While watching the Oscars on Sunday night, I thought of the perfect blog topic when I saw a commercial for Sophia Vergara’s Rooms To Go collection. Immediately, I thought about the hypersexualization of Latinas in the media. I pointed this out to my best friend as we sat together on my futon watching the Oscars. She seemed slightly annoyed and began to explain how she thinks it’s unfair to criticize Vergara for showing off her curves and being presented as a sexy Latina.
“Women should have a right to be sexy if they want to and express their sexuality,” said my friend.
I told her I agreed, but my issue wasn’t that Vergara was presented as a sexy Latina in a short, tight dress with high heels, and literally grrr’ed to explain how she likes her furniture. My issue was the overused image of the sexy Latina; it is often the only representation of Latina women I see in the media.
Last semester I took a class called Latino/as in the Media. In class, we discussed the hypersexualization of Latinas and the affect it has on media audiences. For non-Latino/as whose only exposure to Latinas is media representations of this group, they may think that all Latina women are sexy and voluptuous. And what do these types of images do to Latina women who feel like they have to fulfill these stereotypes? Hypersexualized media images can affect their self-esteem, especially young Latinas, by confirming the old stereotype that woman’s main worth lies solely in her appearance.
Not only is the hypersexualized depiction of Latina women in the media, stereotypical, it also over-simplifies a diverse group of people. For example, Vergara mentioned in an interview that when she first started auditioning for American acting roles, they didn’t know where to put her because she was a blond Latina; directors were used to casting women that looked more Mexican. So it’s no surprise to me that she is now featured on Modern Family as a brunet. All Latinas are not brunet, Mexican, and sexy.
With all of this said, I think it is important to question the assumptions that are being made in the media when it comes to the roles minorities are casted in. With this commercial, it was assumed that because Latinas are sexy, a commercial that features a Latina should be sexy too. This was no coincidence. If we are going to be completely honest with ourselves, how often is it that you see sexy furniture commercials? Think about that for a moment, and while you do, I’ll be busy writing my next blog post. In the meantime, leave your comments below! I’d love to hear what you all have to say about this commercial!