No one is immune from the hypercritical “gaze of puritan culture” (NegrónMuntaner, 236). Not you, your neighbor, your family members, and certainly not even celebrities. This gaze causes individuals to implode inward on themselves. From self-doubt, depression, low self-esteem, and arguably worst of all, shame.

This shame can be highly detrimental and is especially true if you’re a woman, someone of color, or both. Shame stemming from someone’s personal actions or past transgressions can be redeemed by striving to better oneself and to make more educated choices in the future, but the shame of one’s ethnicity, and ethnically marked body, is something that is extremely hard to overcome. How does someone come to terms with the fact that, at a fundamental level, their body is unwanted, demonized, or lesser? This shame and self-hatred is so profound that even the majestic Selena and the extremely successful Jennifer Lopez were aware of the problem, and both had their own personalized methods to combat the issue. Selena combated the puritan gaze by subjecting herself to liposuction surgery and J.Lo developed the self-defense technique of highlighting her ethnic body as to beat the public to the punch and by adhering to a strict diet and exercise regimen (NegrónMuntaner, 236-238).

In comparison, Gordon-Loebl’s article on being something other than the representation of WASP ideals echoes some parallels with having an ethnic body. In both cases, having an ethnically marked or a visibly queer body disturbs the societal norm. The gaze caused her to feel uncomfortable in her own skin, even though her family raised her with tender love and understanding. The gaze caused her to doubt herself and her body, just as Selena and J.Lo before her, and for what? To hopefully force all three to conform to the ideals of white society? Why should someone feel at fault in their own skin? Who decides what’s acceptable and what’s not? “You’re allowed to cross the line. Whether you can stay is another story” (NegrónMuntaner, 244) sums up this lack of understanding quite well. To all three women, as they carry themselves is as “unremarkable as eggs for breakfast” (Gordon-Loebl, 5) and should be treated as such. Just another woman in crowd who’s unafraid of expressing herself as she deems fit. It’s not about being pretty, but about being a real (NegrónMuntaner, 246) human being. Real humans have faults, imperfections, and insecurities. The image of flawless divas and supermodels displayed by the mainstream media (which they’re trying constantly to get us to accept) is a dream-world, and nothing but (Durham, 38). A fantasy gone unchecked for far too long, distorting the image of real women far too effectively hurts not only women, but a society down to its very essence. Society shouldn’t be the type of locker room where all women feel unsightly and unwelcome, but instead the type of locker room that allows women to show up, better themselves, and continue on with their days unimpeded.

Women, and especially women of color, are marginalized, sexualized, or made to feel inadequate mainly due to the fact that they don’t meet the expectations of the individuals wielding the puritan gaze. They don’t fit neatly into the generic dimensions of the metaphorical box that’s been created by the white mainstream, and that’s okay. Regardless of your sexual orientation, shape, or color, you’re enough, and sooner or later you’ll come to that conclusion all by yourself. Until then, stay strong. It’s your life, not theirs.

-Edgar Nava


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