By Jessica Zagacki
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition (QTPOCC) and the Hofstra Organization of Latinx Americans (HOLA) collaborated with Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion (IEI) for their event, “Diversity, Dialogue & Dessert: The Fetishization of Latinx.”
At the event, dessert was served while organization leaders of QTPOCC and HOLA gave a presentation on the hypersexualization and fetishization of Latino/a/x people in pop culture. After the presentation, there was an open dialogue in which conversation sparked with personal testimonies and experiences, giving insight into the stereotypes and fetishization that Latinx people face on a constant daily basis.
This fetishization, however, is not something that just started happening recently in society. “Historically, it’s not a new thing, but I think a lot of it comes from colonization and imperialism,” said student activist Jaloni Owens. “When things are different, people either brutalize them and abuse them and are very physically violent, or they become a source for people to enact their fetishes on.”
Fetishization of the Latinx community can manifest in a number of ways. “Fetishization and stereotypes go hand in hand, especially when it comes to the Latinx community. So big butts, big breasts, curvy for women and then men it’s super muscular and tan and tall with that specific accent,” said Michelle Boo, the vice president of QTPOCC.
Both Owens and Boo were able to think of many times they felt like they were objects of fetishization and how horrible it feels to experience it. “There are so many, but the general experiences that I have are very different from other Latina woman because I look more African American than I do Latina,” Owens said.
Boo explained how it’s a common occurrence for fetishization to occur on dating apps, “It happens a lot, especially if I’m using a dating app because they want me for what I look like, not for who I am.”
So what advice did Owens and Boo have for the Latinx community to know that they’re not reduced to what some people in society see them and treat them as? “It’s not ascribing necessarily to how society tells you you should be. For example, I’m a [person of color], but also I’m a Latina. And also, I dress completely the opposite of what you would think a Latina would dress like, which is hyperfeminine, high heels all the time, jewelry, a full face of makeup and long, flowing curly hair,” Boo said. “I don’t look like that, I don’t dress like that, that’s not me. So it’s not ascribing to those kinds of things if you don’t feel that way. If you do, go for it. But if you don’t, please do not. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.”
Similarly, Owens agreed that it’s important to stay true to yourself instead of conforming to what other people might tell you or think that you should look like. “I can’t look Latina. It’s not a costume. I think it’s not being so hard on yourself and mean to yourself because it comes with racism, and wanting to look Eurocentric and wanting to have all these passing features that you think will make you more human to racist people or more desirable and will stop racism, but it won’t.”
There are numerous ways that people can go about breaking these stereotypes and stop the fetishization of Latinx people. “You could just be nice to people and unlearn problematic behaviors and do research and expand your bounds. Especially on this campus when there’s so many organizations like QTPOCC and the NAACP and HOLA that are actively doing the work,” Owens said. “You can come to an event like this one and ask the questions that you want to ask and hear testimony from people talking about fetishization. I think it’s really just stepping outside of yourself and doing some critical thinking and reflection.”