Courtesy NBC News
As a woman on the planet, we’re often subject to unwanted comments about our bodies. Often, people cloak their comments in “concern”. We may be “giving people the wrong idea” or “distracting” others with the way our bodies look. And if you’re a woman of color, as TV chef Alejandra Ramos writes, this criticism is more intense.
As a woman of color, people often fetishize and other-ize our bodies. Clothing that might be appropriate and “normal” on a white body becomes downright dangerous on yours. This is especially true if you are more curvaceous.
On Tueday, chef and TODAY show contributor Alejandra Ramos wrote an emotional piece venting her frustration at the body-shaming comments viewers make about her body.
The comments Alejandra Ramos receives often have both sexual and racialized undertones. After a successful TODAY show segment where Ramos presented a fun recipe on sheet pancakes, her feelings of accomplishment were quickly dampened by negative feedback she got about the way her body looks on camera.
“I’m sure NBC execs were frowning during the segment,” someone tweeted at her. “Suggest you wear more appropriate attire next time you appear on a U.S. channel, especially when you appear on a premiere show like Today. I want to see more of your recipes on air with a little less of your figure.”
And this hateful comment was just one of many racist, body-shaming comments that Alejandra Ramos received from disgruntled viewers.
Ramos received a myriad of other racist, body-shaming criticisms about her appearance. “You are not working in Spanish television where women’s fashion is more revealing than American,” said another person. “Do we have to look at your body?” wrote someone else.
The issue, apparently, was the dress that Ramos was wearing: a flowing, citrus-orange A-line dress with a V-neck that revealed some of her décolletage.
These criticisms stand out because they have overt racist and sexist undertones. These critics highlighted the fact that Alejandra Ramos was other–a Latina in a white space.
“The real issue was that, as a vibrant, curvy, Latina woman, I was thriving and being celebrated in a space that rarely makes room for people who look like me,” wrote Ramos on a powerful op-ed for TODAY.
Ramos explained in her op-ed that people have made negative, racialized comments about her body not only throughout her career, but throughout her life.
“I was always darker, curvier, chubbier and frizzier than everyone else around me,” she explained. By the time she was 11-years-old, adults were making negative comments about her body, sexualizing her, telling her to “cover up”.
“Sometimes the comments do come from a good place, however misguided”, Ramos wrote, “but more often than not, they’re words of control and racism.”
“Styles, outfits and body shapes that are praised and celebrated on white bodies are judged differently on people of color.”
Ramos revealed that a white, thinner friend of hers wore an almost identical dress to hers in a different cooking segment and got none of the body-hate that Ramos did.
Luckily, instead of withering under the criticism, Ramos is using it as an opportunity to thrive. By showing up in her curvaceous, Latina body with pride, Ramos is showing other women and young girls of color that their bodies are normal and worthy.
“To the woman who wrote to me after my segment: I know that kids are watching — and I’m glad they are,” she concluded her op-ed. “I hope many of them are girls like I once was, and that seeing me on TV makes them realize that no matter what anyone says to them, they are good and valued and worthy of anything they dream of.”
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