Stop Flinching! We Don't Bite: Why The "Fiesty" Latina Stereotype is Harmful
Yes, I have an attitude, but no, it is not because I am a Latina.
Like many other rational human beings, my attitude towards someone depends on how that certain someone treats me first. It is highly probable that if I am approached by someone that is speaking to me in an unpleasant way, I will adopt the same tone towards them.
Most Latinas go through this at some point in their lives. The media has branded us as fierce and intimidating, traits that not all of us embody. Like every other type of woman that exists on Planet Earth, women of color can come in all shapes, sizes, skin tones and yes, even personalities. Some of us are shy, soft-spoken, with a have a fear of public speaking, while others, may be loud, energetic and fearless. Just because a woman is Latina does not mean she is about to rip your head off every time she speaks!
Further, the feisty Latina trope is harmful towards our careers and ability to work with others. When people have negative preconceived notions about a Latina, they will always be defensive when having to work or study with one. This is not conducive towards a positive and productive environment in any way. If someone expects us to hurt their feelings every time we open our mouths to speak, no one is going to be open to having an actual conversation with us and actually getting to know us. I recall a couple months ago when I was called a hater after I politely and insightfully critiqued a colleague’s article. It was very disheartening to watch myself be perceived in a very negative light just because I stated an opinion that the recipient did not like. I must admit, at times it has caused me to think twice before giving any type of constructive criticism to colleagues out of fear of being perceived as aggressive or intimidating.
Another huge problem of the feisty Latina stereotype is that any display of rational emotion is fetishized and seen as “sexy,” which results in our feelings and opinions not being taken seriously. Not only do we have to keep explaining why we are upset, hurt or angry, we have to also deal with creepy people enjoying how upset we look or sound. This dehumanization of Latinas has made it almost second-nature for people to see us as objects of sexual pleasure that bring their lives some type of drama. Whether you’re heterosexual or are part of the LGBTQ+ community, you have probably felt the fetishization of your Latinidad at the hands of potential love interests.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the feisty Latina stereotype is the vastly different treatment that White women receive for displaying the same type of assertive, boss-like characteristics. Everyone remembers how Miranda Priestly was revered in the famous movie, The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep’s character was described as grandiose, highly respected, very critical, and tough to satisfy. I can only imagine how different the reactions would be had Meryl Streep’s character been written to be played by a Latina.
Apart from the harmful aspects of fetishizing Latinas, I am sure it can be quite annoying for all Latinas, wherever they land on the spectrum of personality, to walk into a situation where people have already assumed their personality type before even speaking to them. Even more, when potential suitors pursue them based on the feisty stereotype only to treat them like they are a disappointment when they learn that a particular Latina does not fit into this rigid stereotype. This can really be a detractor when starting a new job or meeting new people.
Although some of us go through these uncomfortable situations quite often, it is important to maintain a true sense of self and be as authentically you as possible. It is not wrong to demand respect where it is lacking and do not be afraid to tell people that their behavior is inappropriate. Remember that anyone who fetishes your anger or emotions is not deserving of your time. Latinas are as diverse as any other group of people and we deserve to be respected at home, work and in all of our relationships so never be afraid to demand it.