Mayte Carranco stands with a slight bend in her knees, hands clasping what appears to be a remote control. She walks back and forth across the stage, gesturing to the screen behind her when the visuals change from rain to sun. She’s a newscaster presenting the weather forecast, and she doesn’t skip a beat. Even at the end of her announcements, when she blows a quick kiss and wishes her audience a good night, Carranco is cordial and succinct.
However Carranco, like the dozens of other Mexican weather women, is hardly recognized for her efficient delivery of weather announcements. Instead she’s praised and simultaneously criticized for her curvy figure and choice of clothing.
This group of weather women is often referred to as the “chicas del clima”, “diosas del clima”, and as Elena Reina so brusquely called them as in her recent article for El Pais – “las muñequitas del clima.” It’s glaringly evident how these women stand out amongst their fellow newscasters. They’re wearing dresses that could be mistaken for figure skating costumes, high heels that point their feet into a 90-degree angle, and hair that falls down their backs in impeccably long layers. Their bodies reflect Barbie Doll proportions.
It’s very lucrative to be a weather woman in Mexico, and an unofficial industry of sorts has risen around them. Yanet Garcia, the 25 year-old weather anchor for Televisa Monterrey, has various modeling contracts with different companies and boasts 1.4 million followers on Instagram. She’s even garnered a wave of U.S. press, with commenters practically salivating over her physical attributes. Other weather women like Marilu Kaufman, Susana Almeida, Gaby Lozoya, and Texas-based anchors like Lisa Villegas and Prissila Sanchez have also reined in serious social media followings.
This brand of Mexican weather woman has recently come under attack.
Their Instagram accounts, which are almost all curated with a mix of selfies and photos of themselves with their families or on set, receive scores of hundreds of likes. Their enormously popular Twitter accounts pay tribute to their fans, often retweeting the flirty compliments from male followers. On YouTube, their broadcasts get hits into the tens of millions.
But while their big smiles, bouncy demeanors, and tiny yet voluptuous bodies have been a staple of media culture in Mexico for decades, this brand of Mexican weather women has recently come under attack. Since Reina’s article went viral, even big-name female celebrities responded with their own quips. When Guadalupe Loaeza, the journalist and author of several novels about the lives of high society Mexican women tweeted the article, television personality Marta Guzmán quickly weighed in saying, “I still like everything about the weather forecast just not as a presenter.”
“It was a sexist comment,” said Dr. Silvia López Estrada, gender studies researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (College of the Northern Border) in Tijuana. “It reflects the stereotype that has been created about these news presenters.”
Guzmán’s comments and the hundreds of similar responses from men and women alike serve as more powerful examples of misogyny than the actual dress code requirements these weather women adhere to. These weather women find themselves between a rock and a hard place; subjects to a machismo-driven culture that expects – even demands – the sexualization of women, but then turns around and shames these very women for being sexy, rather than pointing fingers at the patriarchal conditions that create this system. “These women are victims of aggression,” said Nancy Bonilla, feminist activist and academic coordinator of the Red Iberoamericano Pro Derechos Humanos (Iberoamericano Pro Human Rights Network) in Tijuana. “It’s culturally acceptable to oppress and discriminate against these women. Just as it’s acceptable to discriminate against indigenous women, sex workers, and women in general.”
In her El Pais piece, Reina quotes gender studies professor Marta Lamas Encabo from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico) on the prevailing state of misogyny in Mexico: “Machismo in Mexico is a part of the national identity, it comes from the Revolution and persists even in the rancheras.” It’s so pervasive, in fact, that Reina failed to see the subconscious misogyny that colored her own piece.
It’s a ‘boys club’ that runs television in Mexico and has perpetuated the sexualization of the weather forecast with these women.
Machismo is the driving force behind the media industry. “It’s a ‘boys club’ that runs television in Mexico and has perpetuated the sexualization of the weather forecast with these women,” said a female administrator at Televisa’s San Diego station who asked to remain anonymous.
The sex appeal of Mexican weather girls, and the monumental fandom they inspire is what maintains ratings. Moreover, sexy marketing is everywhere in Mexico. From the tianguis to shopping malls, mannequins stand clad in scanty clubwear, and images of women with giant breasts barely covered by bikini tops are plastered on billboards and restaurant posters all throughout the country. These sexualized chicas del clima are just a mere fragment of the obsession with sex that has plagued the country for centuries.
The dangerous repercussions of having sexy women deliver important weather news extends beyond the gender equality battle. According to Marithza Calderon Ross, meteorologist and former weather anchor for Univision’s San Antonio station, “These women are presenting themselves, not the information. You’re talking about life saving information that’s being delivered by an inadequate presenter.” Suggesting that these women should not be relied on for critical weather forecasts, she argued “It’s super unfortunate, but it’s more unfortunate for the viewer. But really the viewer that should take responsibility for what they’re watching and where they’re getting their information.”
Will you remember to drive cautiously during a storm if the person who’s urging you to is a gorgeous woman squeezed into a Bebe dress? According to researchers at Indiana University, if you’re male, you probably won’t. Their study, which focused on the sexual attractiveness of newscasters, determined that men retained “significantly more information watching the unsexualized anchor deliver news than her sexualized version.”
These women are subject to a machismo-driven culture that expects – even demands – the sexualization of women, but then turns around and shames these very women for being sexy.
“Of course these viewers aren’t taking these women seriously,” said the anonymous administrator at Televisa. Yet, historically speaking, when has anyone ever taken weather announcers seriously? Weathermen celebrities in the U.S. like Al Roker and Jim Cantore dance in the rain and do push-ups in the snow as a way to distract their viewers from what would be an otherwise boring segment. In their mini spectacles, which have turned them into household names, the actual weather information is usually presented as an afterthought.
This U.S. tradition of weather announcers as the class clowns of the anchor crew is clearly very different from the established practice of having dainty women in nightclub dresses deliver the forecast in Mexico. Roker and Cantore are beloved for their quirkiness. Their female Mexican counterparts are instead laughed at and lusted after, making it impossible for them to ever attain the status of Roker or Cantore.
Weather women like Yanet Garcia and Mayte Carranco have accrued massive followings, and are clearly savvy because they’ve figured out ways to successfully brand themselves. But with articles like Reina’s, they can never be truly commended for doing their job. “It’s hard because we shouldn’t police women,” said Dr. Sujey Vega, assistant professor of women and gender studies at Arizona State University. “We should be willing to celebrate the female body and all its curves and recognize why women might dress the way they do.”
On both sides of the border, Mexican weather women are foremost seen as entertainers, their primary audience being men. Their sexualized brand is nothing different than what we see in telenovelas, bus advertisements, and commercials. Replacing them with more conventional newscasters in formal attire would be a futile attempt to try to take down Mexico’s institutionalized misogyny. It’s an indestructible part of the culture, and criticizing these weather women is only fueling this interminable epidemic.