mujeres occidentales.

    Arriba la mujer Latina!

  • […] “feminist and latina? no way“: You wonder why all white guys want a blowjob from a Latina, then you get one, and you know […]

  • […] and less loud, class. They question my Latinaness, they wonder aloud why my English is so good. They exclaim: “But you don’t look Latina!” So where do I begin my lecture, my crash course on the history […]

  • Nat says:

    Hi,
    I came across this blog and i’m doing a project for one of my courses in women studies. I’m a hispanic woman and would like to incorporate photography and latinas into my project. I’m wondering if anyone knows any theories on latina feminism that would be of any use. Thanks!

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sarah Betancourt, Sarah Betancourt. Sarah Betancourt said: @cdahispanic On this anniversary, Im reminded of a lot of other feminist issues on my mind-http://bit.ly/hqyCN5 esp as a latina […]

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