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Gender Perspective, Reading, and Other Dangerous Pursuits

The possibility of gender perspective studies (perspectiva de género)  being included in school curriculums has had Puerto Rican social media involved in a serious debate for the past few weeks. The inclusion of such studies in the Puerto Rican educational system could prove to be vital in breaking against the harmful gender roles that are engrained into society’s youngest members, children, and is therefore essential in combating the sexism and gender violence that are both very present in Puerto Rican society. Gender perspective lessons would teach children that men and women are equal, that women can be providers and men can be nurturing, and that gender is an expectation created by society and not something inherent in anybody. On Monday, February 16th, 2014, a mass rally sponsored by the infamous Facebook page PR por la Familia, a socially conservative group known for opposing gay marriage and abortion based on its religious convictions, was held in front of el Capitolio as a stance against the inclusion of gender perspective in Puerto Rican education. 

The sheer number of people who attended was astounding:

 

PR por la Familia and others flooded el Capitolio with signs and Puerto Rican flags yesterday as the result of a massive social media campaign summoning all its followers, who are mostly made up of Christian and Catholic congregations, to stand up against gender perspective studies, because, they argue, they promote an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) agenda that glorifies homosexuality and exposes children to harm. These allegations are, of course, unfounded and ridiculous to anyone who understands what gender perspective studies actually are. They even went so far as to suggest that any approval, be it through vocal expression or signs, from Christians who were pro-gender perspective studies were actually made up by the LGBT community, as if to say that anyone who was pro-gender perspective studies and a Christian simply could not exist. That is, that anyone who did not follow or agree with them was excluded from being a Christian.

This picture was reposted by the PR por la Familia Facebook page and says “Any sign that says ‘Christians who support gender perspective are made by the LGBT-Gay group”.                              

Videos on social media circulated demonstrating instances of people attending the rally who, when asked about their reasons for marching against gender perspective studies, couldn’t seem to give a straight answer or to even know why they were there. Such moments could only cause laughter, and did nothing to improve the image of those who participated in the rally.The snickers these videos provoked were quickly silenced when this image was posted and went viral: 

The sign reads: “No books. Do not harm our children.”

Such a sign is not just a call against an education in gender perspective but against any sort of education in general. After all, what better way to keep an argument unchallenged than by eradicating the most eye-opening instrument of all, a book? What better way to avoid questions than by forbidding an individual to think for him or herself? Therein lies the important lesson that this rally has to teach everyone: whether or not you are pro-gender perspective studies or pro-LGBT rights, it is essential to read, because to read is to think. Philosopher Walter Benjamin saw reading as an intimate experience between the reader and the book, an action that completely excluded the world surrounding both. The book exposes the reader to new people, new ways of life, and new perspectives that can be both informative and life-altering, whether the books themselves are works of fiction or non-fiction. The reader is left to think, to ponder, to assimilate information and, most importantly, the reader does this on his or her own. The reader learns to think for his or herself, to think anything and everything through before accepting it as right or wrong, as true or false. As political theorist Hannah Arendt once said: “Every thought undermines whatever there is of rigid rules, general convictions, et cetera… there are no dangerous thoughts for the simple reason that thinking itself is such a dangerous enterprise. Nonthinking is even more dangerous.”

We have already seen exactly how dangerous nonthinking is when we bore witness to an enormous mass of blind, purposefully misinformed sheep ignorantly marching against gender equality and against an education that they did not receive while promoting a limited worldview. And all because they chose to follow before thinking for themselves.

*All pictures reposted from Facebook. A special thanks to Christian Ríos Vallejo for allowing HerCampus UPR to use his photographs.

Gabrielle Thurin is a Sociology major at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. She interned at the professional services firm Ernst & Young during the spring of 2013 and spent the summer of 2013 as an intern at the prestigious law firm Fiddler, González, & Rodríguez, P.S.C., where she currently works part-time as a law clerk in the Foreclosures department. Gabrielle enjoys reading, pop culture references, vintage-inspired dresses, and discovering new things. Also, Netflix.
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