Latino Men and Blog-o-Bullshitism
I have a hard time seeing how many people in the 21st century still promote stereotypes that link ways of being with a geographical area. The result is an unconscious kind of racism that comes across as deeply misinformed. This has a lot to do with the current age of information acceleration and quality drop. People write more about unimportant things. And when they write about culture difference, they may be incorporating and perpetuating unchecked preconceptions about other cultures.
Take this blog, entitled ‘Body Image & Nonverbal Communication’ – in a post entitled ‘Body Image and Latin America’, Benjamin Denton, goes deep into research! His sources? Wikipedia and sites that perpetuate cultural stereotypes without a second thought, or for self-promotional purposes, like Latino.com, vidadelatinos.com, and theguardian.com. This is part of a larger series on what I call ‘bloggologics’, a way of thinking that is spreading very fast unchecked. We need to be more careful. I will use this case to talk about some precautions that you might want to take while writing about culture difference.
Denton quotes a beauty-pageant winner from Venezuela and assumes that all women would think like her. He quotes carelessly from an article that starts with ‘Latin American men these days’, and goes on and on. They are vain, Denton parrots, all Latin American men – this is something that is missing in American culture – vanity! Curiously, the trashiest celebrity culture in the planet is American. Just picture Donald Trump running for president, and you should get the idea. Or think about what is popular music in America these days, half-brained celebrities who think they are gods and are treated accordingly. Yet, for anyone who studied music, they come across as morons who produce torturous, repetitive, music. What people consider lyrics these days is nothing more than a bunch of spells repeated into eternity. So many people asleep, probably with top forty songs ringing continuously in their heads. I feel sorry for them. So, it’s time to start waking up!
I don’t want to waste too much time with such terrible stereotyping. Denton’s piece speaks for itself. I will leave you with a final thought: the idea that ‘Latin American’ men (not a realistic category) are more prone to use beauty products and trim their eyebrows contradicts my experiences with Persian men (another broad category) in Canada – there, they are all well-groomed, and most of them trim their eyebrows.
I’ve always cared little about my appearance, I get a haircut once every six months or so, when it starts bothering me. I am from Brazil, so I classify as a ‘Latin American’. What I can tell you is that there are men everywhere who like to groom themselves in these ways, pedicure, manicure, massages, oils, eyebrow trimming, liposuction, fake tanning, weight lifting, for whatever reasons. I think that the most you are involved with others who expect you to look a certain way, you may be adapting, perhaps unwittingly, to those presumptions. That is, unless you’ve woken up and understand that outside appearances mean nothing. In fact, overly groomed people, wherever they might be, give me the creeps. There is something wrong with them.
Gels and Grins, Suits and Shoes, Smiles and Empty Heads
The people I know who wear suits and are sane usually take them off as soon as they can, and are forced to wear them for work. Yet, men who do it all the time no matter what are of a different kind. When I lived in the Netherlands, I saw a lot of this – young men pacing together with smirks in their faces, some of them in their late teens and early twenties, all wearing expensive-looking yet very similar, even matching, suits, shoes and ties, hair groomed with gel. It reminds me of a description that Bourdieu makes in Distinction (1984) of some french businessmen, who all wear fake tans, play golf, go to the gym, etc. The problem is that they look the same, act and think the same way. The profs I met there were similar, just older versions of the same lifestyle and looks – balder, their bellies are swollen with years of free drinking in back-patting presentations, faces red with weekly binges, pedantic tone, and very weak output and engagement with reflexive questions.
Since I’ve grown up and even been roommates with a variety of so-called Latin Americans, let me enlighten people like Denton – to understand others, you should respect them as persons, and be very suspicious of stereotypes. That means you should not only talk to them but see whether and how their actions and words are aligned. Get out there, go live with different people, ask questions, and revisit your assumptions.