Ask Shirley 3 – From Sea to Sun, Gender Roles in Puerto Rico: “la hija del mar y el sol”

by | October 26, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Shirley Rivera is the Founder and President of the Ateístas de Puerto Rico. The intent is to learn about Puerto Rican atheism and culture, as an educational series.

Here we talk about the gender roles in Puerto Rico.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The conversation for today will center on gender roles, on a gender perspective in general, on a particular colony. How does the state-based culture of America influence Puerto Rico? How does the Roman Catholic Christian Church influence the perspectives or the views, and also the general culture of Puerto Rico, of Puerto Rican citizens?

Shirley Rivera: American culture has a big influence in Puerto Rico, more than the Catholic one, but everything the bad stuff, I always say. We do not copy the good stuff. We always copy the bad stuff. You can see. We have our own traditions. Our traditions came more from Spain.

We celebrate Three Kings’ Day. We use green olives and all that stuff. But the US has more influence in our lives, in the way we see social issues. The Catholic Church has less visibility now. Probably the celebrations Good Friday. We get a week off. They do a procession. When they walk with Jesus with the cross, all that stuff came from the Catholic Church.

Positions people who do not accept abortion and do not accept remarriage, all that came from the Catholic Church. I do not think people from the Protestant Church have an issue with a second marriage, but these people from the Catholic Church have big issues with the second marriage.

If you are married by the Catholic Church, you cannot remarry again in the Catholic Church. They do not allow that. They do not allow divorce. I can see in those types of abortions and remarriages and all that stuff.

The Catholic Church has a big influence on the perspective and views. Most of the people, even people who are atheists, think abortion is wrong because they grew up with that, even if they do not believe in God. They do not understand those ideas came from religion. They cannot separate that.

It is stupid to me, but, at the same time, I understand what happened. They grew up with that idea. They are thinking you do not have the right to end a life. They are thinking it is a life. They do not understand it is a fetus, not a baby.

That is how the Catholic Church probably has a big presence there. Also, communion, the people do a cult. It is not a religion. If your man does communion, then you have to do communion. Your grandma does it. Your grandma will make you a dress because in her mind.

It is nice that your grandma makes you a dress for communion. It is not because you do a communion; and you do your stuff with God, but it is more a family event. It is, “Today is communion. Or next month, you have to get the dress. We have to make sure we have everything. The dinner after.”

It is a big event. That is why it is attached to the culture. Religion is culture. That is why it is difficult to put it out. The gender perspective thing, you can see the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church denomination.

They are getting together to try to ban gender perspective education. The gender perspective education came with the last governor we had in Puerto Rico. He signed a bill for gender perspective education coming into school.

The main reason was because of the LGBT kids and transgender kids. The main reason he brought that was not for the girls. It was to minimize the discrimination against lesbian, and gays, and transgender, and all those kiddos. That was the main reason.

But we started seeing the feminists on the island and how they started defending, “Be more inclusive with the women, too,” because most of the issue is because they do not respect girls. They do not respect teenagers because they do not have gender perspective education.

They are thinking, “They are superior and they are inferior.” You can see that. Months ago, a 19-year-old guy killed his girlfriend who was 13 years old. He put gasoline on her. He went to her house and put her on fire. Her body was 90% burned.

She died months later of a type of infection. She was in the hospital for those months. She never recovered. How in the world is it possible? A 19-year-old guy has a girlfriend of 13-year-old plus kills her because she breaks up with him.

You see how the males, since they were young, they have those thoughts they cannot accept if a female breaks up with them. They cannot accept a female sending you to hell. They cannot live with that, so he proceeds to kill her and set her house on fire.

He did not kill her. He set her house on fire. The mom tried to save her. The mom burned her hands too. The poor girl, 13-year-old girl, beautiful, she died on Mother’s Day, this past May. This has happened. This is something recent.

You can see why gender perspective education is important, for LGBT, and for females, and for everybody. The patriarchy affects males, females, and everybody. When you treat a woman as inferior, you are putting more responsibilities on the male.

People think this only affects females, and it is not. It affects males, too. You can see people getting grumpy because the dad showers the daughter. But if I am a mom and I shower my son, nothing is going to happen.

Nobody will say anything but people see it as weird if a dad showers his daughter but people do not see it as weird if a mother showers her son. We put in those roles and that affects the dad too because, maybe, that dad wants to have that experience of raising his kids.

But he feels bad to do it because the people will think he is a pedophile because he showered the daughter.

You can see how the roles exclude everybody, treat everybody badly. This does not only affect women. It affects everybody. Then when a couple gets married. That is a big example. Who has to buy a house? Who has to work? The male.

If you are a female who works and there are males in the house, “He is lazy. He is a bad man. She has to work. He helps her with nothing.” But if a couple gets married and she stays in the house, he goes to work, “She is a good mom. She is a good wife. She is in the house. She is taking care of the kids. She cleans the house. She cooks. He is a good man because he works for them and he bought a house for them.”

So, we are putting responsibilities on the male. We give/assign roles to the males. Why cannot she be the one to work? Why cannot they both work together? You can see that. Then, you see these males when they have a crisis in their accounts. You see how they commit suicide.

Most of the suicide for males is because of the economy, because of the finance system, because in their minds they feel responsible. When they are not capable to play that role, they feel frustrated and they kill themselves.

We see how males get females when they get jealous. You can see how males kill themselves because they are not capable to do what society tells them to do. That is why gender perspective education is important because it affects everybody. I do not focus on females.

I do not focus on lesbians, gays. I want to focus on everybody because I can see how it affects males too, badly. It makes frustrations for them. If you go to dinner, who pays the ticket/bill? The male. If you try to pay, they won’t let you.

Unless, it is a super-millennial or open-minded guy, but otherwise, they will say, “No. No. You cannot pay” [Laughing]. That is the reality. They will feel bad about it. They feel, “If she pays, I am less of a man, or I am not a real man if she pays for my food.”

You can see that today and that is not fair. Ladies they have to pay too.

Jacobsen: What becomes of the secular community in opposition to these older standards, or more traditional standards, and not only rejection of, but the proposal of, a more positive vision of a secular household, family, partnership, general community, and culture along these gendered analysis lines?

Rivera: How will they see it?

Jacobsen: Yes. Envisioning a more positive standard within the secular community.

Rivera: When this topic came up on the island, I remember they made protests, especially the Christians. They made banners saying, “I raise my kids. Nobody will tell me.” They thought the gender perspective education came to introduce the gay agenda. That is what they thought.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Rivera: It was funny because when we started bringing the topic. We make a rally about gender perspective education, when we were asking for that. The government signed the bill. But that time, they signed the bill.

They came with this big banner saying, “I raise my kids. Yo crío a mis hijos.” That is what they were saying. “I raise my kids. The government will not raise my kids. Sexual education is by us, not by the government or the department of education.”

We were saying, “How in the world do you say you are responsible for giving sexual education to your kids when you can see all of the numbers for all these pregnant girls because they did not have sexual education? How in the world can you say you give your kids the right sexual education and gender perspective education when you have a teenager killing another teenager because she broke up with him?”

You can see how they get pregnant at 13 years old, 14 years old. The highest number in sexual disease, gonorrhea, syphilis, and all those stuff, is in teenagers. The highest number is teenagers. Why? Because they do not have sexual education.

Because they are thinking it is having fun and they do not take precautions. They do not know the consequences of having unprotected sex. How in the world do you say you are giving education to your kids?

You are doing a bad job, then because the numbers do not say that. If you want to educate your kids, why did you not do that all this time? The numbers do not look like you are doing a good job. When this topic came up, they started accusing us, the females, me, fighting for other females to have rights, and males have the right to raise their kids a female does; they start saying we are “feminazis.”

I am a “feminazi” because I am fighting for the men to have the right to raise their kids too because that is the right way to do it. The kids need the paternal and the maternal side. They need both sides. We only focus on the maternal side. We are excluding the dad.

This gender perspective is not only about women’s rights. It is about respecting everybody and not assigning a role. A person can do what they want to do. That is it. That was all of the issues. So, we were “feminazis” because I was protesting, “I want males to have the right to see their kids.”

This is another issue on the island. When parents get divorced, the dad only has the right to see the kids two weekends in a month. That is not right. He is paying for that child. He loves that child. He is part of that child.

How in the world does the government, the judge, say, “You are going to see your son every two weeks? One week yes, one week no. Only on the weekend. You are a dad only four days in the month, Saturday and Sunday, Saturday and Sunday, two times in a month.”

So, we were fighting for that, too, but we were a “feminazi” because we were fighting for the males’ rights too. They do not see that. They are stupid. They think because you try to defend everybody at the same time. They expect you to take sides. They cannot accept when you defend both sides.

They assumed it was the issue with the gender perspective because they thought we were only defending women, so they can do what they want. The women can go dance and prostitute themselves and do that because when you say “women’s rights”; it is, “I can walk naked and get all the men I want.” That was why they were putting the idea up. It was not. When they crash with all of these proposals and all these ideas, they get crazy.

The governor, by that time, signed the bill and put forward a gender perspective. He chooses people for the activists for giving those conferences and those talks to the kids at our schools, but when this conservative governor gets in power after Trump, too, they take him off, so we do not have gender perspective for now.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Shirley.

Rivera: Thank you. Take care.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-booksfree or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

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