7. Real Women Have Curves (Part 2)

September 27:

Film Trailer

READ: Báez, Jillian M.Towards a Latinidad Feminista: The Multiplicities of Latinidad and Feminism in Contemporary Cinema.” Popular Communication 5.2 (2007): 109-128. (feel free to skip over sections that deal with Girlfight)
DISCUSSION: Stephanie Giannoutsos & Hailey Rosa

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32 Responses to 7. Real Women Have Curves (Part 2)

  1. haileyrosa says:

    I think there is no doubt that one of the major themes in this movie was body image. The viewer constantly witnesses Carmen verbally abuse and demean her daughter through language like “fatty”. Although after our class conversation I understand that cultural differences may soften the blow of such an adjective, the average American, male or female, would suffer detrimental loss of self esteem if subjected to such a home life. However, the goal of this post is not to demonize the mother, but to address the movie’s overall message, all body types are beautiful.

    This is a message that many different organizations are attempting to stress to girls, who are being subjected to more media images defining the perfect woman as an unattainable goal each day. The images in commercials and advertisements via the Dove Beauty campaign shows women of all races, sizes, and ages as beautiful. Fruit of the Loom had a similar commercial to advertize their underwear which is designed for all women.

    The attempts to reach young people through these mediums are indeed admirable, but which images are more powerful, the Dove commercials, or the images of America now? A comparison between America in the movie and her current appearance is drastic. She has not only lost weight, but is styled, plucked, dyed, and dressed in the fashions of Hollywood. Quite similar to America, Jennifer Hudson made the transformation as well. Cast in the movie Dream Girls, in the film she is unable to shine as brightly as Beyonce due to her appearance and weight. Now she advertises weight watchers commercials and looks drastically different due to makeup magic. Jonah Hill has also lost a considerable amount of weight in order to break free from the chains of the “fat funny guy” and to play a wider variety of roles.

    Do these examples demonstrate to us that the attempts by Dove and Fruit of the Loom are all in vain?

    • alexandriagarry says:

      I think there are two social trends competing in this society, on the one hand everyone is beautiful regardless of their size and on the other hand the obesity rate in the U.S. has triggered a huge swing to healthy diets. Some how there has to be a balance for young girls to model themselves after.

      • carolynluby says:

        I agree with your points alexandra. Society today seems to send a mixed message of healthy and skinny. The obesity rates in the US have caused a great deal of focus on health and healthy food products as well as how to live a healthy lifestyle. What is important here though is that the message being sent is about health- not about weight necessarily. Many women who are revered for their “ideal bodies” are anything but healthy, with psychological disorders such as bulimia and anorexia often working behind the scenes. This is no more healthy than someone who is obese. Health needs to be explained as a feeling, a wellness, and a way of life; not as an appearance or a way to become “skinny”

      • Lindsey Honig says:

        I think that on an individual level we are embracing different body types more and more. However, I think that in the media the stereotype of the ideal woman has changed very little. Even when you see “plus sized models,” they just tend to not be super skinny; they usually still fit the norm of what the media has said is a “pretty face.” Ana was able to look at women as individuals while her mother still had the more restrictive point of view.

      • alexandriagarry says:

        I agree that Ana was able to look at people as individuals more so than her mother. I disagree however, that us as let say normal people don’t feed into what is acceptable in the media. We have embraced different body types for regular people we see, but when someone is on television we still want them to have the “pretty face”. You are more likely to watch a show with people that our society deems attractive. What it is going to take to change the perception of what’s attractive, I do not know.

    • sorariku says:

      I guess it’s true that some Latinas or women still believe in the old times because the mother said bad things about her daughters body about being fat, don’t show your skin outside and don’t say curse because guys like modest girs, skinny girls and innocent girls which Ana isn’t one of them. Ana wants to be herself and not be the perfect girl her mother wants her to be, she wants people to love her of who she is. Carmen cannot understand her daughter because she lived in the old times that it is imprinted in her head, which she will never be able to change, she thinks that the old ways are better.

      Ana wants to destroy that cycle that her mother followed in her youth and she wants to create her own path to study, to be herself and be loved by someone who loves her the way she is. Ana wants to defy her mother’s way of thinking. Although there are other people like Carmen who thinks the same way and probably the only way to change them is to make the children change the parents way of thinking or disobey their parent. I feel sad that Carmen cannot change for her daughter and that she only wants to follow the old tradition instead of looking for a new one, which her daughter is trying to do. Ana wants to have a career for herself to show that she doesn’t need a man to always give her want she wants. She wants to earn her own stuff.

      • Lindsey Honig says:

        I agree that Carmen was just another sort of member in the cycle of tradition. She did not have the same character as Ana and therefore she was not able to break free. If traditions are to be broken, though, they have to start somewhere. Usually this person who shatters the mold is not embraced or celebrated immediately, as was the situtation with Ana’s case. Ana was also probably the first person in her family to even have the possibility of creating a new reality. Her mother came from a working-class background (she began work at age 13). By no means was Ana rich, but she was a first-generation American so she was the first to be able to go after “the dream.”

    • elizabethkparsons says:

      It’s important to distinguish between embracing one’s body and ignoring one’s health. I personally admire Jennifer Hudson and Jonah Hill for taking control of their bodies and taking positive steps toward their health. I agree with Carolyn and Alexandra when they say there is a difference between healthy and skinny. As the film addresses body image, I think it is important to encourage all people, but especially young women, to take care of their bodies and not allow the “every size is beautiful” thought process to excuse unhealthy behaviors and lifestyles. Ana’s acceptance of her body is admirable, but so is America Ferrara’s decision to lose weight to be more healthy.

      • Mariah Monroe says:

        Ana’s acceptance of her body is certainly admirable. When we look at the women in the media today, especially Latin women, we see a trend in ‘skinny yet curvy’ and ‘voluptuous in all the right places.’ I applaud Ana for accepting all of who she is! It is certainly a challenging thing to do.

        Furthermore, though America Ferrara did decide to slim down a little, she was realistic about it. She was not trying to rid herself of curves or become something that she is not, she was simply being smart about her health and doing what needed to be done in order to be a more healthy individual.

        With all the pressure the media puts on women today, I encourage women to take special care of themselves and learn to love themselves for all that they are and all that they’re not.

  2. alexandriagarry says:

    Building off what we discussed in class, I found it interesting how Ana’s mother, Carmen is portrayed. We talked about how she is the critical, dramatic, traditionalist, loud, and at times harsh mother but she also embodies a much larger issue of women in society. While watching this movie all I could wonder is how such a strong woman who has gone through so much not want something better for her daughter?

    It occurred to me that the character of Carmen does not simply represent a mother, she represents an entire notion in our society in which women bring other women down. It is said time, and time again that women are woman’s worst enemy. The relationship between Ana and Carmen shows the relationship between women and generations. Up until, really the 1960s women have been conditioned to be content in their role as wife, mother, homemaker. This way of thinking gets passed down from generation to generation and becomes the norm and the way life ‘should be’. This is not simply a Latina phenomenon but a women’s issue. Ana is able to view this trend as backwards because she has been exposed to a world where school, curves, sex, and leaving her home for better things is acceptable and encouraged. Carmen holds onto her values because that is what she knows.

    Because girls have the tendency to become their mothers, and it was already mentioned in the movie how Ana and Carmen are so much a like, I wonder how if Ana was to have a daughter if the same values would be passed down?

    • sorlyz says:

      Good point about how Ana and Carmen are alike. It is too bad we are only allowed to know a small portion of their lives because I would love to know why Carmen is so against Ana going off to school and becoming her own woman. Also, if we could learn about the future and see where Ana goes with her kids, if she even has any. As I explained in class, I actually know a Latino whose parents were against him getting his bachelors because they aren’t aware of the investment he is putting in. But, I wonder was this a similar case or was Carmen really that “traditional” and old-fashioned to think that a woman MUST stay home? We may never know.

      • carolynluby says:

        I would also be interested in knowing more about Carmen’s life and what events in her life caused her to have such strong and jaded views on so many topics such as the ones that were presented in this movie. Did she once dream of college and was told by family members or society that she could never go? Is Carmen trying to protect Ana from the heartbreak, mistreatment, and oppression that she undoubtedly experienced in life as a lower class racial minority woman? Every child and adolescent has dreams at some point in their life, I would be very interested to see what Carmen’s aspirations were when she was younger and what happened to her realizing and living those dreams. I would also be interested to know exactly what forces kept her in such a rigid role of an underclass traditional woman that we see her enacting throughout the film.

      • Lindsey Honig says:

        I think that if Carmen wasn’t so hard on Ana throughout the movie we would be more accepting of her desire to keep her in the home. She was on her case 24/7, whether it was criticizing her sexuality, her body (even though we discussed how “gordita” can be a term of endearment), and her attitude. So, her stance against Ana going to Columbia is just another thing to add to the list.

        However, if Carmen was a more affectionate and supportive mother, we would probably not be so angered by her reaction and would empathize with the fact that she wanted to keep her daughter in the home (Sorlyz- maybe this is the case with the first-generation college student you know?)

    • I strongly agree with you when you say how a strong woman who has gone through so much not want something better for her daughter. There were reasons we mentioned in class why she did not want her daughter to go to college, which was not being familiar with the whole procedure or they just want her to stay home. I think its outrageous for any parent to think that and hold their child back from prospering in life.

      My parents never went to college and neither did their parents which caused financial problems and limited occupation opportunities. Because of this my parents my brother and I had to go to college and we were never given any other options. My parents wanted us to succeed in life and do better than they did.

    • yininghe says:

      It is interesting and sad to explore the idea of women bringing down other women, in terms of mothers and daughters and competition between women of the same age. It seems like it is a mentality that is ingrained in us to view other women negatively. But even more problematic is the idea that women are the guardians of tradition and therefore agents of patriarchy, when the men are the ones who embrace change and modernity (things we assume are good for the cause of feminism), as we have pointed out in the class discussion. I think that to a large extent, this is accurate. Women have always reinforced the structure of patriarchy at their own expense throughout history, and I wonder why. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism, or perhaps this is the only way mothers know how to protect their daughters – teach them how to survive in a male-dominated world – dress for men, be a virgin, not to have thoughts, etc.

      A recent comment by creator of Gilmore Girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino: “[But] I’ve always felt that women, in a general sense, have never supported other women the way they should…I think it’s a shame, but to me, it is what it is.”

    • Caroline/a Nieto says:

      I like the point you make about how traits and habit are passed down throughout generations, but I think that if Ana ever did have a daughter her approach would be completely different that of her mothers. I feel like her mother is the way she is because of her past culture and ideals. Carmen on the other hand was brought up in a different culture and because of this was able to grow into a stronger person with a different view of life. In leu of this- I think she would be a completely different mother and would never want to hold her daughter down the way she was.

  3. stephaniegiannoutsos says:

    As you can see from the movie and the reading, Ana struggled greatly about her mother’s constant pressure to be thin. The reading said, “Ana’s mother constantly harasses her about her weight, calling her “fat” and reinforcing Anglo, colonial ideals of beauty and corporeal patriarchy.” Her mother only believes in the “white” ideal of beauty and this is the opposing force to the main message of the movie that real women have curves.

    Hailey and I didn’t have time to present our full presentation because we were sharing the class time with the other group, but our last slide was about the argument of whether people truly accept that real women are curvy and voluptuous, or do they still believe that thin is beautiful? While coming up with our discussion topics, we realized that although America Ferrera in this movie is a good example that curves and thickness can be just as beautiful as skinniness, she too has struggled greatly with the white ideal body image. If you look at pictures of America from the time of RWHC and then at more recent pictures, you can see that societal pressures of being thin have definitely influenced her. It’s ironic how this whole movie is trying to portray the message that every girl should love their body the way it is, yet in real life America has lost so much weight and has tried to fit in to the standard mold of beauty.

    • violettaorlowski says:

      To answer your question, if people truly accept that real women are curvy or if they still believe thin is beautiful, I would have to say that it is a combination of both. I think now as a society, we have learned to embrace hips and curves as long as everything else is relatively thin. Women are now under pressure to not just be thin in areas such as their midsection, thighs and arms, but they also have to have wide hips and a nice chest and butt to accentuate these features. Even Jennifer Lopez who is known for her curves, is still thin compared to the average women.

      • Kiara Morales says:

        Also, the idea that certain regions in the body have to look a certain way in order to be curvy adds so much pressure. So many celebrities are already so thin, yet get the label of being curvy because they have different proportions.

    • I believe that society is slowly accepting the fact that real women have curves however, being thin has always over powered being curvy. Society has produced this image of what is skinny and what is fat. Therefore, we categorize ourselves into these two terms. Media has a major impact on what an ideal woman should look like and what is considered to be sexy or appealing to men. If a girl feels that she does not meet these standards, insecurities are formed and diseases such as anorexia occur.

      • Lucia Parisi says:

        I agree with you and this is a very sad reality. It’s already rough when you think you’re fat, but your mother refers to you as “gordita,” it must be really hurtful. Before Ana accepted her body, I felt terrible for her. I could never picture my mother call me names like that. Even though she didn’t mean to truly hurt her feelings, it’s something that stays in the back of her head and lowers her self esteem.

      • briannamartone12 says:

        Through this movie being released, has addressed body image in a very influential way. We will always be pressured to look slim. Even the women in this movie that were not by any means small, still had criticism to women who were bigger. This shows how programmed it is in our minds that bigger is not acceptable. I liked how Ana’s character became more confident in her body image because every other aspect of her she had confidence in. The part in which she got the dress of her own really showed that she was accepted not only of herself but by those around her.

    • Caroline/a Nieto says:

      I love the point you make! She has lost so much weight, for someone who always portrays the voluptuous girl. I think it goes hand in hand with being part of American Media and the social pressures that are associated with it. It is sad to see it, but it happens more and more everyday. You see beautiful actresses that look healthy turn into corpses. I do however, think that our society is trying to push against these ideals and push for a healthy looking american rather than a stick thin image. I think that I read somewhere the Vogue is taking a stance and is not allowing the use of models that look too thin. I think that if one of the top fashion magazines is taking this stance, then maybe we are moving forward?

  4. carolynluby says:

    As per our discussion in class on Thursday, I would like to address both the empowerment and sadness that can be found in the scene where the women shed their clothing at the sweatshop. The surface reaction to this scene is that it is empowering: these women are embracing their body types and showing comfort in their own skin that was not commonly seen earlier in the movie. They are shedding their clothes, their embarrassment and self consciousness and showing confidence in themselves that is unprecedented in the film. Ana is the leader of this body image revolution, and she is considered an empowered female woman, a feminist. She shows confidence in herself despite how her mother and society try to undermine her self esteem. While this is liberating in the sweatshop, the contrast of her empowerment in this scene compared to her insecurity in many other parts of the movie when she is an object of the male gaze i found to be very sad and upsetting. A common theme that is discussed in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies is the idea of self image and how it is affected by the male gaze. The idea of the male gaze is that whenever a woman is an object of the male gaze, her body, self esteem, and sense of self all fall under intense scrutiny both from the woman’s own mind, males and society. The male gaze expresses an unequal power relationship between the viewer and viewed, or the gazer and the gazed. John Berger says, “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. The moment they do, women and their bodies become an object of desire.” Ana clearly senses this male gaze and is proof of the implications it can have on ones self image/ esteem. Among the women in the sweatshop, she is confident and proud: but when she is viewed by men she is anything but that. In front of her boyfriend she makes repeated comments cutting down her own image that you do not hear her say in the presence of just herself or the women around her. Her insecurities are heightened by his male gaze, and even moreso his white male gaze. “youll go off to college and find a white skinny girl” is one statement she makes, which does not sound like a statement that would come from the empowered Ana we saw in the sweatshop with the other women. Even within that scene comments such as “its just us, come on!” that she states in order to get the women in the sweatshop to liberate themselves struck me with a particularly intense degree of sadness. It should not matter if it is just “us”- just women, or just women of the same shape, race etc. Liberation from society’s oppressive views of women and their bodies should be advocated for even when the male gaze is factored into the equation. You must strive to be comfortable in your own skin: even when others are viewing it.

  5. yininghe says:

    Using some points mentioned above about the idea of mixing being healthy and skinny as springboard, I would like to discuss the phenomenon of pro-ana websites. There is such a mix-up between being healthy and being skinny, and many girls actually aspire to be skinny rather than healthy. Some justify their anorexic behavior by saying that anyone who isn’t stick thin is obese, placing girls on a obese/sick thin dichotomy, which is such a problematic perception that is not helped by the current media landscape.

    Here’s an article (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/07/17/thinspiration-doctors-concerned-with-social-media-sites-promoting-eating-disorders/) that discusses the phenomenon of “thinspiration” which is where online community groups have come together to inspire members to be thin (especially on places such as Tumblr or Pinterest where members share images of thin people and aspire to be like them.) “Thinspiration is content that promotes weight loss but often in a way that actively glorifies eating disordered behavior and thoughts.” This problem demonstrates how those with disease or psychological illnesses can find support for their unhealthy habits online with others like them.

    Here are some examples of pro-ana (short for pro-anorexic) sites:

    Some have argued that this phenomenon is supporting unhealthy habits and perpetuating unhealthy mentalities, but others have also argued that this is a way of supporting those with eating disorders and making them feel a sense of belonging in a group, making them feel less marginalized, and ultimately helping them with their disorders.

    What do you all think?

  6. jessicadiaz009 says:

    Like I mentioned during the discussion I thought that the movie overall wasn’t the best portrayal of either latinas or teenage women especially for those who struggle with their body image. One concerning scene is when they are all stripping in the factory and trying to make other people feel better about themselves by tearing themselves down. It just showed that Latina’s believed that their own bodies didn’t live up to the expectations of what they had been taught to recognize as beautiful, and instead of setting their own standard, they were defeated. Also, the portrayal of the harsh mother, and the uninvolved father show a one very stereotypical view of how many people expect a Latino family to operate. There never seems to be a balanced household, its always filled with fighting, drama, or the absence of a parent. There is not one ‘type’ of family in general so it really is impossible to generalize the typical family structure of any race or culture. Especially in today’s society, and because of classes like this- more and more people are able to educate themselves to see stereotypes for what they are and to see how certain cultures can be portrayed in ways that inaccurate. Unfortunately, these lessons are not always put into films such as this one, and unintentionally films such as this can educate communities who don’t necessarily have access to the truth and cause them to believe such ideas.

    • joserfigueroa says:

      I agree that the part when the women take off their clothes is concerning. Had they taken off their clothes and focused on how each woman is beautiful despite their “flaws”, then I believe that it would have made more of an impact.

      I think the portrayal of the family could relate to different types of cultures, especially the relationship with Ana and her mother. Carmen makes her daughter feel like she’s not good enough, like her only purpose is to serve her family. Many children can relate to that, and can relate to the structure of the family. I think the film doesn’t necessarily represent the whole Latin@ community, but then what film does?

      • Lindsey Honig says:

        I especially agree with your last statement! To say any one film can represent an entire community or culture is exactly how stereotypes get perpetuated. Real Women Have Curves explores just one kind of mother-daughter relationship. I would assume there are many examples of this in real life for non-celebrities. I can think of many examples in my own life, even with non-Latinas.

        To contrast Ana and Carmen to another film we watched, we all saw how supportive Marcella Quintanilla was of Selena in her career and her personal life. One small example of this would be Marcella’s helping with the bustier for Selena’s costume. If we were to say the two represent all Latina or Chicana mothers and daughters, we would be ignoring the portrayals like the one in RWHC.

  7. joserfigueroa says:

    This movie had the ability to make me extremely upset, because of the relationship between Ana and her mother. I believe that this movie can be a good representation on some aspects. There are parents, not only in Latin@ families, who are very critical of their children. For example, my parents always make me feel like I’m not doing enough with my college education even though they truly don’t understand how college works. They think my major isn’t good enough and that my future will not be secure since I do not wish to be a Doctor or Lawyer. It makes me feel unsure of myself and I believe that is the kind of relationship Ana and her mother had. I believe Carmen was judging Ana’s life based on how she lived her own life. She doesn’t take what Ana wants into account, and it makes Ana feel self conscious and unsure of herself.

    It’s also interesting how the article talks about the comparisons between the characters of Selena and Ana. Both had parents who attempt to control their lives, both defied the standard look of beauty, and both were second generation Latina’s growing up in America. I think it’s interesting how each film focuses on a female character and shows how being a part of the younger generation causes tension within the family. It made me question whether the films would be different if they were centered around young men. Would the young men feel controlled? Would their appearance matter? It all ties back to gender, and how these families are attempting to fit the standard Hetero-normal family.

    • Adam Lang says:

      I agree, if you place a male in Ana’s place I think that he would have been much more supported. Males are not seen as “needing” a wife, and that they need to look a certain way. Women are placed under much more pressure than men to look a certain way, and to make their appearance a priority. I think that if Ana were a male, the story would have had a much different course.

    • briannamartone12 says:

      It’s always good to bring in another way to look at something. I like how you questioned if it was a male whether or not the representations would have been as different. I think sometimes that women are picked to show these issues because they are expected to be more connected with their family and place more emphasis on their families opinions as well as pleasing them. I think that boys are more thought to be more rebellious therefore they would do whatever they pleased without really being phased by disappointing those around them. Men are more expected to go and live on their own while women always have ties back to their families and are expected more to listen to everyone. Maybe this is just how I interpret this situation to be through my own opinions but I think gender is relevant. Also, I do think as well that regarding families having something to say about what we choose to do will be an issue regarding whatever racial identity we are. Parents generally want to see that their children have security in many aspects and this allows them to be comfortable. Whenever there is risk that enters the situation, parents begin to worry for us because they don’t want to see us struggle.

      • Stacey Pecor says:

        Brianna you definitely make a good point here. I interpret the situation similarly that gender and typical gender roles are relevant. In response to your last point about parents worrying because they don’t want to see their child struggle, I also think it reflects the uncertainty they have because maybe if the parent was not able to succeed/have an opportunity the child does, they will automatically decline it and not encourage their child to take any risk. Parents typically want to protect their child but in some cases it can really restrict and discourage them from a great opportunity when they are perfectly capable of achieving their goals.

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