Jun. 6th, 2014

tablesaw: The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite> (Mexican Murder Rock!)

I'm trying to write a thing about stereotypes, but it's hard because I haven't been writing for a while. While procrastiresearching, I started asking my (non-Latina) girlfriend whether she thought "Mexicans love Morrissey" was a stereotype. She had never heard anything like that. She wanted to know, in response, whether "Mexicans love Mariachi music" was a stereotype.

What I'm trying to get at (in the other piece, the one I'm still not writing) is the way in which stereotypes aren't generalizations, but ideological statements that justify the hierarchical positions of different social groups. "Mexicans are lazy" and "Mexicans are hard-working" are contradictory, but each works to justify Latin@s being stuck in labor-intensive jobs without promotional paths in the United States. But "Mexicans love Mariachi music" doesn't quite get at that directly.

What I wanted to say didn't quite crystallize until I saw Bankuei's post/tweets:

Marginalized folks are punished for their cultural markers, appropriators are rewarded for using other folk’s cultural markers.

It really doesn’t even matter WHAT the thing is being appropriated, it’s really about appropriating as a means of reinforcing the power structure about WHO is allowed to take and WHO is expected to be taken from.

"Cultural marker" was precisely the concept I was looking for. It's not just that Mariachi is a form of music from Mexico, it's that it's one of the cultural markers used in the United States to stand in for "Mexican/Latin@/Spanish-Speaking Brown Person", along with "cactus," "sombrero," "poncho," "tequila," "mustache," and "Cinco de Mayo." In fact, if you're looking for the cultural markers for Latin@, just go to a "Cinco de Mayo" "celebration" by white people, and you'll see "Mexican" neatly packaged. Identifying any of those trite markers is a reminder of how Mexican culture is marginalized by its differences, and various other Latino cultures are erased through homogenization. "Mexicans love Morrissey" doesn't fit anywhere on that ideological map of the dominant group.

But "Mexicans love Morrissey" still feels kind of stereotypy to me; why would that be? Well, looking at my own definition, it must have an ideological grounding that resonates with me. Perhaps that's because I'm also a Mexican-American who also likes Morrissey and listened to him in high school.(It also clearly resonates with others, like Rio Yañez, whose graphic is at the top of this post, and has used Morrissey as a muse several times.) And it is ideological, it runs counter to (or at least parallel to) the status quo.

I don't know that there's quite a word for that kind of non-dominant stereotype. They're around, but they don't get reproduced by the dominant culture in the same way, and you're not going to hear about them unless you're part of a group, or at least have actual positive interaction with that group. "Black don't crack" strikes me as one as well (with revolutionary messages of both beauty and resilience).

I don't have an ending, so here's a clip of Matt Smith comparing a Japanese fighter to Eeyore and Morrissey.

Rio Yañez draws Matt Smith imagining Eeyore and Morrissey with a sword.

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