Real Women Have Ambition

I’ve just watched a few scenes from Real Women Have Curves.   From the title and marketing, it’s about normal healthy-sized women accepting their inner beauty, which is a great message.   It’s also about a Latino girl (Ana) coming of age and having to choose between her scholarship to Columbia and letting her mother to pressure her into working in the family sweatshop.

But from the very few scenes I’ve watched, what leaps off the screen is the mother’s jealousy of her daughter.   The mother needs Ana to help her around the house.   It’s not fair that Ana wastes her time doing schoolwork while the mother works.   Ana needs to lose weight and worry about her looks.   Ana’s failure to learn sewing, child-rearing and “how to take care of a husband” is going to be her undoing.   If Ana has demonstrates knowledge of sexual things, she won’t land a husband because “a man wants a virgin”.   Right now, the mother is claiming to be pregnant in order to guilt Ana into helping her out.   If I’m guessing right, the mother is going through menopause, not pregnancy, which will only deepen her jealousy toward her daughter.

This is a topic I like to see visited on screen, because it’s certainly one I’ve seen in real life enough times.   IMDB commentors talk about how the movie examines the truth behind Latino stereotypes, but it’s hardly limited to that culture.   Jealousy is one of many reasons women try to make sure no other woman breaks out of the status quo.   Interestingly, Ana’s father wants to see her get an education and fulfill her potential – she can always marry later.


  1. scarlett says

    I had a friend who would try to stop me from achieving anything because she couldn’t bear for me to eclipse her (my interpretation, anyway). In the end, I cut ties with that friend, and she still doesn’t understand why, several years later. I would give anything to have her be supportive and be mates again; but failing that, I had to forge my own trail, even if it meant cutting all ties. But I can’t help but wonder how much stronger a person I may have been with her support rather then her attempts to undermine me.
    My point? In the great sceme of women’s equality, how much further would we be if we stopped bickering and undermining each other and seeing it as an individual quest rather then a human quest?

  2. Maartje says

    I won’t go into my pet-peeve about the lack of non-surgical curves on TV. OK, just a little bit. People with curves in all the right places are bound to have some in a lot of ‘wrong’ places too. If they are finally showing that on TV, I’m happy.

    The mother here is clearly suffering from ‘if it was good enough for me…’ syndrome. She recognizes herself in her daughter but gets jealous of all the oppertunities the daughter has. If daughter manages to have a better quality of life than mother it will mean mother has failed at life.

    I can’t speak for real-life but on TV I find that men and their sons are completely different. The average fathers wanting their sons to do better so it will reflect on them. No matter what the son wants, father will push him and push him.

    But why? Who honestly believes men see their sons as extensions of themselves while women see their daughters as new competitors on the block?
    Why is it that women are always depicted as so insecure that they need to bring others down to their level just to be able to say ‘I’m better/as good as you.’?
    Some women will be that way sure, but in my experience most mothers try to help their daughters (and sons) as best they can. Again, just my experience, every time I have to whine/complain/bitch about someone there’s always a receptive (female) audience and when I’m done they always say something along the lines of: ‘Well, let’s just get back out there and show them how it’s done’.

    TV’d get mighty boring if it depicted everyone being supportive of each other, but the various ‘dramatic issues’ should be distributed among the sexes a bit more fairly.

  3. scarlett says

    I remember reading an article about a lesbian who had pretended to be a man and wrote about her experiences – among others, that she found men had been a whole lot more supportive of her as a man then women had of women – at one point she sayd, when they help her with her bowling game, that men take no fun out of beating a man who’s not at his best; they want to beat a man who’s doing his best, even if that means helping him achieve his best. By contrast, her experience with women as a woman was that they would backstab and undermine each other at every possibly turn. I felt she was painting in quite broad strokes but it made me think about how women seemed programmed to hold each other down whereas men don’t see any fun in beating another man any less then fair and square.
    Think I’ll write an article about that when we have a little less of a backlog :p

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    You know, that’s a very good point. I liked this portrayal of it because it actually reminded me of some women in my own family. Because it was well-written and well-executed, it was cathartic.

    But I agree that the typical stereotypes show men wanting their boys to do well to reflect on them, and women competing with their daughters. This does reflect (as Scarlett points out) societal conditioning, sadly: sons are seen as extensions of fathers (but not, generally, mothers), while all woman exist solely to compete for men. That’s the goal of a patriarchal society.

    TV and films can take several approaches: (1) reflect and reinforce the status quo, (2) give us an improvement on the status quo in order to make us think, or (3) show us how the status quo doesn’t work. This film took #3, and for me it worked because I do unfortunately have a great deal of experience with women who try to hold me back and men who try to support and help me.

    In the final analysis, an awful lot of men and women will need to change their ways for the status quo to improve.

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