The "Latin doll" stereotype is getting a makeover, and although stilettos might be part of the new outfit, the smartphone and laptop are essential items.
The digital Latina is taking social media by storm, over-indexing other demographic groups in the growth and use of social media, from twitter to social network sites. Around 2009, the blogosphere witnessed an explosion of Latina bloggers. Today, Blogs by Latina, a blog directory, has over 1,600 entries, since launching in 2009.
This proliferation of Latina blogs makes total sense. Historically, Latinas have been silenced by circumstances or lack of a socialcultural podium. Who she is and what she wants have been defined by caricature archetypes constructed by traditional mass media. She has no diversity on television and print, often existing as either a sexy, loud and passionate girl or an older, submissive, heavy-accented woman.
But the emergence of social media has offered fertile grounds to Latina women craving to self-express and redefine her image. It's become an effective platform to amplify her voice, thoughts, opinions and views. She's creating her own content and writing her own story. Through blogging and online publishing, she's producing a collective of digital voices that is honest, real, smart and empowering. The result? An illumination of the pluralistic identify of Latinas.
Viviana Hurtado, a freelance writer with a PhD from Yale and a Masters from Stanford, is the blogger behind The Wise Latina Club. She created her blog to "insert a MIA Hispanic female perspective on current events, trends and pop culture." Likewise, Veronica I. Arreola, an assistant director of a women's research center, is the writer behind her blog, Viva La Feminista. She blogs to "navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad." Both Viviana and Veronica represent the emerging faces and stories that are providing a deeper and more transparent understanding of Latinas -- a glass window into "all" that Latinas are.
To appease the growing impatience with the distorted images of Latina women and irrelevant content, both in traditional and new media, online platforms like New Latina have been created to defy these stereotypes and celebrate Latina women. But there's more work to be done. While there is some comfort in the possibility that Sofía Vergara's typecast (as a hot Latin babe with a heavy accent) is satirical in nature, we demand more. We want a Latina voice on The View, on Oprah's OWN network, and on leading news television programming. And, no, the Latina token will not suffice. We want her to be a host or commentator that happens to be Latina.
While social media affords tremendous opportunities to redefine the new Latina and give credence to her voice, we need to infiltrate mainstream media, where opinions play an important role in the political, social and economic discourse that affects this country. With this goal in mind, The Art of Politics, a multipronged initiative, was recently launched to address the absence of Latino voices in news and public affairs television programming, where hosts, journalists and guests are primarily male and White.
As we continue to emerge via social media, a growing number of Latina thought leaders are giving voice to an empowered image of who we are. Despite the progress, however, the promise of new media has not been fulfilled. The challenge will lie in how well we promote ourselves individually, and the demands we place in spaces where doors have been traditionally closed to us.
Follow Angélica Pérez-Litwin, PhD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ThinkBigSummit