Women often make sacrifices that are in favor of their families’ futures. In La Yuma, Yuma gives up her career as a boxer in order to make more money and provide better living conditions for her siblings. In Maid in America, Telma, Judith, and Eva come to the United States in hopes of helping their families. They sacrificed their homes in their native lands. Even though they came looking for the American Dream, they are not able to find easier lives, but they find their way to live through poor working conditions because even this is easier than living poorly in their homelands. Lastly, Walterio Iraheta’s drawing of the Central American woman in a Superman costume best portrays the strength that women have and that men are blind to see. I will examine through a formalistic perspective the reoccurring theme of feminism presented within these texts.
No matter the era or location in the world, women continue to live their monotonous lives in a patriarchal dominant society. Women are viewed as less capable than men; thus, creating this belief that men are the dominant gender. In Florence Jaugey’s film, La Yuma, Anayansi Prado’s Maid in America, and Walterio Iraheta’s artwork “Super Chica en Atitlán,” I will examine through a formalistic perspective the reoccurring theme of feminism presented within these texts. Their work shares various views on gender inequality. For example, La Yuma is about a young girl in Nicaragua who dreams about becoming a boxer even when everyone, including her friends and family, question why a girl would want to go into a male-dominated profession. Furthermore, Maid in America presents a different reality in the United States. The documentary follows undocumented domestic workers and focuses on a realistic perspective that gives new meaning to female empowerment and “doing it all.” Lastly, “Super Chica en Atitlán” is Iraheta’s artistic depiction of not only female empowerment but indigenous strength. The artistic showcase illustrates the iconic power of Superman but applies it to an indigenous woman from Atitlán. In conclusion, society’s criticism of women’s roles is a problem because it creates disadvantages for women; therefore, as shown in La Yuma, Maid in America, and “Super Chica en Atitlán,” women struggle to adapt to this patriarchy yet their strength ultimately cannot be defeated.
Often, people sacrifice one thing in hopes of retrieving something better later on. Sacrifice is shown to play a large role in the films and the artwork that we are going to examine, particularly with the female characters. Women sacrifice their careers and goals to get in return a brighter future for their families. In Jaugey’s film, La Yuma, a teenage girl by the name of Yuma constantly sacrifices her dreams of being a female boxer along with her free will for the stability of her siblings. Taking place in the outskirts of Nicaragua, Jaugey portrays the economic issues that the nation faces due to the poverty that is affecting the people, and how they depend on charity and crime as their source of income. Yuma has no choice, she has no father or anything remotely close to a nuclear family; she goes to work to support her own needs along with her siblings’. The film envisions this idea of feminism and it is portrayed by creating scenes that do not meet gender expectations. These expectations are based on stereotypical views on gender; for instance, it is thought that women must be submissive to males, they have to stay at home and if possible, generate some source of income there.
Expectations for men have contributed to the installment of this patriarchy and date back to early civilizations. The scene in which Yuma first tells Snake that she is training to be a female boxer is an example of how she is defying these boundaries that have been placed by men on women in patriarchal societies. Snake and his crew laugh making her dreams seem radical and delusional. The machista mindset found in men is reflected in this scene. Jaugey shows that diminishing Yuma's hopes of becoming a female boxer is negative. However, Yuma does not give up and continues to train with her male friend, Yader, who is Yuma’s guidance throughout the film. He faces Yuma numerous times while she is down and he is able to set her straight towards her goal, her desire to chase her dreams. Along with struggling with finding motivation, Yuma faces economic hardships when she wants to fight professionally to earn money. Although her boxing coach thought that she was not ready yet, waiting to do so was not an option for her. Nevertheless, eventually Yuma quits her boxing career and gets a job at a circus where she is able to satisfy both her need for money and her desire for boxing. Instead of choosing to leave her family behind and focus on her career, she makes the ultimate sacrifice of removing her siblings from an abusive home and becoming their main care taker. Doing so allows her to support her siblings while doing what she loves. Making these sacrifices further strengthened Yuma’s character and the overall image of women who share similar experiences.
The simplistic black and white drawing of the woman with Superman’s symbol on her chest represents women’s ability to be heroic and strong. This lady shows her wisdom with the wrinkles of age found on her face, while holding a power pose called, “Superman,” that further portrays her strength.
Just like Yuma, migrants from all around the world come to the United States in search of economic freedom. However, in their pursuit of the “American Dream,” when they arrive, they face issues related to assimilation and finding a job that offers them good working conditions. Immigrants escape the poor economic conditions of their homes, with the hope of having a better future; nevertheless, once in the U.S. they still found themselves in difficult situations. Therefore, desperate to create any form of income, these immigrant women are forced to take any job on the table, whether it is suitable for them or not. Prado’s film, Maid in America, takes place in Los Angeles and examines the reality of the “American Dream.” This film views the daily life and the struggles of three women who work as maids, either full time or part time, to meet their needs and chase their dreams. Through Telma, Judith, and Eva we are able to see the difficulties of leaving their homes in their native lands in search for an opportunity in the United States. Telma came to the U.S. in 1990, she works as a full-time nanny and as a housekeeper while earning less than $10 an hour. Unlike the rest of the maids in the film, she has no dependents outside the nation. Judith, however, came from Guatemala leaving behind her four daughters. She and her husband came to the U.S. to earn money so she could send money to support her daughters and mother in Guatemala. With the living conditions in her homeland, people are unable to work and make enough wages to afford everyday expenses. Eva, the third maid, came to America to also taste the reality of the American Dream. She came from Mexico with a degree in public accounting; however, her degrees and credits did not correspond with the curriculum in the United States. Therefore, she goes back to school. She has a job as a maid during the day, and in the afternoon, she took up a working opportunity as a tax preparer. Just like other immigrants who do domestic jobs, Eva’s working conditions require a lot of manual labor. In order to receive better working conditions, Eva joins a labor union where she meets many other people who face similar problems. Her involvement contributed to the Domestic Worker Day celebration, and her participation with the “Súper Doméstica” play awakened many people who are unaware of the rights that workers had in terms of their bosses. Even though Maid in America does not focus only on one woman, the final scene shows the current status of domestic workers in the United States.
In patriarchal dominant societies, women struggle to find their place and their voice. The term machismo refers to the ideology that men should be hypermasculine and not submit to women. In return, women need to be saint-like and follow the idea of marianismo. These expectations and gender roles are deconstructed by Walterio Iraheta’s art piece, “Super Chica in Atitlán.” This reoccurring theme of feminism is portrayed through Iraheta’s drawing by incorporating a male, heroic icon—Superman—on an elderly Guatemalan woman’s chest. The simplistic black and white drawing of the woman with Superman’s symbol on her chest represents women’s ability to be heroic and strong. This lady shows her wisdom with the wrinkles of age found on her face, while holding a power pose called, “Superman,” that further portrays her strength. The juxtaposition of the Guatemalan woman inhabiting Superman’s symbol best creates the idea of a feministic message. The simple drawing with a white background stands against the ideology of males as dominant and against the “virgin” aspect of the dichotomy. Superman is an ideal of the United States, as he represents strength, much like the “Super Chica in Atitlán” that Iraheta drew. Superman, however, symbolizes the American Dream and freedom. With his presence, the people feel safe, and if bad is to lurk, he will be there to save the day. Iraheta may have picked any superhero to illustrate an indigenous aspect into, though he chose Superman who is arguably the superhero that eludes the most Jesus-like image of the United States. Superheroes and immigrants are both viewed as outsiders and yet are criticized by those who are ignorant and do not understand their situations. The two topics that Iraheta’s art binds are more similar than different; they both portray their strength in their own worlds and both of them have received their fair share of criticism due to their backgrounds. Very similar to “Súper Doméstica” in Maid in America, Iraheta’s illustration adds density to women’s purpose and further deconstructs the machista ideologies of patriarchal societies.
Women go through discrimination when it comes to their aspirations. They have a difficult time assimilating while they are chasing the false idea of the American Dream. In addition, women are also look down upon, though, they too have superpowers. Women often make sacrifices that are in favor of their families’ futures. In La Yuma, Yuma gives up her career as a boxer in order to make more money and provide better living conditions for her siblings. In Maid in America, Telma, Judith, and Eva come to the United States in hopes of helping their families. They sacrificed their homes in their native lands. Even though they came looking for the American Dream, they are not able to find easier lives, but they find their way to live through poor working conditions because even this is easier than living in their homelands. Lastly, Walterio Iraheta’s drawing of the Central American woman in a Superman costume best portrays the strength that women have and that men are blind to see. Therefore, these texts represent the hope that feminism and equality can bring to the world.
Iraheta, Walter. “Serie·03·06.” Kyrptonite. 2006. kryptoniteserie.blogspot.com.
Jaugey, Florence, director. La Yuma. Ivania Films, 2009. www.amazon.com/LaYuma/dp/B007KDA334.
Prado, Anayansi, director. Maid in America. Welcome to California State University-Northridge | Kanopy, 2005, csun.kanopy.com/video/maid-america.