On Lúgaro, La Comay, and Gender Perspective in Puerto Rico

On the night of October 9, 2020, viewers were stunned when a censored image of a little girl was unapologetically splashed across Puerto Rican television. La Comay, a show which has thrived over the years on the homophobic, racist and misogynistic remarks by Kobbo Santarrosa, now aimed an attack on the candidate for governorship Alexandra Lúgaro. The picture, which shows the candidate’s daughter playing on the beach with her stepdad, Manuel Natal, was wildly taken out of context to support la Comay’s claims regarding Lugaro’s wickedness. By feeding on some people’s already existing fears of gender perspective education, not only is equality possibly further away, but a family has unjustly suffered from defamation and psychological scrutiny. 

 

Lúgaro has openly stated that she supports gender perspective curriculum for schools, something that has not played well with the, mainly older, conservative sector of Puerto Rico. A lot of people across social media and other communication outlets are adopting stances based on misinformation. Since these discussions are being held all over the island within families, sometimes using an uninformed and distorted definition of the concept, here is what gender perspective is and what it is not:

 

What it is not:

It is not about sexualizing children (oh! the hypocrisy).

It is not about confusing children regarding gender and sexuality.

The term perspective does not imply that everybody can have a different definition of gender perspective. 

 

What it is:

Gender perspective studies aim to explore and question the impact of gender on the social roles, power relationships, and opportunities of individuals. Its purpose is to identify gender discrimination (at times intended to be justified by “biological differences”), to promote equal respect, and to dismantle the existing social gender hierarchies that obstruct and delay the change necessary to achieve gender equality. (Click here for more info)

Exploration is achieved by changing the lens with which we analyze a situation. Let’s consider the following scenario: suppose that Rosa’s 7-year-old daughter, Anita, wants to help her father Julio wash the family van, which is at the front of the house where the neighbors can see them. Seeing her dad out shirtless, Anita attempts to take her shirt off as well, but is immediately instructed by her mother to put it back on and told that she can’t go outside like that (“How indecent!”). And so, Anita learns it is wrong for her not to cover her body. Sadly, she will internalize this before she can comprehend the full range of its implications. Mainly that, because she is a female, her body will become sexualized.

 

Changing the lens:

A gender perspective approach to this situation would ask the following questions: would this happen if Anita was a boy? How come equality between genders implies indecency (and shaming) for one of them in this scenario? How does this affect Anita’s freedom? Is this situation fair for Anita, and why does this happen at all? Shouldn’t we be addressing the inappropriate hypersexualization of girls and women instead of having them cover up?

Note that gender perspective is not in itself an end, but a practice, that has the goal of identifying discrimination to promote equal respect and to break the once useful, but now outdated, gender roles in our society. Gender perspective also aims to promote respect between all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. By accepting that there are other people with preferences different from ours, we aim to diminish the hatred and intolerance preserved by these obsolete, oppressive social systems.

 

Here’s a formal definition provided by the Organization of United Nations:

“Gender Mainstreaming is a globally accepted strategy for promoting gender equality. (...) Mainstreaming involves ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities - policy development, research, advocacy/ dialogue, legislation, resource allocation, and planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects.” 

 

As you can see, this methodology and philosophy is being implemented in many countries and is not just about a local political agenda or a generational issue. Now more than ever it is of utmost importance for us to educate ourselves and others because public policy should consider weighing in a gender perspective, especially when the issues addressed have implications that affect all genders in unequal ways. By addressing the issue of education, we would be able to reduce people’s gender-based prejudice from their foundation.

 

Hopefully this piece has helped shed some light on the concept of gender perspective so that you can turn up at those family debates with facts and your own well-informed  opinion. And remember that, regardless of how others try to make you feel, you have a voice. Make it be heard!

 

Check out this news article to learn more about what happened to Lúgaro and her family.