Systems of oppression in the movie real women have curves

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Systems of oppression in the movie real women have curves
Real women have curves is an American award-winning film produced in 2002. The
Youth Jury Award and the Imagen Award are among the awards that the film has received and
hence earning it massive publicity. The film was authored and directed by Josefina Lopez and
Patricia Cardoso respectively (Candelaria 26). It is set in Los Angeles and features a young
woman, Ana Garcia, who is torn between her dream and ambition of going to college and family
responsibilities amidst economic hardships. One thing that stands out in the film is its setting in a
Hispanic neighborhood and the depiction of a Mexican-American family (Katzew and Deans-
Smith 47). Among the themes that the movie presents include the immigrant experience, mother-
daughter conflicts, self-acceptance, generational conflict, and positive body image.
The issues of oppression against women feature prominently in the film real women have
curves. Systems of oppression in the movie include body image concerns, family obligations and
societal expectations, the Latino culture, domestic violence, an exploitative marketplace and
labor force, and the immigrant experience. The concept of body image comes out clearly in the
movie. Women are oppressed by the fact that society expects them to have a perfect body and
size. A woman is labeled as attractive if she is thin and blonde; otherwise, she is not attractive.
Gledhill (79) states that idealized female bodies fit in the glamorous and small sized dresses that
Estela and her colleagues made. Carmen, Ana`s mother, often barbs her about her hefty figure
and expects her to have a perfect body that an ideal woman should have (Scott 127).
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Nevertheless, Anna beat the tyranny of the perfect body and embraces her less-than-perfect
body. This self-acceptance gives Ana the strength to initiate a relationship with her high school
love interest Jimmy. In a scene at Estela`s factory, Anna helps her colleagues to overcome the
perfect body mentality and accept their imperfect bodies. The women get a chance to appreciate
and feel pride in their work and body. After working for twenty-four hours without rest, Ana and
her co-workers are both sweaty and tired. Ana leads her co-workers in stripping their blouses and
continuing their work in bras. What follows is the other women shedding off their clothes to
display their huge bodies, stretch marks and scars. This act liberates women from the ideology of
the perfect body and they display their bodies publicly.
Family obligations and social expectations are a system of oppression in the movie.
Family obligation is a form of oppression against women that comes out conspicuously in the
film. Ana just graduated from high school, and is on the verge of becoming a woman. As a
woman, Ana is expected to devote her life to her family and provide for them. She is expected to
neglect any dreams and aspirations she has for the sake of her family. Ana`s parents share this
ideology and expect their daughter to remain at home and help with the factory. Carmen wants
Ana to embrace the role of a traditional Mexican woman and become a homemaker and
wageworker. Anna is torn between going to college to pursue her ambitions and maintaining her
cultural heritage by staying at home with her family. Ana is faced with societal expectations and
is obliged to comply with gender roles. The movie starts with a scene of Anna who is about to
leave for school and her mother who is unwell. Carmen urges Ana to skip school and take care of
the men in the household because it is a woman`s duty to take care of men in the family (Scott).
However, Ana is reluctant to do so and opts to go to school instead. Anna is expected to find a
husband to start a family with and have children. Carmen advises Ana to lose weight so that she
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can have an ideal thin body image to “catch” a man and become a good wife. She is anticipated
to forget all her dreams and ambitions in life and adhere to societal expectations without
question. When one of Ana`s high school teacher`s tries to persuade Carmen, to allow Ana to
further her education, Carmen disagrees. Carmen supposes that Anna has an obligation to marry
and give her grandchildren, something that Anna`s sister, Estela failed to do. From this part of
the film, it can be deduced that women have an obligation of marrying and having children,
whether they like it or not. Carmen is presented as an ideal woman because she complied with
this expectation; married and had children.
The Latino culture is a system of oppression in the film. It obliges women to be
dependent and submissive and not make decisions that compromise the cultural norms. When
Ana makes a decision to accept the scholarship to Columbia University in a bid to attain
independence, Carmen is unhappy. Carmen refuses to give Ana her blessings as she leaves for
New York and even locks herself in her room. It can be deduced that Ana`s mother blames
herself for not raising the ideal woman who is both dependent and submissive. Although Ana
still leaves to pursue her ambition, she is sad because she did not adhere to her role in the Latino
culture. The film portrays domestic violence as a system of oppression. It features a scene of Ana
and her co-workers listening to a talk show on the radio on abusive spouses. Ana asserts that
women should leave abusive spouses because they have the right to control their sexuality,
destiny, and bodies. She contends that a woman should not hold on to an abusive relationship
because she is dependent on the spouse, for the sake of children, or the church advises her to
endure. This scene depicts a type of oppression for women who cling to their abusive spouse due
to various reasons. Ana states “we can`t allow ourselves to be abused anymore.”
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The movie real women have curves presents an exploitative marketplace and labor force
as systems of oppression. Estela runs the family sewing company that is not doing well and risks
closure. She is dedicated, talented, and works hard to ascertain the smooth running of the factory.
Also, Estela has a healthy relationship with her employees particularly Pancha and Rosali.
However, amidst Estela`s hard work, she receives a small compensation for her dresses while the
department store sells them at a high price. The department store buys Estela`s dresses at $18 per
piece and sells them at $600 per piece (Scott 67). This is a depiction of marketplace exploitation
and oppression whereby the producer who does a majority of the work gets a small
compensation, while the seller gets a hefty compensation for little or no work. Apart from
marketplace and labor exploitation, Estela`s dresses also depict the normative ideal of slender
beauty. The dresses only run to size 12 and hence are meant for slender women. Although Ana
admires the dresses, she can neither fit into the dresses nor afford them.
The immigrant experience comes out prominently in the film and immigrants are
portrayed as an oppressed population. The movie is set in a Mexican American family that is
experiencing various obstacles such as economic impoverishment and repressive gender roles.
Just like Ana, many youths of color and low income have limited choices in life and many end
up soliciting for employment opportunities to help their families financially. The economic
impoverishment of the family forces Carmen, Estela, and Ana to work in the garment industry.
According to Candelaria (24), the garment industry is both a difficult and low paying
employment sector for immigrant women globally. As immigrant women, Ana and her
colleagues, experience poor working conditions, low wages, and long working hours. For
instance, in a bid to meet a dresses order deadline, Ana and her co-workers work for 24 hours
straight. Also, they work in a dimly light and poorly ventilated environment. As a wageworker,
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Estela and her employees make dresses they cannot wear because they cannot afford the dresses
and they are real-sized yet the dresses are meant for slender women (Scott 87). As a person of
color and immigrant, Ana`s family cannot afford to take her to college and Ana applies for a
scholarship that is successful.
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Works Cited
Candelaria, C. Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, Volume 1. Westport: Greenwood
Publishing Group, 2004. Print
Gledhill, C. Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas. Champaign: University of Illinois Press,
2012. Print
Katzew, I and S Deans-Smith. Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America. Redwood
City: Stanford University Press, 2009. Print
Lopez, J. Real Women have Curves. 2002
Scott, R. What is Eating Latin American Women Writers: Food, Weight, and Eating Disorders.
New York: Cambria Press, 2009. Print

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