Though the problem of gender roles and women’s discrimination may seem obsolete for the members of modern community, it remains rather topical for the representatives of national minorities whose culture defines strict social expectations concerning the gender roles and opportunities.
The conventional paradigm of the female world in Mexican culture
The conventional gender-based ideologies in some cultures predetermine the discrimination of women, depriving them of opportunities to receive education and make their contributions to this world other than raising their children and taking care of their husbands. As it can be seen from the texts under analysis, the cultural beliefs of women with Mexican background make them blindly accept their limited opportunities because these are the established dogmas rooted in their cultural beliefs. Cleofilas, the protagonist of the story “Woman Hollering Creek” accepts the paradigm of the female discrimination which she under the influence of the Mexican soap operas at the beginning of the story considers as inevitable and almost natural. The woman’s claim that to suffer for love is good and that pain is sweet clearly represents her voluntary approval of the female inferior position which is rooted deep in her own beliefs (Cisneros 45). Similar example of the blind acceptance of the paradigm based upon the women’s limited opportunities can be found at the beginning of the movie Real Women Have Curves in Ana, the Mexican American girl and one of the top students at the Beverly Hills High School. Speaking with her teacher Mr. Guzman about college, Ana first admits that her family cannot afford it, but after the teacher mentions the scholarships, she has nothing to say and it becomes clear that the financial side of the issue is only on the surface, whereas the real problem is rooted in the girl’s perception of the women’s roles and her own status.
Going even further, the author of the article “Why Do Abused Women Stay? My Story” discusses the social problem of domestic violence and the women’s acceptance of moral and physical abuse and fear of changing the existing situation and avoiding the discrimination. Representing the cultural beliefs of their female characters regarding the conventional gender roles at the beginning of the depicted stories, the authors emphasize the women’s blind acceptance of their limited opportunities rooted deep in their consciousness. They show how difficult it may be to protect one’s rights for freedom and education or to leave an abuser because it would require changing cultural beliefs and reject the conventional paradigm.
The denial of the traditional roles of the female passivity
After demonstrating the women’s acceptance of the conventional gender-based ideology for getting the insight into their cultural beliefs and inner worlds, the authors of the articles and movie under consideration proceed to discussing the main driving forces which make the women deny the traditional roles of female passivity and change their lives. This approach allows the authors to depict the development of the characters in their dynamics. In Cisneros’ story “Woman Hollering Creek”, Graciela and Felice are the Latinas females rejecting the traditional paradigm of women’s suffering and influencing Cleofilas’ views regarding her own identity. Felice’s pickup can be regarded as the symbol of female financial and spiritual independence.
The discovery that a woman can not only drive a car, but also choose it and pay for it becomes a turning point in Cleofilas’ moral growth (Cisneros 55). While Graciela and Felice express the contemporary assertions concerning the women’s identity in Cisneros’ story, the school teacher Mr. Guzman becomes a person affecting Ana’s views in the movie Real Women Have Curves. In contrast to Graciela and Felice, the teacher cannot become a role model for the teenager, but he communicates his ideas about the girls’ real opportunities in several episodes of the film. Coming to Ana’s birthday to speak to her parents about the girl’s further education shows that Mr. Guzman realizes the impact of the family upbringing and cultural beliefs upon the girl’s views (Cardoso “Real Women Have Curves”). However, the teacher’s attempts do not affect the position of Ana’s mother who still insists that she herself can give her daughter all the education she may need, including the skills of sewing, raising her children and taking care of her husband. In contrast to Cisneros as the author of “Woman Hollering Creek” and Cardoso as the director of the movie under consideration who claim that he external influence is required for reaching the denial of the conventional roles, the author of the article “Why Do Abused Women Stay?” does not discusses the external factors, but rather concentrates on the inner struggle which precedes the decision to leave the abuser and protect one’s rights.
Regardless of the chosen scenarios of the characters’ transformation, the denial of the traditional paradigm of passivity is preceded with the conflict between the outdated stereotypes and contemporary perspectives and searches of one’s social identity.
Searches of the social and national identity
The characters’ searches of the social and gender identity are interrelated with the changes n their cultural beliefs. In that regard, the title of the movie Real Women Have Curves is rather symbolic because not only Ana, but thousands of other girls attempt to answer the basic question what it means to be a real woman and whether they really have the assumed flaws they are constantly told about. It is only through her tender relationship with Jimmy that Ana gets rid of her complex of inferiority developed by her own mother through berating the girl because of her overweight.
The title of Cisneros’ story “Woman Hollering Creek” can be regarded as one of the ways to find one’s social identity. This title is the reconsideration of an old legend according to which a woman comes to the creek to drown her newborn baby and hollers after it. As opposed to this traditional interpretation, in Cisneros’ story the hollering creek becomes the place where the female characters holler loudly to express their pain with their voices which is not allowed by the conventional society rules. Showing the first women’s attempts to cross the borders attributed to the period of searches of their social identity and the difficulties caused with the society confrontation, the authors claim that the extraordinary measures were necessary for the women’s self-expression and celebration of their identity.
Celebration of female identity
The inner struggle in the hearts of contemporary women between the family traditions, social expectations and their inner voice results in their protests. The authors of the works under consideration show the extreme ways chosen by their female characters for their self-expression.
The character of the movie under consideration manages not only to find her own female identity, but even supports her sister and other factory workers in their searches. When the females at the factory carry off their clothes and work stripped to their underwear so that to demonstrate to Carmen, Ana’s mother that they are real women who do have curves. This episode can be regarded as a revolution in this small Mexican community and the women’s desperate attempt to struggle for their personal identity which finishes with the females’ personal acceptance and abandonment of the artificial gender roles and stereotypes rooted in their conventional culture.
The yell of Cisneros’ main female character at the end of the story can be regarded as the symbolic celebration of her female identity. Cleofilas who was previously unable to express her pain, realizes that she can use her own voice for expressing her feelings and protest to protect her rights. Actually, the character herself is surprised at hearing her voice which represents her personal victory over the existing dogmas and stereotypes. The memoirs “Why Do Abused Women Stay?” do not contain any symbolic representations of the women’s protest and self-expression, whereas the narrator is rather inclined to give promises to herself. It can be explained with the narrator’s focus on the inner conflict. The only mentioning of her second successful marriage in the last sentence of the story can be regarded as a peculiar representation of her personal triumph and acknowledgement that celebration of female rights for happiness in modern community is possible.
Through the analysis of the short stories by Cisneros, the movie Real Women Have Curves directed by Cardoso and the memoirs entitled “Why Do Abused Women Stay? My Story”, it can be concluded that there is a strong relationship between the women’s abuse and the national cultural values. Thus, struggling for their natural rights, women need to reject not only the social expectations as to their roles, but also their own artificial stereotypes concerning the woman’s place, role and opportunities established in culture and consciousness.
“Real Women Have Curves”. Online Posting. YouTube, 23 February 2010.
Web. 10 May 2011. Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. New York: Paw Prints, 2008. Print. “Why Do Abused Women Stay? My Story”.
Tellinitlikeitis.net. 3 Sept. 2007. Web.
10 May 2011.