A Single Place: Meanings of Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Home
In the world we live today, the effects of race, ethnicity, gender, and equality have been more often than not, vast topics of debate. The minority groups have often been victims of discrimination, which has mostly emanated from their parental status, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and cultural differences. To have a deeper understanding and address these issues further, the paper will discuss and offer a clear insight on the film, Real Women Have Curves (2002)and the film’s depiction on racial and ethnic bodies in the global society. The paper will further address two readings in the book This Bridge Called My Back and how they situate racial, ethnic, and cultural identity. The paper will also discuss how the historical path of ethnicity and race in the U.S impacts the African Americans and the Whites regarding the country’s socio-political landscape, problematic stereotypes, and civil rights.
In the film, Real Women Have Curves, this movie offers the audience an insight into the Latin culture in the U.S settings, especially for the women. It offers an insight into two cases of women; Latino women born in the U.S, and those not born in the country. There exist many differences between the two types of women. The movie touches on different topics that go on in the Latin culture but in this paper, the movie context will be looked at a cultural and gender perspective. To begin with, let me offer a summary of the movie’s plot.
The movie tells the story of Ana, a young, first-generation Latino-American who is on the verge of becoming a woman. She lives in a predominately Latino neighborhood at East Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating from high school, she receives a scholarship to study at Columbia University. Her parents, however, are under the impression that it is the time for her to help in providing for the family not the time to attend college. Ana is torn between her cultural heritage and her mainstream ambitions but reluctantly agrees to work at her sister’s sewing factory with her mother. In the time span she spends at the factory, she learns to admire the hard work of other women working in the factory who later on teach her on the essence of teamwork and solidarity. Despite being at odds with her mother, and what her mother expects of her, she realizes that it is greatly essential for her to leave home to pursue education so as to find her place in the world as a Chicana and American.
For the most part of the movie, Ana is concerned about her overweight condition and how other people view her body. In one of the scenes, Ana is seen to take off her top due to the increasingly hot condition in the factory much to her mother’s dismay. Her mother believes that, for overweight women like her, it isn’t right to flaunt her body and such “privileges” should only be left for the slim women with no curves. Later on in the movie, Ana learns to be proud of her body and starts to view it differently by learning to accept who she really is, a beautiful young woman.
In the movie, the theme of women’s role in the Latino community and culture is also depicted. In the traditional Latino beliefs, the audience is made aware that, as long as women get married and bear children, they didn’t have to get a college education. The traditional cultural beliefs are structured such that the women’s role in society is to take care of the children and husbands and nothing else. They do not view a college education as an essential element in a woman’s life since her needs are to be taken care of by the husband. Despite the fact that Ana earns herself the chance to join a prominent college, her parents, especially her mother, are majorly against the idea. In the Latino cultural settings, the women’s roles and expectations lie between taking care of their homes, husband, and children. The women are not allowed to have bigger dreams, as seen in Ana’s case; something that works to the women’s disadvantage.
In the book This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Colour, it acts as the cornerstone for women of color and feminism. The book lays a major foundation for a majority of Chicana’s literature. This Bridge not only provides a framework for emerging activists’ coalitions, but also bears an essential impact in the academic world for its linking of sexuality, race, class, and feminism. Gloria Anzaldua applies a submission element to establish a connection with the Chicana people and the women of color. The women addressed in the book are victims of racial oppression and inequality mostly from their white peers for their diversity and differences in race.
By the introduction of the adversity of being a racial minority, the book implies the need to write about the first-hand experience of the minority so as to acknowledge and deal with racism, to connect all women. The women of color, often victims of racism and inequality, the book emphasizes the need for the unification of the women of color for a larger representation and larger power force. For the most part, the book affirms that the colored woman must not lose her dignity and pride in her race for feminism and their personal development to flourish. Instead, women must recognize and embrace their race and that of others to get rid of ignorance, a force that prevents women from connecting and overcoming diversity.
Moraga applies her own first-hand and personal experience to make her audience embrace and accept their cultural heritage. She recalls a past experience as a little girl during her visit to a dentist. The dentist asserts that she lacks a certain level of intellect and for this reason, she is expected to be obedient (Moraga and Anzaldua 54). This narrative offers a glimpse of the prejudice towards the Chicana people by the Americans and Latinos. Her experience prompts us, as her audience, to embrace diversity and despite the fact we may speak a little different from each other or appear a bit different in terms of culture or beliefs, we all are American citizens.
Moraga applies the physical lives reality theory to spark personal feelings and emotions to stimulate the audience to explore their cultural and social environment. She speaks of her sexual orientation and the color of her skin. She is well aware of her skin color and sexual orientation, something already has come to terms with. This prompts the audience whilst at the same time, motivating the audience making them aware and conscious about situations affecting their bodies. Rushin also applies a metaphor strategy with the term “the bridge”. She uses the metaphor to refer to her body as the connection to the disparaging societies who have no interest in knowing each other. At the beginning of her writings, she fails to use commas to separate the diverse groups she describes, showing her effort in trying to bring together the people separated by their differences.
The reading offers us an insight into the authors’ efforts and vision for a better world, far from inequality, oppression, and prejudice. Just like the film Real Women Have Curves, the book offers the audience an insight into the existing discrimination and prejudice, especially against the women. The film, supported by the book, offers an insight that racism is not the only problem that the American society faces, but other factors such as sexual orientation, culture, and gender play a role in inequality and discrimination. The minority groups should not just sit around but should rise and make aware of their experiences, and fight for equality and fair treatment despite their differences. Rather than marginalizing ourselves, we should come together, embrace one another and live as one; a society far from inequality and discrimination regardless of one’s race, culture, sexual orientation, and beliefs.
In deconstructing culture, the semiotic analysis and interpretation of culture bear the risk of ‘locking the cultural away from its necessary object, the informal logic of real life(Oswald 313). Just like the women in the film Real Women Have Curves and The Bridge, people bend cultural expectations to a practical logic of convenience. For this reason, the only clear cultural categories and unproblematic exist as ideals in the observer’s mind, but not in cultural practice (Oswald 313).
In the U.S, racism not only affects the African Americans, but also other “minority” labeled groups, and to a certain degree, the White American’s lives as well. Racism has often been divided by popular political and social movements, undermining their capabilities and capacity to oppose or challenge prevailing forms of inequality and power. In much of American history, the ruling elites have often applied race as a means and approach of “divide and conquer” for the protection of their class of interest. For example, in the most part of the 19thCentury and the turn of the 20thCentury, most employers, in times of strikes, used the racial minorities as strikebreakers. This diminished the ability of unions to be successful at winning strikes contributing to deep resentments against the minority races especially the blacks within the working white class.
The continued and persistent realities of racial discrimination have remained persistent over the years which is as a result of the occurrence of the decisive transformation that in the middle 20thCentury – civil rights movements, and the abolishment of racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s. However, cases of racial discrimination against African Americans still remained over the years. Despite much improvements in the African Americans wage gap, housing, and social life, the African Americans equally felt discriminated against.
With the existence of different forms of stratification such as race, class, sexual orientation, race and gender, they all have a certain degree of impact on the representation of culture and societal spaces. In Kang Song’s article Identity and Duality, the term “culture” is sophisticated, encompassing ideas, actions, and beliefs that influence how people act, think, and place meaning and value on things in the world. With the public articulation of social relationships of a specific time and place, the space of the articulation occurrence becomes the cultural inscription site. Essentially, the effective junctions of gender and space have, over time, gradually shifted more into the critical purview of feminism, including the association of women and movement to portray how space can limit women’s mobility.
The paper brings a clear articulation on the current world situation in regard to race, gender, and inequality. Far from racism, the American society, especially the minority groups have long been fighting for equality and equal treatment, free from prejudice and discrimination. The film and readings discussed above provide deep analysis into this situation boosting the reader’s ability to interpret matters pertaining to the effects of culture, gender, social class, and race in discrimination and inequality. For the most part of American history, American society has been in war with racism, discrimination and many forms of prejudice. It is by this reason and understanding that we should all strive for a better world not only for the existing generation but for the future generation as well.
Laura R. Oswald (1999). Culture Swapping: Consumption and the Ethnogenesis of Middle-
Class Haitian Immigrants. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 25, No. 4 pp. 303-318
Moraga, C., & Anzaldaua, G. (1981). This Bridge called my back: Writings by radical women
Of color. Watertown, Mass: Persephone Press.
“Real Women Have Curves (2002)”. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster Inc. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
Young Imm Kang Song (2009). Identity and Duality. National Art Education Association.
Art Education. Vol. 62, No. 6. Pp. 19-24.
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