With the debate on gender inequality between men and women becoming a hot topic in our country, my curiosity as to what the real issues are, overtook my passiveness in the face of something which “removes my male privilege”.
I attended a meeting led by Men Against Violence and supported by Moviment Graffitti. MAV has lead workshops with over 2000 students of varying ages (mostly 3rd-4th form students). His task was to try address questions “as men, what’s in it for us?” The talk began with an examination of what kids thought were the top 3 traits or activities associated with the 2 genders:
• Sports • Strength • Important decisions
• Cooking • Cleaning • Caring
This is attributed to their upbringing. In that they answered in relation to the things they’ve experienced. Sociologists define the term “Patriarchy” as a social system in which males hold primary power through political, moral, and social authority. Sylvia Walby gave criteria to prove misogyny and patriarchy such as the gender wage gap, women’s unpaid household production, culture, sexuality, violence, and the state. This can be seen throughout history, from Aristotle and Plato, to St. Paul, as a Maltese example. Also, throughout the history of various countries, some of which are still incredibly sexist towards women.
In 2011, Miranda Horvath, from Middlesex University, published research showing that when shown quotes from “lads’ mags” mixed with those from convicted rapists, young men and women “sometimes voiced the belief that the content of lads’ mags was ‘normal’ while rapists’ talk was ‘extreme’, they categorised quotes from both sources as derogatory with equal frequency”.
The talk then came to the final question. “As men, what’s in it for us?”. Through this patriarchal system emerges toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is the need for men, because of the pressures from society, to exert masculinity in harmful ways, most commonly, on themselves. Put in plain terms: from this, men are freed from the chains of toxic masculinity.
Now, I have been hearing these same arguments about how we are lagging behind as a culture, ad nauseum. Which is not to say that I do not agree. As a country, I am of the opinion that people still hold certain ideas that are increasingly outdated and almost ridiculous in nature. What I do not accept, is the omission of uncomfortable truths, simply to reinforce the narrative.
After the talk, I had two questions for MAV Chairman, Aleksandar Dimitrijevic. The first was whether he recognizes that research has overwhelmingly proven that there are both natural inclinations, and psychological differences between men and women, which although do not seem apparent through the average person, become evident at the highest levels. Whilst he acknowledged this, through the story of how a deadly virus had been discovered in Japan, which was more likely to kill men rather than women, he stated that as long as there is equality of opportunity, this shouldn’t matter, and these inclinations should not be considered.
My second question was regarding the recent talk of gender quotas, which he coincidentally touched on when he mentioned “equality of opportunity”, as opposed to equality of outcome (what gender quotas equate to). He cited a study conducted in Sweden named “Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden”.
What I took away from both these answers is simple – We should ignore proven biological, and psychological differences between the two genders (even if they are positive); and the ends justify the means. This regressive idea, that sex, gender identity, and gender expression are completely individual from each other, is erroneous and unscientific. The way humans, and animals, organise themselves, is inevitable. And there is 1/3 of a billion years of evolutionary history behind that.
The main difference between people who believe in the “patriarchal system”, and people who accept the obvious realities of the “Nature vs Nurture” argument is that: The former look at all the things women are misrepresented or under-performing in; and blame it on men. Whilst the latter acknowledge the cultural issues AND look at the things each gender particularly excels at; and give them credit for it.
The way you empower people is by encouraging them to work on themselves, and not to systematically bring another group of people down whilst claiming “equality”.
The meeting ended with a discussion on the possible implementation of gender quotas in Maltese Politics. Personally, and most people in attendance had the same line of thinking, I believe that gender quotas at face value go directly against the idea of a liberal democracy. Although, implementing temporary quotas as a tool for social engineering, to accelerate cultural change for the next 2-3 terms, would be the steps I would take.