Stereotypes In Real Women Have Curves

Invisible women are described as “any woman who is not white, young, thin, rich, feminine, and sexually available”.

Women who are also older, of color, bigger, and of lower income are always underrepresented in the media, which leads to them being invisible. Normally what is seen on TV shows, movies, and magazines are tall, thin, and blonde women. This then conveys the message that women are only considered beautiful if they resemble what they see in the media. In the film, Real Women Have Curves, all types of invisible women were showcased and represented, one of them being bigger women. 

Throughout the film the audience can see that Ana’s mother, Carmen, always beats her down because of her weight. In the text it states that “when a token overweight woman is portrayed, she is rarely allowed to be like other women. Her weight defines her, making her unlovable”. This is seen in the film as Ana is constantly being told by her mom that she is too fat and that she would be more beautiful if she lost weight. This makes Ana think less of herself and she does in fact feel unworthy of love. This is seen when Jimmy starts to compliment her but she does not take it well as she is not used to being complimented. As well as when Jimmy starts to like her but Ana believes he does not really like her which does not allow them to start a relationship. Another invisible women category that was extremely represented in the movie were women of color. In the text it explains that “Latinos are particularly likely to be erased from the media. When latinas get roles in movies, they are either highly sexualized, or they are depicted as maids or housekeepers”. This movie definitely did not erase Latinos as all the main characters are Hispanic. As this film is based entirely off the Garcia family living in the East Los Angeles area. The Garcia family is a Mexican-American family and they follow a very traditional Hispanic culture. The men work in outside labor and Ana, Estela, and Carmen tend to the men, cook, and clean as well as working. Although the women are not depicted as maids or housekeepers they are shown working at Estela’s sewing company which Ana calls a “sweatshop”. Where they put in many hours of hard work inside the hot factory as they need all the money they can get.

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Stereotypes are defined as “theories that people carry around in their heads about how members of a particular group think, look, and behave, and how these attributes are linked” and gender stereotypes are defined as “networks of related beliefs that reflect the ‘common wisdom’ about women and men”. Meaning that stereotypes are fixed beliefs about people because of what they look like or from what they believe in. When it comes to gender stereotypes there is a variety of what people base it off of such as physical characteristics, personality traits, behaviors, role stereotypes, and occupational stereotypes. In the film, one of the gender stereotypes that is seen is personality traits. In the text it is said that people “attribute such traits as independent, competitive, decisive, and self-confident more to men. In contrast, they attribute traits such as gentle, nurturing, helpful, and sensitive to women”. In this case, Ana is not like a stereotypical girl. She is tough and speaks up for what she believes in while her mother is constantly telling her to act like a lady. This is seen when Ana speaks up when she says where they work is a sweatshop and she should be able to take off her clothes to work more comfortably. Her mother was mortified by the thought of a woman taking off her clothes and revealing themselves. Then her mother left when Ana took off her shirt and pants and the other ladies followed along. She also portrays the trait of being independent when her parents say she cannot leave to college because she needs to work and contribute money to the family. She then takes it upon herself to complete an admissions form and write an essay without the consent and help from her family. 

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Another gender stereotype that is seen in the film is role stereotype. Role stereotype can be defined as “believing many behaviors and social roles are stereotyped as more typical or women or men”. Role stereotyping has to do with certain types of women and men, which allows people to categorize what men should do and what women should do. In the textbook it explains the different types or categories seen in role stereotyping,”For women, the types include the housewife/mother and sexy women. Corresponding categories for men include hardworking and macho men”. In the film we do not see the role of sexy women as the women portrayed did not have the tall and thin body type. But there was the mother role in the film. Carmen, Ana and Estela’s mom, did focus on her family although she showed tough love. It is evident that she focused and cared for her family when she did not want Ana to leave to New York because then the family would be split up and not complete. Another way that we can see that Carmen focused on her family was working at Estela’s sewing company although she did not feel well to continue making money and supporting her family.

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Almost all Hispanic / Latina women have a certain way they view women’s beauty due to their culture, family, and social media. Throughout the film it is evident that the message about latinas stereotypical view on beauty is related to why the women in the movie act the way they do. In the study Denying Diversity, Maya Poran stated that “the purpose of this study was to investigate Latina, Black, and White women’s conceptions of beauty and perceptions of cultural standards of beauty”. In the study, one hundred and fifty seven college women took part in it and 48 of them were Latina. They were asked many open ended questions through a questionnaire. The first question that the women had to answer was to please define what the word beauty means to them, the answers were then subdivided into four categories. The categories were physical characteristics, personality traits, both physical and personality, or other. The results were that only 4.5% of women believe that beauty is based off physical characteristics only. While the majority of the women, 54.10%, answered that beauty to them is defined as both physical characteristics and personality traits. One of the Latina participants stated that “I believe that beauty comes both from inside and outside. A lot of people believe that beauty is just your physical appearance. I feel that the more beautiful and warm hearted people are on the inside, the more attractive & beautiful you appear to be”. 

Another question the women were asked was based of the Body Esteem Scale, “The BES was used to measure how the participants felt about their own bodies. Participants were asked to rate the types of feelings they had toward 32 specific body parts and activities on a 5-point Likert scale”. From the overall results from the body esteem scale, Latina women had the lowest scores which means that latinas had the lowest esteem for their body. Therefore, there is a relationship between the way that latinas view and define beauty and the way the women in the film view and present themselves. One being the main character, Ana, who is a curvier girl due to her Hispanic body. Instead of viewing herself as having that body type because of her ethnicity and culture, she just calls herself fat. But throughout the film she starts to gain more confidence and starts to love her body as she realizes there is more to beauty and it is not just about what you look like. This is seen in the scene where Ana takes her clothes off while working and encourages other women to do so as well because she is comfortable with her body. Whereas her mother, Carmen, believed the complete opposite. To Carmen beauty was all about physical appearance. She believed that women should always be put together and act as a lady should. This can be seen in the film when Carmen puts in rollers into her hair every night so she can make sure that her hair looks good as hair falls into the physical appearance category.

Ageism is defined as “prejudice and discrimination based on age”. Meaning that people are seen and treated poorly because of their age and what that age group is stereotypically known for. Everyone is vulnerable to ageism, this dicrimination is not only towards the elderyly. In fact in the text it states that “middle-aged people, not young people, hold the most ageist attitudes”. In the film two women experience ageism, one of them being Ana’s mom. The audience can see that Carmen is an older lady. So throughout the film Carmen never really feels well. She is shown laying in bed and not being able to do house work. Ageism can be seen when Ana is constantly telling Carmen not to go to work because she is too old and she needs to be resting. Another woman that experiences ageism is Ana. This can be seen in the scenes when Carmen told Ana that she needed to do house work and start working at Estela’s sewing company. Ana would complain as she did not want to work and her mother would call her a lazy teenager. Another scene where ageism is visible towards Ana is when Carmen is talking to her husband. She is explaining to him that when she was Ana’s age she was already working and providing for the family and that Ana has not. This then made Ana feel bad about herself and made her develop negative thoughts, including her not applying for college.

Stereotypes about the elderly are both positive (gentle, kind) and negative (slow, sensile). These stereotypes for older women are on two completely different spectrums. One stereotype being the warm, fragile, and gentle older lady. Just how a grandma is portrayed in children’s books. While the other stereotype for older ladies is selfish, mean, and crazy. In the beginning of the film Carmen seems to fit into the gentle and fragile older lady stereotype. This affected her by wanting to work even more as she did not want to seem old and weak. People would tell her to take it easy or just to stop working but she continued to push through despite her condition. As the film continues, the audience can see that Carmen starts to fit into the mean and crazy stereotype. In the textbook it states, “other prototypes of older women in the media are the mother-in-law from hell, manipulative, and selfish elderly mother”. This stereotype of the crazy older women can be seen in multiple scenes. Such as anytime Carmen would bring up Ana and Estela’s weight. She would make them feel ashamed and would tell them they would never get married if they do not lose weight. Another scene where Carmen fits this stereotype is when she starts to yell at Ana for losing her virginity. She calls Ana a tramp and tells her that she better not embarrass her. This stereotype seriously affected Carmen because it caused many fights between her and her daughters. So much so that when Ana was leaving for New York, Carmen did not open the door to see and say goodbye to her daughter.