As a woman, I am always concerned when my reproductive rights are in danger of being taken. As a Latina, I find myself twice as frustrated. Because not only am I fighting the government but my heritage as well. It’s a complicated thing.
As a Latina, millennial, liberal woman I view the world much differently than my mother and even my sister. I remember when Sex and the City first aired. I used to watch it in secret because the entire show revolved around women having premarital sex and my mother banned HBO from our house (I still won’t watch it in front of her.)
Sex and abortion are very taboo, even in the most progressive Latino families. One of the best portrayals of this dynamic is the television show, Jane the Virgin. The very first episode opens with the grandmother character “Abuela” showing Jane a flower can never be restored to its original beauty once it has been tampered with, explaining what happens to your virginity. I laughed so hard watching Abuela and Jane because it was so true! Taught from a young age our sexuality is something to keep locked away. If you even think of physical pleasure, rest assured you can rely on your religious guilt to wash those thoughts away.
Jane the Virgin does an excellent job of showing us three major generational shifts of opinion on abortion, through the eyes of the leading Latina characters.
The title character, is a young modern Latina (Jane) a virgin, who gets accidentally inseminated, and decides to keep the child, but does not shun her mother for having an abortion later in the storyline.
Jane’s grandmother, who is traditional and strict to her religious ideals, feels tremendous guilt that she ever suggested Xiomara (Jane’s mother) had an abortion when she was pregnant with Jane at 17 years old.
Xiomara, who is now 41 yrs old, made a choice to keep her first pregnancy as a teen, and now as an adult, a grandmother herself decided to terminate her pregnancy.
I was completely shocked and impressed with how the writers gave viewers hope with Xiomara’s abortion storyline. They did not make Xiomara a “fallen woman” character; rather she was empowered. She simply took her health into her hands and made a decision that was best for her. I equally loved how they kept it real with “Abuela” making no qualms about hiding her judgment and disappointment. Their confrontation scene was authentic and accurate representation discussions I witnessed.
Cracking Open Doors
The storyline opened the door to a conversation.
Particularly in a time threating women’s reproductive rights, Latinas may find it difficult to speak on the matter. A mainstream show like Jane the Virgin; watched in many Latinx homes–the same homes that do not talk about sex, much less about abortion–can offer great insight and understanding. In my opinion, this episode is empowering towards Latinas who want the right to choose. The storyline allowed for us to recognize the role religion may or may not play, while at the same time respecting our difference of thought from the previous generation. If you wonder how accurate this is, a recent survey found over 79% of Latinas (registered voters) polled in Virginia do support a woman’s right to choose.
I want to give a special shout out to the writers, over the fact that the episode ended with all three of the main characters, Jane, her mother and grandmother tearing down this hideous yellow wallpaper “Abuela” put up at the start of the episode. It reminded me of the feminist short story, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story is written from the perspective of woman slowing going mad. She is oppressed and ignored, as a woman living in a patriarchal society circa 1892. It gave me hope to watch those three women tear down the yellow wallpaper. Hope that as Latinas continue to come into our own, we will unite and fight back against the patriarchy ingrained in our community. More importantly, I hope it inspires you to action and tell the General Assembly to tear down the restrictive “yellow wallpaper.”