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Latina Girls Speak Out: Stereotypes, Gender and Relationship Dynamics



This study explores how 19 “high-risk” Latina girls viewed themselves, as well as how “others” perceived them. The views of eight clinicians were also sought. The girls viewed themselves positively, but they believed “others” saw them as “lowlifes,” “cholas” and “always pregnant.” Clinicians framed Latinas’ “problematic” behaviors as products of the “Latino culture.” They neglected explanations involving histories of abuse, trauma, violence and poverty. The girls did speak about such matters, and these comments suggest that young Latinas have an impressive ability to resist the stereotypes while also challenging the simplistic dualisms that are often said to characterize Latino culture.
Original Article
Latina girls speak out: Stereotypes,
gender and relationship dynamics
Vera López
and Meda Chesney-Lind
Arizona State University, Tempe
University of Hawaii at Mānoa, Honolulu
Abstract This study explores how 19 high-riskLatina girls viewed themselves, as
well as how othersperceived them. The views of eightclinicianswerealsosought.
The girls viewed themselves positively, but they believed otherssaw them as lowlifes,
cholasand always pregnant.Clinicians framed Latinas’“problematicbehaviors as
products of the Latino culture.They neglected explanations involving histories of abuse,
trauma, violence and poverty. The girls did speak about such matters, and these comments
suggest that young Latinas have an impressive ability to resist the stereotypes while also
challenging the simplistic dualisms that are often said to characterize Latino culture.
Latino Studies (2014) 12, 527549. doi:10.1057/lst.2014.54
Keywords: Latinas; stereotypes; critical race theory; gender scripts; teen pregnancy;
adolescent relationships
Latina Girls, Sexuality and Gendered Messages
Girls receive messages about what it meanstobeagirlfromavarietyofsources,
including families, peers, schools and the media (Orenstein, 1994; Brumberg, 1997;
Adler and Adler, 1998; Hesse-Biber, 2007). As they approach puberty, many girls
begin to develop an awareness of their ownsexuality(Pipher,1996;Lamb,2001).
Young women must often negotiate a complicated terrain replete with gendered
messages about how they should feel, think and act. These messagestypicallyfocus
on young womenssexualitywithanemphasisonhowtheyshouldexpressthem-
selves and how they should act in relation toothers.Suchmessageshavehistorically
©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
been consistent with traditional gender scripts, which dictate that women should
be sexually inexperienced, ignorant about their own bodies, heterosexual and
demurely attractive (Tolman, 2002). Although these gender scripts are changing in
the United States (Laumann and Gagnon, 1995), it is still the case that young women
who dare to challenge traditional gender scripts, by being explicitly sexual, run the
risk of being labeled as bador worse, a slut(White, 2002).
Race, ethnicity, gender and class often inform the classication of girls as either
goodor bad.While the good, innocent, virginal girl continues to be an
idealized image of womanhood associated with white females, it remains largely
unattainable for young women of color, who are often characterized as hypersex-
ual, manipulative, violent and sexually dangerous (Stephens and Phillips, 2003;
Garcia, 2009). The available gender scripts for girls of color, particularly Latinas
and African Americans, emphasize their innate badness.While girls who are
explicitly sexual are still demonized as badgirls and sluts,those who are in
monogamous relationships are also treated with suspicion (Stephens and Phillips,
2003). Such stereotypical images represent powerful forms of domination and
control because they shape how young women of color view themselves, how they
relate to others, and how others relate to them (Bettie, 2000; Chavez, 2004; Rolón-Dow,
2004; Garcia, 2009). They also serve to maintain a status quo of gendered rela-
tions that continues to marginalize and demonize young women of color.
The purpose of this study is to explore how one group of ethnic minority girls
high-riskLatina girls view themselves in relation to how they think others
perceive them. Although research suggests that Latino youth irrespective of
gender and ethnicity continue to experience discrimination, stereotyping
and stigmatization (Rios, 2011; National Council of La Raza, 2012), little work
has focused on Latina girls. Furthermore, almost no work has examined how
others view Latina girls. For that reason, this study also examined the ways in
which clinicians who work with high-riskLatina girls view them. High-risk for
this study was dened as having had vaginal intercourse in the past 6 months and
a history of self-reported drug use at least twice in the past 30 days not including
alcohol or tobacco. We acknowledge that high-riskand at-riskare often
overused to refer to low-income children and/or children of color, and have been
criticized as classist and racist (see Swadener and Lubeck, 1995). While we do not
advocate the use of these terms, we use them in the current study because they are
regularly used within clinical and educational settings, including the one in which
these girls were placed.
Latina Stereotypes and Gender Roles
Prevailing beliefs about Latinos are grounded in the traditional gender scripts of
machismo and marianismo (Faulkner, 2003). Consistent with machismo, Latino
López and Chesney-Lind
528 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
men have historically been stereotyped as hot blooded, passionate, and prone to
emotional outbursts(Rivera, 1994, 240). These so-called machomen domi-
nate their wives, engage in extramarital sex and rule the household with an iron
st. In contrast, goodLatina women live their lives in accordance with
marianismo, which dictates that women should be virginal until marriage, engage
in sexual intercourse only for procreation, be subservient to their male partners
and highly value motherhood (Galanti, 2003). Latinas who fail to live up to this
good girlexpectation are thought of as sexually promiscuous whoreswho
are often pregnant and unwed.
The gender role expectations of machismo and marianismo are problematic
social constructions, which result in the stereotyping of Latinos in the media, in
social science literature and in institutional settings. The danger is those working
with Latinos tend to treat them as if these notions are explanatory across all
groups, despite the fact that these gender role expectations are not unique to
Latinos. Moreover, they vary across ethnic groups, social classes, age cohorts,
time periods and acculturation levels (Rivera, 1994; Juarez and Kerl, 2003;
Fuller and Garcia Coll, 2010). For Latinos, the problem is compounded because
these representations are often presented in a negative light and used to explain
social problemssuch as teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections
and interpersonal violence from a cultural decit perspective. Furthermore, when
the dominant group perceives that Latinos are unfairly accessing or competing
for limited resources, these stereotypes become even more negative (Berg, 2002).
The tendency to stereotype Latinas is prevalent in the media. When Latinas
are in movies, on the news or in music videos, they are usually presented as
either hypersexualized hoochie mamas,exotic bombshells, gang members,
domestic workers or teen mothers (Barrera, 2002; Beltran, 2002; Guzmán
and Valdivia, 2004; Medible, 2007; Hernández, 2009; Vargas, 2010).
Although we have seen more positive representations of Latinas in recent
years, most representations continue to categorize Latina women as the
Otherby relegating them to at, stereotypical images that emphasize
sameness and minimize agency and variety (Berg, 2002). These images can
take on an even more sinister tone when the dominant group perceives the
Otheras a threat. For example, motherhood is usually thought of as a virtue
in mainstream US culture; however, this sentiment is not always extended to
many adult Latinas who are often accused of wanting children primarily to
obtain coveted goods such as access to social services, welfare and US citizen-
ship (Chavez, 2004). News stories about immigrant women and anchor
babiesserve to further marginalize Latina women by presenting them as
conniving criminals who use trickery to obtain citizenship for their babies as
opposed to people who have migrated to the United States for a complex set of
historical, political, and economic reasons, some of which involved US business
interests(Berg, 2002, 22).
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
529©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
Stereotypes have real-world implications for Latinas because assumptions
about cultural/racial groups often serve as the linchpin for institutional racism.
This is especially true in youth settings such as schools and juvenile correctional
facilities when people who work with Latinas over rely on stereotypes to inform
their practice (Bettie, 2000; Bond-Maupin et al, 2002; Gaarder et al, 2004;
Rolón-Dow, 2004; Schaffner, 2008). The inherent problem in institutional
racism is that it can be largely invisible to youth workers (for example, clinical
staff, juvenile probation ofcers) who are often not fully aware of how certain
institutional practices unfairly impact racial and ethnic minorities. These same
people, despite their well-intentioned efforts, may also be guilty of unintentionally
discriminating against young people of color when they over rely on racial
and gender stereotypes to inform their decisions and practice (see Sue et al,
Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the Importance of Giving Voice
to Latinas
Unlike other studies that give voice only to youth workers who work with system-
involved Latinas (Bond-Maupin et al, 2002; Gaarder et al, 2004), our study
seeks to highlight the voices of the girls themselves in relation to those who
work with them. We use CRT as a framework. CRT takes into account racial
and ethnic minoritiesmultiple identities while addressing intersections between
classism, racism, sexism and other forms of oppression. A major premise of this
framework is that it acknowledges and validates the important role of peoples
shared experiences as ltered through classism, racism and sexism in
inuencing how they view the world as well as how they see themselves in
relation to others around them (Bernal, 2002). Furthermore, CRT recognizes that
racial and ethnic minorities often experience subtle forms of racism or micro-
in everyday life that frequently go unnoticed by others (Delgado
and Stefancic, 2012). In this article, we pay special attention to how Latina girls
interpreted messages from others as well as how cultural stereotypes and
assumptions about Latino cultureinuenced cliniciansperceptions of the
Latina girls in their care.
Although our intent is to give voice to an often voiceless, marginalized
group of young women, we go one step further by also including clinicians
voices. In doing so, we are able to address a major critique of CRT, which
posits that the narratives often presented in CRT analyses are not true,
objective,”“typicalor accurate,but rather motivated by an underlying
political agenda (Fernández, 2002). As we demonstrate in our analyses, the
cliniciansvoices largely conrmed Latina girlsperceptions that others negatively
stereotype them.
1 Microagressions,
as dened by
Delgado and
Stefancic (2012,
167), are
stunning little
encounters with
racism, usually
unnoticed by
members of the
majority race.
Examples include:
When a member
of a minority
group is asked:
López and Chesney-Lind
530 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
Finally, it should be emphasized that very little work exists on so-called
high-riskLatina girls. Thus, our studysndings should appeal to researchers
whose interests lie within the intersection of ethnic and gender studies. Further,
our study lls a void within the emerging eld of girlsstudies, which to
date, has been primarily concerned with the experiences of white, Western,
middle-class girls (Kearney, 2009). We hope that our study helps pave the way for
the development of a Latina girlhood studies subspecialty.
Conducting Research with High-riskLatinas and the
Clinicians Who Work with Them
We drew our sample from a charter school
for high-riskyouth that was
located on the campus of a large, nonprot mental health agency located in
a large urban area in the southwestern United States. We worked closely with the
school social worker to schedule a meeting with all Latina teens during school
hours. During this meeting, we explained that we wanted to get information
that could then be used to develop prevention programs for Latina girls. We
introduced the study inclusion criteria, which included being Latina, currently
sexually active, and having a history of drug use. Girls who met the criteria
and expressed interest were encouraged to turn in a teen assent form and take
a parental consent form (offered in both Spanish and English) for their parents
review. Twenty-four of 31 girls handed in assent forms and asked for informed
consent forms. Nineteen ended up participating in the study. These girls ranged in
age from 14 to 18, and met the study inclusion criteria. Three were pregnant or
Clinician recruitment involved working with the clinical supervisor at the
mental health agency who distributed recruitment yers to the clinical staff.
One school social worker, three intake staff, and four licensed, masters-level
therapists participated in the study. All had worked at the agency for at least
6 months. Six were white, two Latina (Claudia Puerto Rican; Eva Mexican
American); all places and individual names used in this article are pseudonyms.
Focus groups were held on-site. The lead author (a Mexican American woman)
and two graduate students (one Belizean woman, one white woman) co-facilitated
each focus group. To accommodate the teens, we held the focus groups imme-
diately after school and provided snacks. For the staff, we held the focus group at
5:30 p.m. and served dinner. Participants received a $25 Target gift card as
compensation for participation. Each focus group lasted one and one half hours.
Focus groups represent a useful method for obtaining exploratory, interpre-
tative data about how members of a group make meaning of their experiences
(Wilkinson, 1999). Focus groups that capitalize on pre-existing groups are ideal
because they can tap into group membersalready established relationships,
Where are you
from? Or when a
follows a
customer of color
around a store.
2 Charter schools
are schools that
receive public
funding, but are
not subject to
some of the rules
and regulations
that apply to other
public schools.
About 4045
percent of the 150
youth attending
the school were
Latino/a. The staff
was all female,
mostly white
(9 out of 12), and
worked both in
the school and
treatment center
on campus.
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
531©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
which can increase their comfort levels and willingness to share in a research
setting (Kitzinger, 1994). They can also shift the balance of powerfrom the
researcher to the participants, which makes it an ideal research strategy for
working with underrepresented and/or less empowered social groups (Wilkinson,
1999). We capitalized on these benets by working with an already established
group of girls who appeared to be very comfortable sharing their experiences in
a group setting as evidenced by the degree to which they bantered, joked, chal-
lenged and validated one anothers experience. Nevertheless, we acknowledge
that some of the girls might have been hesitant to counter the dominant narrative
within the group.
As with all qualitative research, our identities, experiences and biases shaped
how we approached study participants and subject matter. Like many of the
young women in the study, Vera, the rst author, grew up in a single-mother
household in a lower-income, working class urban area. Her mother like the
mothers of many of the young women in this study was a teen momwho did
not complete high school. She believes that her shared background and experi-
ences helped her build rapport with the girls. As an educated Latina psychologist
with clinical experience, she was familiar and empathetic with the clinicians
professional concerns as well.
Meda grew up in a middle-class family, but it was one haunted by violence
hence, her long-standing interest in girls who run away from home. She also
believes in conducting research with girls of color, and seeing girl studies
consciously expand to include the voices of girls of color who are labeled at
riskor delinquent.
Our original intent was to obtain data that would inform the development of a
culturally tailored and gender-specic HIV prevention program for drug-involved
Mexican-origin girls. Thus, we asked a number of questions related to participa-
tion and implementation barriers, acceptability, adaptability, and cultural/gender
values and processes. This article focuses primarily on those responses from the
subset of questions related to gender and ethnicity. For the teen girls, questions
included: How do you view yourself as Mexican or Mexican American
women? How do you think other people view Mexican-origin girls? How do you
think adults (for example, counselors) who work with Mexican-origin girls
view them? We followed up with other questions, such as How does this make
you feel? Or what do you think about that?We asked clinicians to discuss how
they perceived Mexican-origin girls they work with on a day-to-day basis, and
to specify if and how gender and ethnicity inuence girlssexual risk taking or
drug use.
The focus group discussions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim.
We used inductive and deductive techniques to perform a content analysis of the
transcripts (Bernard, 2000). We read through the transcripts, developed a list of
codes (for example, stereotypes) and sub-codes (for example, stereotypes-gender
roles) around certain themes (for example, sexuality, femininities, alternative
3 The original
intent of this study
was to focus on
girls. Despite
explaining to the
participants that
the study was on
frequently used
the following
words Mexican,
López and Chesney-Lind
532 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
representations). Then we created an operational denition for each code.
We gave this list of codes, sub-codes and operational denitions to two graduate
student coders and asked them to independently code the transcripts. The
research team then met to discuss the coding results and to resolve coding
conicts by majority vote.
We also drew upon a feminist narrative analytic approach. Consistent with this
approach, we reected more systematically on the effect of the focus group
situation on the participantsconstructions of themselves and their relations to
others. We questioned how issues of power asymmetries, context and local
meanings inuenced both our ndings and the researcherparticipant relation-
ship (Fine and Gordon, 1991). We recognized, for example, that we were collec-
ting data at a particularly charged time in the citys history. Coverage of SB 1070
protests, Mexican drug cartels and local immigration sweeps dominated the
nightly news. Thus, we are careful to acknowledge that this overall anti-
immigrant (and by extension, anti-Latino) sentiment might have inuenced girls
perceptions of how white people viewed them as well as cliniciansperceptions of
the young women in their care.
In the ndings presented below, we refer to the focus groups with the girl
participants as focus groups 1 and 2. The focus group with the clinicians is
referred to as focus group 3.
Latina Girls and the Clinicians Who Work with Them: A
Juxtaposition of Voices
We asked girls to describe how they viewed themselves in terms of gender and
ethnicity. Thirteen described Latinas as curvy,”“sexy,and brown and
beautiful.Although these girls emphasized the sexual nature of their bodies, they
did not describe themselves in terms of sexual availability or passivity. Instead, they
focused on Latinasfortitude, condence and ethnic pride despite the negative
stereotypes of which they were all too aware. Fourteen (74 percent) girls empha-
sized that they were strong, independent, and condent.One girl eloquently
summed up this sentiment: Were strong. Latina women just dont give up when
something is going wrong. We ght for what we want(Martha, focus group 1
conducted by López, 2010). Similarly, others were adamant that Latinas dont
take shit from no one,(Tonia, focus group 1 conducted by López, 2010) or as one
young woman put it: If we dont like something that somebody says, or we
disagree, we say something about it(Sarah, focus group 1 conducted by López,
2010). These self-representations are in stark contrast to the ever-present image of
the passive, submissive Latina who cares more for others than her own self
(Galanti, 2003) and underscore the fact that not all Latinas conform or even value
the traditional gender script of marianismo. By presenting themselves with agency,
Hispanic, and
Nevertheless, we
believe that they
were mostly
referring to
girls as Mexican-
origin people
make up the vast
majority of
Latinos in the
study location.
Still, we cannot be
certain. Thus,
when discussing
our ndings, we
refer to Latinas as
opposed to
girls because the
participants most
often used this
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
533©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
these young women are resisting and subverting dominant representations of them
as passive, submissive Latinas. They are also taking pride in their bodies by using
terms such as curvyand brown and beautiful”–descriptions that run counter
to the dominant thin, blonde and blue-eyed beauty ideal that continues to remain
prominent in US media (De Casanova, 2004). This sort of positive assessment of
their own bodies, so unlike the white anxiety about weight, is impressive. There is,
though, a bit of an edge here, as they are painfully aware that others stereotype
their group negatively something they must be prepared to resist at virtually any
Teen Motherhood: They See Us as the Worst of Everything,
Always Pregnant
Despite the bravado expressed above and consistent with the notion that the girls
are often on the receiving end of negative perceptions of their group, the
participants talked a lot about Latinas and teen pregnancy. They said that people
always think Latina teens either are or want to be teen mothers: They see us as
the worst of everything always pregnant(Diane, focus group 2 conducted
by López, 2010). Fourteen (74 percent) girls were angry at being mislabeled as
teen mothers. Their narratives made it clear that the otherswere white people,
as evidenced by the following quote:
Yeah, like my mom had my baby sister, and I was holding her, and this
white lady is all like, Oh, your kid is so cute,and Im like, Thats my
sister!And then it happened again My tía (aunt) has some twins, and
how old are they? They are so cute. They look just like you.And Im like,
Theyre not even mine!(Lydia, focus group 1 conducted by López, 2010)
These examples suggest that some girls interpreted such encounters as subtle
forms of racism rooted in stereotypical assumptions about Latina gender scripts
and sexuality. They deeply resented being mistaken as teen mothers and rejected
this gender script for themselves.
Despite the anger on the part of some girls at being labeled high-risk for teen
pregnancy, most acknowledged that many Latina girls do get pregnant as
teenagers. In a roundabout way, they attributed teen pregnancy among Latina
girls to an emphasis on motherhood in Latino families, particularly the nor-
malization of early motherhood. When asked how many of their mothers
had been teen moms,16 of the 19 (84 percent) girls raised their hands.
Several said teen motherhood was common intheirfamilies.Theystressedthat
López and Chesney-Lind
534 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
being a momwas just something that comes naturallyto Latinas, as
indicated by the following quote:
A lot of Latinas are well-rounded people with children, so when they have
a kid, it just comes naturally to them. They know what theyre gonna do
and everything. Theyre not gonna feed a baby some alcohol or something.
Theyre gonna know what to do, it just comes naturally.
(Sarah, focus group 1 conducted by López, 2010)
Although the girls acknowledged that many Latinas are naturally good
mothers, they adamantly denied wanting to be teen mothers. Notably, even the
pregnant and parenting girls also expressed regret about getting pregnant as
teens: It sucks (being pregnant) because my whole life, I was always saying that
I was not gonna end up like that (pregnant as a teen), and I did(Sandra, focus
group 2 conducted by López, 2010). Another young woman, who was already
a mother, noted: I didnt want to end up like them (mother and sisters) because
I saw how much they struggled, and I wanted my life to be different(Olivia,
focus group 1 conducted by López, 2010).
As the above quotes illustrate, young women were conicted when it came to
talking about teen motherhood among Latinas. While they vehemently denied
wanting to be teen mothers, they spoke of their mothers and sisters as being
naturalmothers. In this way, they lent credence to the idea that Latinas place
a high value on motherhood, but acknowledged that being a teen mother was also
coupled with economic strife and struggles. On the other hand, the girls in the
study were less charitable when talking about other Latina women who have
multiple children. They viewed these women as otherswho have children pri-
marily to take advantage of government resources and benets. Eight (42 percent)
girls were critical of older Latina women who had multiple children, as they felt
that supported what they clearly saw as a negative perception of their group.
They believed these women contributed to the all Latinas want to get pregnant
Soledad (focus group 2 conducted by López, 2010) summed up this
position well: Theres even some (Latinas) that just reproduce and reproduce
that way they can get money by the government, which makes us all look bad.
These attitudes toward otherLatina mothers suggest that not only were the
girls conscious of gender scripts, they were also quite cognizant of how these scripts
were racialized to denigrate poor Latina women. However, while they attempted to
subvert and resist negative stereotypes at a personal level, they lambasted these
otherwomen who they believed subscribed to these racialized, gendered scripts.
In doing so, they failed to question the validity of these stereotypes or see more
complex reasons for such behavior, like affordable access to medical care,
particularly contraceptive services. Thus, it appears that at least on some level, they
had internalized racialized and gendered depictions of Latinas, and accepted at
least in part some of the stereotypes of Latinas created by an oppressive majority
society (see Padilla, 2001 for more on internalized racism among Latinos).
4 Although beyond
the scope of this
article, research
exists that
challenges the
myth that women
of color get
primarily to
benets. For an
insightful piece
about this issue,
please see Sparks
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
535©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
Clinician views
Cliniciansresponses largely conrmed girlssuspicions about how others
perceive Latina teens: six largely attributed teen pregnancy to a Latino culture
that emphasizes the importance of motherhood. They also embraced the limited
dualisms of good/badLatina girlhood. As one clinician noted: You know,
pregnancies, they (Latinos) dont see anything wrong with teen pregnancies. They
value it(Claudia,
focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010). Jamie (focus group
3 conducted by López, 2010) continued with this line of reasoning:
One thing that I noticed with several of the teen moms that I worked
with, who were Hispanic, was that, some of the sexual risk taking behaviors
was almost like setting forth an identity when they did become pregnant
because motherhood is so embraced within the Hispanic community.
So, they actually became a very valuable member of the family as a mother,
I think.
Another clinician distinguished between teen mothers from immigrant
families versus those who were more Americanized,as indicated by the quote
When I was working with Happy Families, I saw two categories of girls
that came my way. One category was the very good girls. Most of them
had illegal immigrant boyfriends. They got pregnant; they stay to be the
mother; and they do a great job at it and usually the fathers have
to go back (to Mexico) or they were here (US) but struggling to nd
work. And then there were the other girls my other girls were more
Americanized they would always have methamphetamine and substance
abuse problems, and most of them came from homes where it was being
used. So, I dont think I ever had one that didnt have family usage. So, it
was always one or the other.
(Ophelia, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
As these quotes illustrate, clinicians relied on information about girlsnation-
ality, ethnicity and gender to make conclusions about why Latina girls become
teen mothers. Girls from immigrant families were cast as relatively good girls
who became pregnant because teen motherhood is culturally accepted among
their more traditional families. Although the clinicians did not directly say it, their
responses seemed to reect an underlying belief that immigrant girls were more
likely to be monogamous and want to get married and raise families.
In contrast, clinicians typically viewed more AmericanizedLatinas as bad
girls who came from chaotic familiesthat contributed to what they clearly
saw as irresponsiblesexual behaviors that resulted in teen pregnancy. While
they acknowledged the importance of family (familism) for Latinos in general,
they managed to use that construct in a way that used girlsattachment to chaotic
5 While Eva was
less talkative,
Claudia was
outspoken and
expressed a lot of
views consistent
with marianismo.
She seemed to
adopt an air of I
can say this
because Ima
sense is that her
willingness to
share these views
might have
encouraged the
other non-Latina
focus group
members to feel
safe enough to
express similar
views. It is
important to
emphasize that
Latinas by virtue
of their ethnicity
are not immune
when it comes to
buying into
stereotypes about
other Latinas.
López and Chesney-Lind
536 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
and dysfunctional families as the explanation for their badbehaviors. Not
surprisingly, mothers were primarily implicated in these narratives:
Ind that a lot of the (girls) moms are single themselves. They had many
boyfriends, and theyre looking for a man to take care of them. They have
their 13-, 12-year old daughter dating a 20-something year old man and
theyre ne with that. Those are the moms that I usually meet when I go to
court. (Claudia, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
We found that clinicians blamed the mothers of the more Americanizedgirls
for being singleand attributed their desire to have boyfriends as a need for
aman to take care of them.In this sense, mothers like daughters are reduced
to promiscuous women who skip from boyfriend to boyfriend in search of
someone to nancially support them. Perhaps without consciously realizing it,
these clinicians recycled the marianismo gender script even when talking about
the more AmericanizedLatina girls and their mothers. Instead of being cast
as sexually liberated women (a positive attribute from an American perspective),
they viewed both mothersand daughtersrelationships with multiple partners
as a ploy to garner nancial support and care from male partners. Such a limited
perspective fails to take into account larger sociocultural factors and structural
determinants that often place already marginalized women at increased risk for
unexpected pregnancy while blaming both mothers and daughters for child-
bearing decisions (Afable-Munsuz and Brindis, 2006).
Traditional Gender Expectations and Relationships with
Although the girls did not view themselves as subservient, they acknowledged
that some Latinas are submissive to their boyfriends. They were quick to point
out that they would just move onif they didnt like the way they were being
treated by a boy, or as one girl noted, If a boy blows me off, Ill be like, okay, he
aint worth my time. Move on(Lydia, focus group 1 conducted by López, 2010).
Other girls similarly said they would just: Leave,(Alexis, focus group 1 con-
ducted by López, 2010) Bounce,(Desiree, focus group 1 conducted by López,
2010) and Drop them to the curb(Simone, focus group 2 conducted by López,
When we asked girls about what they would do if they found out their
boyfriends were cheating, they all said they would leave their partners. There
was a strong sense of bravado as girls repeatedly stated they wouldntcare if
their boyfriends left.Simone (focus group 2 conducted by López, 2010)
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noted: Some people are afraid to be alone, but Im not afraid to be alone.
In fact, Id rather be alone than have someone cheat on me.
When asked who they thought had more power in their relationships,
13 (68 percent) girls said they had more power.When asked to expand,
though, these girls tended to focus on sexuality: I think in relationships its the
girl because if the guy is gonna want sex theyre gonna do whatever the girl tells
them to do so they can get what they want.(Patricia, focus group 2 conducted
by López, 2010). Other girls emphasized the importance of making the guy think
hes in control. Olivia (focus group 1 conducted by López, 2010) said If you say,
shut up, no, youre not getting anythen yeah, theyre gonna leave, but if you
lead them on …” Although at rst glance, these responses appear to be consistent
with agency, a deeper interpretation suggests that these young women are aware
of their somewhat constrained situations. That is, despite the bravado, they know
that they are still operating within a larger patriarchal system that reduces their
value primarily to heterosexual availability within the connes of a monogamous
relationship (see also Asencio, 1999).
Consistent with dominance of good/bad femininity, the girls were also con-
cerned with being labeled a slutif their boyfriends learned about their previous
sexual relationships. This became clear when we asked how they felt about
including boyfriends in HIV prevention programs for girls. In general, they
thought this was a bad idea. Despite their earlier assertions that they had the
power in their relationships, they were quite concerned that boyfriends might
view them as slutsif they learned about their previous sexual behavior. Yet,
three girls acknowledged the importance of having boyfriends attend at least a
few program sessions. Nevertheless, even these girls emphasized that boyfriends
should attend sessions about safe sextechniques as opposed to sessions that
involve talking about past sexual relationships.
Clinician views
While the girls saw themselves as powerful in their relationships with boys,
the clinicians didnt see it that way. Virtually all (7 or 88 percent) described the
Latina girls in their care as passive,”“docileand subservient,and once again
attributed these characteristics to the Latino culture.These conceptions of
Latinas were consistent with traditional gender expectations for Latina women
that stress submissiveness to male partners, as indicated by the following quote:
Well, in relationship to them being Hispanic? I think Hispanic girls are sort of
raised around a mentality that they are to be followers, and to be docile, and
subservient, and literally just give in go along with things.(Claudia, focus
group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
The clinicians also believed that Latina girls tend to acceptcheating
boyfriends, as indicated by one participant, who said: My experience with a lot
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538 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
of the Hispanic girls I worked with is interesting because theyre more accepting
when their boyfriends have other girlfriends or wives. Its not uncommon, its like
Oh, its okay if he has her; he always comes back to me; Im the mother of his
children.’” (Alyssa, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010). Danielle (focus
group 3 conducted by López, 2010) expanded upon the idea that Latinas accept
cheating: Its very much accepted for your husband to cheat on you. It is very
much accepted for him to hit you. As long as he still provides you with a home
and whatever, you got nothing to complain about. Its still accepted to this day.
Although six (75 percent) clinicians agreed with this sentiment, Eva (focus group
3 conducted by López, 2010) was the only one who wanted to elaborate on the
meaning and complexity of the word accept:Im saying that they accept it
because they stay with the men, but theyre not okay with it. Theyre hurt and
resentful underneath, but theyre accepting it because theyre still there.
Clinicians once again made distinctions between girls from immigrant families
and more Americanizedgirls. By and large, they believed the former were more
docileand submissiveas indicated by the following quote:
So, were pretty much a border town, you have these families that come over
here to give their kids a better education, but they still come with the same
mentality of nding a man to take care of you, but they dont really push the
education, they dont really push the independence because their culture is
stick with us.They dont push the independence because that means you
leave us behind. (Jamie, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
Jamies observations underscore the tension that some Latino migrant parents
face. While they migrate to the United States for increased educational oppor-
tunities for their children, they also fear being unable to protect their children
especially their daughters from the dangers associated with American culture
and society (González-López, 2004). This does not necessarily mean, however,
that they do not value independence and education. As González-López (2003,
2004) found, both Mexican mothers and fathers are very invested in their
daughterseducational achievement and economic independence.
Clinicians also made direct comparisons between Latina girls and members
of other racial/ethnic groups. They believed that Latina girls, in general, were
more dependent on boys/men than most African American girls and some white
Well, the difference (is) that African American girls learn to manipulate to
get what they want . And not just African American girls, but some white
girls do that, too, but the Hispanic girls, they hope theyre gonna meet a
guy, and they hope hes going to give them what they want. Well, maybe if
Im good and I do what he says, hes gonna provide for me, give me this,
that, or whatever.African American girls and some white girls theyll
manipulate to get things that they want, but I dontnd that as much with
the Hispanic girls. (Claudia, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
539©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
Clinicians believed Latina girls are more passive and subservient than either
white or African American girls, and embraced stereotypical cultural expla-
nations for this belief. Some believed Latina girls from immigrant families are
even more likely to endorse traditional conceptions of femininities, a notion that
is consistent with emerging research on Latina teens and traditional values
(Raffaelli and Ontai, 2001; Deardorff et al, 2008). Although they presented all
Latina girls as passive and subservient, they stressed that this was truer of
traditionalimmigrant girls and women. Juarez and Kerl (2003) argue that this
tendency to blame traditional Latino culturefor womens sexual oppression is
rooted in an ethnocentric belief that Latina sexuality is somehow different than
white American womens sexuality. By viewing Latino culture as being respon-
sible for Latinas being sexually repressed and oppressed (opinions the girls clearly
did not share), the clinicians once again, failed to note the signicance of larger
sociocultural issues (for example, language barriers, limited economic opportu-
nities) that also play a large role in Latinas’“decisionsto stay with cheating or
even violent men (Rivera, 1994). Furthermore, their perceptions of the young
women in their care contrasted greatly with how girls viewed themselves in
relation to boys/men.
Alternative views: Thieves, lowlifes and cholas
Mass media images of Latinas are replete with negative stereotypes of the group,
and girls keenly understood this construction. Although the majority of teen and
clinician responses focused on teen pregnancy, traditional values and relation-
ships, both groups also presented alternative descriptions of Latinas, most of
which centered on criminality. Thirteen or 68 percent of girls said, for example,
that other peopleview them as thieves, cholas, and lowlifes.One girl said:
They always look at us as if were all gangbangers, criminals, cholas. When we
go into stores, they keep an eye on us more(Diane, focus group 2 conducted by
López, 2010). Patricia (focus group 2 conducted by López, 2010) agreed with
Diane: Yeah, they think were a bad inuence like were going to rob them or
When interpreting girlsresponses, it is important to emphasize that they
were in an alternative school setting and had histories of drug use. It is quite
possible that their experiences shaped their perceptions and interactions with
others. Although research on Latina teens in school settings has not focused
on criminality, several ethnographic studies of Latino teens suggest that they
often feel stigmatized and criminalized in school irrespective of their actual
level of criminal involvement (Rios, 2011). Our ndings are a bit different in
that the girls did have histories of drug use and were in an alternative school
6 Chola is a term
that refers to a
American girl
living in the
United States who
is afliated with a
youth gang.
7 Girls also shared
responses that
centered on class
(for example,
poor, dirty,
language (for
example, cannot
speak English)
and immigration
status (for
example, all from
Mexico). We did
not share these
responses in the
main text because
we wanted to
focus only on
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540 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
Clinician views
While the girls could see the cost of these negative stereotypes, the clinicians
embraced them and saw the girls as high-riskand susceptible to gang involve-
ment.They attributed girlsrisk status to criminal families,as illustrated
by the following quote: A lot of the gang involvement, they dont see it as
negative, its just the way the family operates, and its just the way theyre use to,
so they just go along with it(Danielle, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010).
Although the clinicians did not explicitly mention the Latino value of familism,
they did emphasize the importance of families for young Latina girls; how-
ever, they implied this allegiance to families worked as a risk factor for girls
from families characterized by gang involvement, drug use and other criminal
I know some of the girls who always tell me that they arent in a gang,
but they hang out with boys who are in a gang. They are really
loyal to these boys and that goes back to what we hear about Latinos
and family relationships and values of relationships, collectivism
Girls can transpose that onto this gang, or negative peer group espe-
cially when a lot of the people in the gang are family members
brothers, cousins, uncles
(Ophelia, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
Several clinicians expanded upon the idea that girlsfamilies support delin-
quent behaviors among Latina girls as indicated by the following quote:
Yes. One of the girls who was going home a few months ago, she goes,
(Jamie) you dont understand,she goes, it is so hard,she goes, I do
good here (residential treatment facility),she goes, but my whole family
uses drugs,she goes, and Im suppose to go home and sit there and watch
my whole family do it and not do it as well?
(Jamie, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
Two clinicians viewed Latina girls as falling victim to homies and other family
memberswho turned them on to prostitution. Again, Latina girls were
constructed as having been tricked or forced into sex work by nefarious family
members and friends.
The Latina girls say theyre not buying drugs with it (money they make
from sex work), but that theyre gonna give it back to their family. But, the
drugs end up coming into the picture because eventually you need some-
thing to make you feel okay just doing that. But its denitely more
organized. Like the young lady I had before, she didnt consider it
prostituting. She was working at a brothel, and her mom and her boyfriend
owned it, and she was there.
(Ophelia, focus group 3 conducted by López, 2010)
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
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As these narratives demonstrate, clinicians viewed the Latinas in their care as
being high-risk for drug use, gang involvement and prostitution. Latino culture
often rose to the surface as a primary explanation for these problems. Essentially,
Latino families were blamed for causing girlsproblems and even Latino
familism, which is generally seen as positive, was described as corrosive for girls
who grow up in troubled families. Such criminalized stereotypes on the part of the
clinicians is clearly understandable as images of Latinas as gang members, often
peering menacingly over the barrel of a gun, continue to be a staple of the media
coverage of the gang problem (Chesney-Lind and Jones, 2010). That said, such
stereotypical assumptions about their charges on the part of the clinicians runs
the very real risk of creating a self-fullling prophecy as they would certainly lead
to lowered expectations for the girls in their care (Kelly, 1993; Schaffner, 2008).
Relating Our Findings to the Study of Latina Stereotypes,
Gender and Relationship Dynamics
The current study examines how high-riskLatinas viewed themselves in rela-
tion to how othersperceive them. We also wanted to determine how clinicians,
who work with Latina girls, viewed them. Using CRT as a framework to interpret
our ndings, we found that girls frequently, but not always, resisted stereotypes
of traditional Latina gender scripts and sexuality when it came to talking about
themselves and their family members. However, they were less likely to question
the validity of these stereotypes for other Latina women. The clinicians, on the
other hand, generally relied on narrowly dened stereotypes about Latinas and
Latino culture to explain girlsproblems. By giving voice to both Latina girls and
the clinicians who work with them, we were able to juxtapose their views. Our
use of CRT with its emphasis on giving voice to marginalized people of color
gave the girls in our study the opportunity to subvert the dominant story or
reality that is socially constructed by whitesby presenting their own experiences,
perspectives and realities (Fernández, 2002, 48). We explore some of the tensions
between girlsand cliniciansviews below.
Critiquing Dominant Notions of Latina Gender Scripts and
Recently, researchers have attempted to move beyond presenting all Latinos as a
monolithic group. One outcome of this movement has been the tendency to
categorize Latinos on the basis of acculturation, which is often associated with
generation status. A major problem with this practice is that more acculturated
has often been assumed to mean betterwith the basic premise being that
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542 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
Latinos who subscribe to white US mainstream values are somehow superior to
their more traditional counterparts.
With the exception of some scholarship on Latina sexuality (see Garcia and
Torres, 2009), evidence of such ethnocentric thinking continues to be prevalent
in the Latina sexuality literature. Juarez and Kerl (2003) found that Latina
sexuality is often dichotomized into two broad categories on the basis of
acculturation. They concluded that Latina women are usually represented as
either being sexually liberated, a trait that is highly valued among white American
women, or as sexually repressed and traditional. The clinicians in our study also
dichotomized Latina sexuality into two broad categories based on whether girls
were perceived as being more traditional or Americanized.However, they did
not view the more Americanizedgirls as comfortable with their own sexuality,
but instead viewed them as irresponsible and sexually promiscuous. Notions
of both ethnicity and age no doubt complicated cliniciansviews. Having sex with
multiple partners is much less acceptable for younger women than older women
because adolescent sexuality especially for girls of color is often associated
with a moral panic around disease and teenage pregnancy (Cherrington and
Breheny, 2005; Garcia, 2009).
Although the cliniciansdepictions of traditional Latina girls were more aligned
with the traditional Latina sexuality outlined by Juarez and Kerl, they did not
view this representation as bador negative. Instead, they viewed the more
traditional girls as good girlswho valued motherhood and monogamy. They
tended to view girls as victims of boysadvances and bound to a Latino culture
that values womens passivity, sexual naïveté and subservience. Thus, these girls
behaviors were constructed as outside of their control, which accorded them
some degree of sympathy.
The major problem with dominant representations of Latinas is that they
often rely on a simplistic notion of culture based primarily on a set of culturally
dened traits and values. Such conceptions fail to account for the rich diversity of
Latinaslived experiences. Fortunately, more recent research takes such experi-
ences into account (see Garcia and Torres, 2009). This work emphasizes the
importance of using an intersectional lens when studying Latinaslives. Doing so
forces us to adopt a more dynamic uid view of culture that moves beyond
stereotypes based on an overly deterministic view of cultural values, attitudes and
beliefs, and instead focuses on how race, class, gender and sexuality intersect to
shape Latinasidentities and behaviors.
Youth Settings and Representations of Latinas
It is possible that the youth setting a charter school for high-risk youth
fostered a culture that structured how clinicians interacted with the young women
8 Early
acculturation and
models were linear
and assumed that
change occurred
in only one
direction, toward
the dominant
culture. Newer
models account
for multi-
directional change
and the possibility
of people being
multicultural and
multilingual. See
López-Class et al
(2011) for a
review and
critique of
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
543©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
in their care. Unfortunately, we did not employ observational methods nor did
we ask girls to provide specic examples of their on-campus interactions with
clinicians. Other studies of Latinas in youth settings indicate that staff members
often rely on stereotypes to inform their interactions, particularly regarding
sexualities. Gaarder et al (2004), for example, found that juvenile probation
ofcers often rely on a stereotypical one-size-ts-allrepresentation of Latinas
that regards them as hypersexual girls whose primary ambition in life is to get
pregnant and stay home. School-based studies also suggest that Latinas are often
cast in the role of the hypersexual, boy-crazygirl who frequently ends up being
an unwed teen mother (Kelly, 1993; Garcia, 2009). These studies further reveal
that some teachers actually believe that the Latino culture encourages young
women to dress in overtly feminine and sexualized ways, which results in young
Latinas spending too much time on make-up, hair and appearance in an attempt
to attract boys (Bettie, 2000; Rolón-Dow, 2004). Taken together, these studies
suggest that certain views of Latinas, particularly those centered on their
sexuality, are prevalent across different types of youth settings.
Alternative views of Latinas as lowlifes, cholas and gangbangers, however,
may be setting-specic. The girls in our study were labeled as high-riskby the
very fact that they were in an alternative school setting. This no doubt inu-
enced how the girls thought others viewed them as well as how the clinicians in
that particular setting viewed them. Indeed, our results are consistent with our
previous work within the juvenile justice arena, which suggests that juvenile
justice staff not only view Latinas as hypersexual hoochie mamas,but also as
hardened, streetwise girls who are often involved in gangs, silently deant, and
resistant to authority and treatment (Pasko and López, forthcoming).
Implications for Clinical Practice
Clinicians tended to rely on a number of gendered and racialized stereotypes to
explain why young Latina women used drugs and were in need of services.
Notably absent from their descriptions were explanations rooted in girlshistories
of trauma, victimization and abuse all of which have been found to be strongly
associated with girlsdrug use, delinquency and sexual risk taking (Chesney-Lind
and Shelden, 2004). Instead, they pathologized the Latino cultureand said
things like Hispanic girls are sort of raised around a mentality that they are to be
followers, and to be docile, and subservient, and literally just give in go along
with things,”“theyre more accepting when their boyfriends have other girl-
friends or wives,and some of the sexual risk taking behaviors was almost like
setting forth an identity when they did become pregnant because motherhood is
so embraced within the Hispanic community.Sue et al (2007) refer to this
tendency to pathologize cultural values as racial microaggressions, arguing that
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544 © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
reliance on racialized stereotypes can inadvertently compromise the quality of the
clienttherapist relationship and contribute to clients of color discontinuing
therapy (Sue et al, 1991). Even more disturbing, a series of studies indicate that
microaggressions are detrimental to persons of color impairing performance in
a multitude of settings(see Sue et al, 2007, 273, for review). White clinicians
typically receive little training to address race beyond a supercial understanding
of cultural values(Knox et al, 2003). Regrettably, such training should also be
extended to therapists of color. The use of CRT-informed pedagogical techniques
that challenge clinicians to critically reect upon their own assumptions about
race is needed. An anticipated outcome of such training would be that clinicians
working directly with troubled Latina girls would stop relying on cultural decit
explanations for clientsproblems in favor of a more empathetic and critical
approach to care (González and Ayala-Alcantar, 2008). Girls of color who use
drugs and become system-involved often experience the same types of problems
(for example, abuse, victimization, trauma) as other girls, and their experiences
should not be invalidated or reduced to simplistic cultural decit explanations
rooted in outdated and overly deterministic views of culture.
Cliniciansperceptions of both the Americanizedand traditionalLatinas
were largely based on stereotypical representations that couched girlssexuality
as a product of the larger Latino culturewithout considering other individual,
family and structural factors that shape all girls’–not just Latinas’–sexualities
(Juarez and Kerl, 2003). CRT is a vital tool to challenge ethnocentric thinking,
which assumes that cultural traits are inherent to members of a particular group,
instead of envisioning culture as a system that is socially constructed(Viruell-
Fuentes, 2007, 1525). Such thinking often reduces Latinos to stereotypical
caricatures, which can impede service delivery. We advocate for a more uid,
dynamic view of culture that takes into account the complexities of peopleslived
experiences and shared histories (Hernández and Anzaldúa, 1995). A system of
care based on CRT principles and a dynamic view of culture can be transforma-
tive and empowering not only for Latina teens, but also for the well-intentioned
adults who work with them.
The authors thank the following students for their assistance: Mayra Diaz,
Aubrey Smith and Tiffany Williams. We also wholeheartedly thank the
young women and clinicians who participated in the study. Finally, we thank
H.L.T. Quan, members of the Roundtable on Latina Feminism, Lourdes Torres
and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback on earlier drafts. This
research was supported by an ASU Subcontract from Columbia University,
National Institute of Mental Health, R25 MH080665.
Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
545©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
About the Authors
Vera López is Associate Professor in Justice and Social Inquiry at Arizona State
University. Her recent research focuses on system-involved girlsrelationships
with romantic/sexual partners and parents. Her work has been featured in a
number of well-regarded journals including the Journal of Family Issues, Journal
of Adolescence, Violence against Women, Journal of Youth and Adolescence,
Feminist Criminology, Family Relations, Journal of Drug Issues, and Criminal
Justice & Behavior. She also recently completed an edited volume called Girls
Sexualities and the Media (2013) published by the Peter Lang Youth Mediated
Meda Chesney-Lind, is Professor of Womens Studies at the University of
Hawaii at Mānoa. Nationally recognized for her work on women and crime,
her books include Girls, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice (Wadsworth, 1992),
The Female Offender: Girls, Women and Crime (Sage, 1997), Female Gangs in
America (Lakeview Press, 1999), Invisible Punishment (New Press, 2002), Girls,
Women and Crime (Sage, 2004), and Beyond Bad Girls: Gender Violence
and Hype (Routledge, 2008). She has two edited collections; one on trends in
girlsviolence, entitled Fighting for Girls: Critical Perspectives on Gender and
Violence (2010) that was published by SUNY Press and the other a collection of
international essays entitled Feminist Theories of Crime (2011) published by
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Latina stereotypes, gender, relationship dynamics
549©2014MacmillanPublishersLtd.1476-3435 Latino Studies Vol. 12, 4, 527549
... Socalled "positive" stereotypes of Latinos also exist, such as being family-oriented (Niemann 2001). Yet, stakeholders sometimes reframe being family-oriented as a reason for "problematic" behaviors such as teen pregnancy and gang involvement (López and Chesney-Lind 2014). Constantly dealing with the stressors of negative stereotypes can impact individual Latinas/os' mental health and well-being (Chavez et al. 2019;Niemann 2001;Williams 2018). ...
... Although Latina girls represent a diverse group of girls with varying ethnic, racial, and class backgrounds, stereotypes centered on the "good girl" versus "bad girl" image continue to abound (Bondy 2015;Clonan-Roy 2018;Fernández-García 2020;López and Chesney-Lind 2014). This dichotomous depiction is rooted in centuriesold depictions of Latinas as either "virtuous virgins" similar to La Virgín de Guadalupe or "pagan putas" like Malinche, the mistress, and interpreter of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortez (Fernández-García 2020; Lara 2008). ...
... On the other hand, bad girls are hypersexual girls who are "at-risk" of becoming teen mothers (Bondy and Pennington 2016;Clonan-Roy 2018;Kiyama et al. 2016;López and Chesney-Lind 2014). They are depicted as challenging to control and maligned for daring to step beyond the boundaries of "good girl" girlhood (Fernández-García 2020). ...
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This paper draws on a controlling images framework and focus group data from seventy-eight Latina teen girls to address two research questions: (1) What do Latina girls like about being Latina? and (2) How do they think others view Latinas? Data were collected in Phoenix, Arizona during the Trump administration. Despite growing up in a highly politicized anti-immigrant (and by extension anti-Latina/o climate), girls viewed themselves as being part of a larger family and community with shared cultural heritage and traditions and were proud of their ethnic heritage. In contrast, they believed that others (read white people) view Latinas/os as lazy, criminals, outsiders, and unable to make it in society. They noted that Latinas continue to be stereotyped as either traditional good girls or loud, angry, hypersexual bad girls. Girls resisted these depictions. Implications for how to combat controlling images and stereotypes focused at Latinas are discussed.
... The Marianista belief promotes submissiveness and upholds patriarchal values that position Hispanic women to be socially and financially dependent on men (Lopez, 2013). Hispanics who rebel against this cultural model of a "good woman" are considered Malinchismo, or deviant (Lopez, 2013;López & Chesney-Lind, 2014). Dominant societal representations also depict Hispanic women as hypersexual beings of easy virtue (Portillos, 1998). ...
... Further, stereotypes reflected in public discourse characterize Hispanics as drug-addicted, and illegal immigrants who participate in criminal activity (López & Chesney-Lind, 2014). Such harmful depictions dehumanize Hispanics and justify their harsh punishment. ...
... These harmful stereotypes proliferated in print and film media, where American Indian women are frequently depicted as drudges, witches, and savages (Bird, 1999;Merskin, 2010). Whereas the cultural stereotype of marianismo is problematic for Hispanic women (López & Chesney-Lind, 2014). When Hispanic women do not meet the expectations of "marianismo," like being subservient to their husbands and valuing motherhood, they are deemed malinchismosexually promiscuous, bad women (Lopez, 2013). ...
Prior sentencing research has examined the treatment of White, Black, and Hispanic defendants; however, little attention has been paid towards other racial/ethnic groups, like American Indian defendants. Moreover, a majority of sentencing research has focused men’s outcomes, disregarding the treatment and outcomes of women. Therefore, this paper examines the outcomes of American Indian women in federal district courts using United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) data from FY2015 to FY2019. We situate our research within an intersectional framework and use the chivalry, evil women, and focal concerns perspectives to understand the sentencing outcomes of American Indian women. Our results indicate that American Indian women are similarly disadvantaged at the incarceration, and sentence length decisions as other racial/ethnic groups.
... Stereotypes of Black women include the assumption that they are dependent on government resources, unmarried, and have multiple children, regardless of their marital status or socioeconomic position [13,14]. Similar stereotypes are present for Latinas, including many children, lower socioeconomic position, as well as not having documentation papers [14,15]. Asian women experience racialized sexism via oriental fetishes, which has been linked to violent acts [16,17]. ...
Background: Research is needed to fully investigate the differential mechanisms racial and ethnic groups use to deal with ongoing intersectional racism in women's lives. The aim of this paper was to understand how Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Latina, and Middle Eastern women experience racism-from personal perceptions and interactions to coping mechanisms and methods of protection. Methods: A purposive sample of 52 participants participated in 11 online racially/ethnically homogeneous focus groups conducted throughout the USA. A team consensus approach was utilized with codebook development and thematic analysis. Results: The findings relate to personal perceptions and interactions related to race and ethnicity, methods of protection against racism, vigilant behavior based on safety concerns, and unity across people of color. A few unique concerns by group included experiences of racism including physical violence among Asian American Pacific Islander groups, police brutality among Black groups, immigration discrimination in Latina groups, and religious discrimination in Middle Eastern groups. Changes in behavior for safety and protection include altering methods of transportation, teaching their children safety measures, and defending their immigration status. They shared strategies to help racial and ethnic minorities against racism including mental health resources and greater political representation. All racial and ethnic groups discussed the need for unity, solidarity, and allyship across various communities of color but for it to be authentic and long-lasting. Conclusion: Greater understanding of the types of racism specific groups experience can inform policies and cultural change to reduce those factors.
... Women's attitudes toward and experiences with masturbation are also likely informed by their social location, namely their race/ethnicity (Mann, 2016;Stephens & Few, 2007) and sexual orientation (Fahs & McClelland, 2016;Hargons et al., 2018). For instance, women, particularly those from marginalized racial/ethnic groups, are exposed to racialized sexual scripts (Collins, 2004;López & Chesney-Lind, 2014;Ross & Coleman, 2011;Stephens & Few, 2007) that undermine their sexual subjectivity, specifically their sense of entitlement to sexual pleasure (Chmieleski et al., 2020). Although previous studies indicate that women from marginalized racial/ethnic groups masturbate less often than their White counterparts (Das, 2007;Shulman & Horne, 2003), the literature has not yet examined racial/ethnic differences in women's sexual subjectivity as it relates to masturbation. ...
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This qualitative study aimed to examine the experiences and attitudes toward masturbation among emerging adult women. The study was the first to compare women's solo and partnered masturbation experiences, focusing on how feelings of pleasure, sexual desire, and a sense of empowerment—important markers of women's sexual subjectivity—varied across the two contexts. The sample consisted of 40 women between the ages of 18 and 22 years. The majority of participants identified as Latina (33%) or Black (30%) and were enrolled in community college. Semi-structured interviews about women's masturbation experiences were analyzed using thematic analysis. Women described a multitude of feelings, including pleasure but also awkwardness and guilt. Although women did not describe their masturbation practices as morally wrong, they often alluded to disliking masturbation and preferring it less to partnered sex. Whereas some attitudes and feelings (e.g., awkwardness) arose in the context of both solo and partnered masturbation encounters, others were prevalent only in one (e.g., guilt in the solo encounters). Feelings of pleasure, sexual desire, and empowerment manifested differently in the two contexts. There was more focus on self-knowledge, control, and physical pleasure in the solo encounters and more enjoyment of a partner's desire and intimacy in the partnered encounters. We examine the findings through a feminist lens and consider how race/ethnicity, sexual scripts, and contemporary societal contexts shape women's sexual lives.
... Therefore, Latina women's experiences of discrimination are distinct from their men counterparts. For instance, at the intersection of ethnicity and gender, Latina women may be stereotyped as young mothers, hypersexual, being dependent on welfare, being domestic workers, and unintelligent (Canizales & Agius Vallejo, 2021;Liang et al., 2017;López & Chesney-lind, 2014). The stereotypes targeting Latina women permeate and negatively impact Latina women in educational contexts (Cammarota, 2004), health care systems (Rosenthal & Lobel, 2020), and workplace settings (Hsieh et al., 2017). ...
There is a steady increase in the number of student parents in the United States. However, there is a dearth of studies focusing on the issues related to student parents. Utilizing the Integrative Model of Development, we examined the risk and promotive factors in the lives of eight Latina student mothers, ages between 22 to 29 years old, in navigating college success while raising children through the lens of intersectionality of identity (i.e., ethnicity, motherhood, and social class), which may position them at various levels of segregation, racism, and other forces of oppression. Additionally, we examined the juxtaposition of motherhood and college education from the lifespan perspective. The Latinx population is growing exponentially in the United States, more specifically in the state of California. While there are many studies undertaken on Latinx students on campus, fewer studies focused on Latina student mothers in higher institutions. Our study on Latina student mothers identified risk and protective factors while this group of college students navigate their education and motherhood. We make recommendations for higher institutions to support student parents on college campuses. Directions for future research are discussed.
Background: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) cause a major burden of disease in the United States (US)-especially among structurally marginalized populations, including transgender and nonbinary people, individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB), Black and Latinx/e individuals, and young adults. Although screening can help detect and prevent STIs, research on STI testing among populations at diverse intersections of multiple forms of structural marginalization, including Black, Latinx/e, and other racially/ethnically minoritized transgender men and nonbinary AFAB US young adults, is extremely scarce. Methods: We conducted a national cross-sectional online survey of transgender and nonbinary US young adults from February to July 2019. Using Poisson regression, we estimated prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the associations between race/ethnicity-which we conceptualized as a system of structural inequality that shapes individuals' and groups' exposure to racism-and lifetime and past-year STI testing among transgender men and nonbinary AFAB US young adults aged 18-30 years with at least one-lifetime sexual partner (N = 378). Results: Approximately 74% of participants had received an STI test in their lifetime, and, among those, 72% with a past-year sexual partner had been tested for an STI in the last 12 months. We observed no statistically significant association between race/ethnicity and lifetime STI testing among transgender and nonbinary AFAB young adults with a lifetime sexual partner. In contrast, Black (PR = 1.32; 95%: 1.03, 1.68) and Latinx/e (PR = 1.39; 95% CI: 1.11, 1.75) transgender men and nonbinary AFAB young adults who ever received an STI test and had a past-year sexual partner were significantly more likely to have received an STI test in the last 12 months relative to their White counterparts, adjusting for demographic factors. Further adjustment for lifetime STI diagnosis and health insurance status did not appreciably attenuate these observed adjusted differences; however, the adjusted difference in the prevalence of past-year STI testing between Black (but not Latinx/e) and White transgender men and nonbinary AFAB young adults was no longer statistically significant upon further adjustment for educational attainment and employment status, possibly due to small sample sizes. Conclusion: The higher adjusted prevalence of past-year STI testing among Black and Latinx/e compared to White transgender men and nonbinary AFAB US young adults may reflect racist and xenophobic sexual stereotypes about Black and Latinx/e people among health care providers and institutions, the history of hyper-surveillance of Black and Latinx/e people by public health institutions in the context of infectious disease containment, and/or agency and resistance among Black and Latinx/e transgender men and nonbinary AFAB young adults with regard to sexual health promotion in the face of multiple compounding systems of oppression.
Women's rates of imprisonment and incarceration in jails grew faster than men's rates during the prison boom in the United States. Even during the recent period of modest decline in incarceration, women's rates have decreased less than men's rates. The number of women in prisons and jails in the United States is now at a historic high. Yet research on mass incarceration most often ignores women's imprisonment and confinement in jails. This review examines trends in women's incarceration, highlighting important disparities for Black, Latina, and American Indian/Indigenous women. It contextualizes these trends in terms of the economic and social disadvantages of women prior to incarceration as well as inequalities that are created by women's incarceration for families, communities, and women themselves. The review concludes by calling for improved data on women's imprisonment and jail trends, particularly regarding race and ethnicity, as well as more research and theoretical development. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Criminology, Volume 6 is January 2023. Please see for revised estimates.
Recent work has begun to investigate how criminalization is mediated through interpersonal relationships. While this research emphasizes the importance of gender dynamics and cross-gender intimate relations for boys and men of color, little is known about how gendered and sexualized relationships matter for criminalized women and girls of color. This study seeks to fill this knowledge gap and asks: How do system-involved Chicanas’ relationships with men and boys shape their experiences of criminalization over the life course? How do they navigate criminalization through men and boys? While previous research suggests that young men of color may avoid criminalization through their relationships with young women of color, life-history interviews with formerly incarcerated and system-impacted Chicanas reveal that relationships with Latino men and boys exacerbated their experiences of criminalization. Utilizing an intersectional criminalization framework, I argue that racialized, gendered, and heteronormative assumptions about Latinas’ interpersonal relationships condition criminalization over the life course. Chicanas employed two strategies to navigate criminalization through men and boys, both of which came at a cost to their wellbeing.
While research on the marginalization of Latinx teachers has increased, a paucity of research has documented the powerful ways that Latinx teachers resist, challenge, and transform. Informed by the conceptual tools of conformist and transformative resistance, this life history study chronicles the experiences of a Latina in-service science teacher who practices multiple forms of resistance against the persistent and systematic challenges she faces during her educational and professional life. Analysis of interviews and written documents leads to a deeper understanding that teachers’ resistant identities are not constructed merely because of their backgrounds, but instead evolve across multiple contexts over time.
Cutting edge research into trends and social contexts of girls' violence. Have girls really gone wild? Despite the media fascination with "bad girls," facts beyond the hype have remained unclear. Fighting for Girls focuses on these facts, and using the best data availabe about actual trends in girls' uses of violence, the scholars here find that by virtually any measure available, incidents of girls' violence are going down, not up. Additionally, rather than attributing girls violence to personality or to girls becoming "more like boys," Fighting for Girls focuses on the contexts that produce violence in girls, demonstrating how addressing the unique problems that confront girls in dating relationships, families, school hallways and classrooms, and in distressed urban neighborhoods can help reduce girls' use of violence. Often including girls' own voices, contributors to the volume illustrate why girls use violence in certain situations, encouraging us to pay attention to trauma in the girls' pasts as well as how violence becomes a tool girls use to survive toxic families, deteriorated neighborhoods, and neglectful schools.
From the exuberant excesses of Carmen Miranda in the "tutti frutti hat" to the curvaceous posterior of Jennifer Lopez, the Latina body has long been a signifier of Latina/o identity in U.S. popular culture. But how does this stereotype of the exotic, erotic Latina "bombshell" relate, if at all, to real Latina women who represent a wide spectrum of ethnicities, national origins, cultures, and physical appearances? How are ideas about "Latinidad" imagined, challenged, and inscribed on Latina bodies? What racial, class, and other markers of identity do representations of the Latina body signal or reject? In this broadly interdisciplinary book, experts from the fields of Latina/o studies, media studies, communication, comparative literature, women's studies, and sociology come together to offer the first wide-ranging look at the construction and representation of Latina identity in U.S. popular culture. The authors consider such popular figures as actresses Lupe Vélez, Salma Hayek, and Jennifer Lopez; singers Shakira and Celia Cruz; and even the Hispanic Barbie doll in her many guises. They investigate the media discourses surrounding controversial Latinas such as Lorena Bobbitt and Marisleysis González. And they discuss Latina representations in Lupe Solano's series of mystery books and in the popular TV shows El Show de Cristina and Laura en América. This extensive treatment of Latina representation in popular culture not only sheds new light on how meaning is produced through images of the Latina body, but also on how these representations of Latinas are received, revised, and challenged.
This chapter proposes a bridging of the immigration and gender and sexuality fields in order to carefully study the fluid sexual reinventions that are created by mexicanas in the United States. It proposes an idea that is based on recent scholarship on the interrelated dynamics of migration, gender, and sexuality. The discussion studies the things Mexican immigrant women teach their daughters about sexuality, most especially about premarital virginity. It uses data from in-depth interviews with Mexican immigrant women located in Los Angeles, and tries to determine how Mexican women give sex education for their daughters. The chapter also suggests that the moral standards of Catholicism are only part influencing the ideas of the mexicanas on virginity.
Victor Rios grew up in the ghetto of Oakland, California in the 1980s and 90s. A former gang member and juvenile delinquent, Rios managed to escape the bleak outcome of many of his friends and earned a PhD at Berkeley and returned to his hometown to study how inner city young Latino and African American boys develop their sense of self in the midst of crime and intense policing. Punished examines the difficult lives of these young men, who now face punitive policies in their schools, communities, and a world where they are constantly policed and stigmatized. Rios followed a group of forty delinquent Black and Latino boys for three years. These boys found themselves in a vicious cycle, caught in a spiral of punishment and incarceration as they were harassed, profiled, watched, and disciplined at young ages, even before they had committed any crimes, eventually leading many of them to fulfill the destiny expected of them. But beyond a fatalistic account of these marginalized young men, Rios finds that the very system that criminalizes them and limits their opportunities, sparks resistance and a raised consciousness that motivates some to transform their lives and become productive citizens. Ultimately, he argues that by understanding the lives of the young men who are criminalized and pipelined through the criminal justice system, we can begin to develop empathic solutions which support these young men in their development and to eliminate the culture of punishment that has become an overbearing part of their everyday lives.