In a few very tangible ways, Latinas have it rougher than other folks. Not only do we often find ourselves in an ethnic/cultural/linguistic/racial minority, practically cueing others to pile on stereotypical expectations, but we’re also female, which means that often times we might be the only woman in the room, and consequently bear the brunt of an entirely new set of stereotypical expectations.
I find this to be especially true when it comes to anger. It’s almost like, in our society, it appears that Latinas are not allowed to be angry. What happens if I get angry you ask? I not only get relegated to the “angry Latina” stereotype, but also the “overly emotional woman” stereotype. This creates a standardized and easy rationale for people, mostly men, to ignore anything I say, and write me off by either selecting one of these stereotypes, or better yet, both.
Why is it “okay” for men to be angry, or blow off steam, but when women do it — especially Latinas — somehow, it’s too much? Racism and sexism only go so far as to explain away these stereotypes; what’s really at issue is how we buy into them as a culture. A perfect example is the tired joke about how women must be having “that time of the month” to explain away any hint of being disagreeable. And the spicy Latina stereotype — raised voice, emotional soliloquies in Spanish, out-of-control gesticulation. It’s really just not as funny in real life, when you’re being accused of it, as when we see someone like Sofia Vergara do it on TV.
And it’s not like I get angry all the time, either. It’s just that I feel, for fairness’ sake, if I have to try to understand a man’s curious chest-beating frustrations, why do I become the subject of ridicule because I might raise my voice just a little? It’s about fairness, equity, being able to be a person instead of a woman or minority, or stereotype. In this particular instance, I’ve learned to forgo anger and replace it with sternness, or better yet, silence (to let the chest-beating die down a bit). It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anger, it just means that I’ve learned to manage it in a socially palpable manner.
I don’t know that I’ll ever see the day when women or Latina stereotypes disappear altogether. But I sure hope that by the time I’m having these conversations with the next generation of women, they might have had the chance to experience normal emotions without being drowned in stereotypical responses.