Can you see Vanity Fair doing a callout to its female readership, inviting them to write an essay on their body parts they liked the most? You really can’t see Graydon Carter putting pen to paper to ask for pictures of his readers best features—all this accompanied by an image of a “hot” Latina, can you? No, neither can I.
Well, that is exactly what USA Today’s Hispanic Living did in an advert making the rounds on social media. It reads like this (cue a slow Julio Iglesias song):
You just have to write an essay of 50 words or less on your feet, your hair or your eyes, and you could be in the next issue of Hispanic Living. (What, my toes don’t deserve 900 words of fabulousness?) Not because you have written the great Latin American novel or been nominated to the Supreme Court—no, because of the freshness of your gaze. All of this next to a scantily clad, long black hair flowing down her semi-arched back “Latina”, wait for it… headless woman.
We have no face, ergo no brains. Thank you.
Confused? So was I. I asked @usatodaymags to explain the thinking behind this campaign. I wonder: is it that Hispanic Living is loving the idea of asking Hispanic women to identify something positive? To own it by sending a photo? To engage women to show what makes them beautiful? Somehow that picture of a “Hispanic” woman without a face dressed in what seems like a lycra bathing suit doesn’t spell that. Not when she looks like she reads the weather on a Hispanic news show.
The USA Today profile didn’t respond to me, but they did respond to the initial tweet Latino Rebels published:
— USA TODAY Magazines (@usatodaymags) July 8, 2014
And when I followed up, social media silence.
— Susanne RdA (@DurgaOne) July 8, 2014
I guess Hispanic Living has no clue as to the stature of Hispanic women today. That we are sick and tired of being misrepresented and hyper sexualized. That this generalization is getting old. That we don’t all have the back side of J-Lo and the accent and voice of Sofia Vergara. That we don’t all douse ourselves with “Eau de Sex” as we walk out the door, swinging our hips to the rhythm of “caliente.”
Just so you know, Hispanic Living – and you should – U.S. Hispanic women have rapidly risen to become prime players in the educational, economic and cultural life of not only their communities, but of the nation as a whole. We pack a powerful punch with our purchasing power and outrank Latino men in education and careers. We are the ones who make the decision in our homes of what we buy and consume: what eat, what we drive, what electronics we use. This represents a Hispanic market of $1.2 trillion dollars. We are the ones with “the sarten por el mango”. And, come election time, we are the people you want to be talking to. I bet Hillary Clinton knows that.
The beauty of Social Media is that feedback is swift.
“I say we take pictures of our head and say “As a Latina, my brain is my most powerful asset.”
A male wrote: “Apparently, according to USA Today, if you’re a Latina, and don’t have the “features” like Laura Croft, nobody should give a damn about you.”
“Por tu madre….How about they ask for stories and essays instead of pics of features. I am going to send them a pic of my big, smart head.”
“Is this a joke? C’mon on, either they’re that stupid or they think we are – How about I send them a pic of my lovely elbow draped in rhinestones.”
There is a saying where I come from – Puerto Rico – that states: “Les salio el tiro por la culata.” Loosely translated—a massive backfire. I think this campaign did just that for Hispanic Living. That is why I still would want to know what they were thinking. Hispanic Living, you have the floor. Just don’t tell us you regret some of us found it offensive.
Susanne Ramirez de Arellano is the former News Director for Univision Puerto Rico and a writer and journalist living in New York City. She has a blog in El Nuevo Día called Susanne en la Ciudad. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Susanne on Twitter @DurgaOne.