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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Is Malta sexist too?

Last week the Xarabank team delivered the official verdict: Malta is a racist country. This came as no surprise. Actually, I believe that the Maltese are even more racist than the Xarabank survey says. Think about it for a minute. If you're not proud of being a racist and someone asks you if you're a racist you're either bound to decline to reply or better still deny it categorically. This means that more than 70% of the country is racist.

It should therefore come as no surprise that Malta is a country of sexists. Or perhaps I should say that men in Malta are racist. Sure, the law says that men and women are equal. Woman's rights in Malta have made huge leaps in status over the past 30 years or so. But there are still only a very small number of women in public life.

This was highlighted most recently by the fact that Malta is one of only two EU countries that has no women to represent it in the European Parliament. The other country is Cyprus. At least the Nationalist Party, with all its dried up dynamics, fielded two excellent female candidates in Dr. Joanna Drake and Dr. Roberta Tedesco Triccas. The MLP, which is presenting itself as the future solution to Malta's problems, did not have a single woman on its ticket. And its understandable that Alternattiva Demokratika should first establish itself before tackling the sexism issue.

So, where does this leave us? I suppose Malta will forever go down in history as one of the two most sexist countries in the EU at the turn of the 21st century. Personally I don't like that one bit, but then again Malta always has a way of standing out in the crowd...even if it is the tiniest nation in the EU.

Blogger Brad Freeman said...

Maltese are not racist, at least not according to that survey. They are xenophobes. How can you be a racist if you dislike nations so close to your own race genetically? According to the survey, Maltese dislike Italians and Arabs the most - the same two nations that Maltese are a mix of.

So "xenophobe" is the right word, not "racist". Maltese seem to simply dislike any nation other than Maltese. According to the survey, a sizable percentage of Maltese would be upset if their neighbor is an American. How ridiculous is that? How many Americans actually live in Malta? The number is so tiny that I suspect the authors of the survey subconsciously wanted to confirm the theory that ANYONE other than Maltese neighbor appears to be a threat. If the survey asked "Would you be upset if your daughter married a Trombian?" (a person from an imaginary Republic of Tromb), my guess is that half the responses would be "extremely". 

12:22 PM, July 07, 2004
Blogger Toni Sant said...

Brad, I'm really glad you stopped by and pointed out the difference between xenophobia and racism. You make a good point, and your arguments are quite convincing.

In many ways I think you're right. I oversimplified the findings of the Xarabank survey. In my defense I can say that this was partly because I was only using it to write about something that bothered me even more: the lack of Maltese female representatives in politics, particularly as MEPs.

My only contention with your distinction between xenophobes and racists is that, as I see it, all xenophobes are racist. You could argue that not all racists are xenophobes, but I'd be very interested in hearing your case in defense of non-racist xenophobes.

Thank you for comments. I really appreciate all contributions to my blog. 

2:25 PM, July 07, 2004
Blogger Brad Freeman said...

Yes, I agree there's a fine line between racism and xenophobia, but, living in Malta (and being a foreigner), I don't think I would honestly consider Maltese to be racist. I did not experience racism, only milder form of xenophobia. Considering that Malta is a relatively small, geographically isolated country, this is not a big surprise, as I can understand a perception that foreigners can disrupt social balance in Malta much easier than, for example, in Germany, since it's 200 times smaller. That said, let's hope that the entry into the European Union will help convert this perception into a sense of belonging to a wider European community, and hopefully result in a little less xenophobia. It's also encouraging to see that the issue is being put on a public debate and not swept under the carpet. 

3:53 AM, July 09, 2004
Blogger magaga said...

I think both 'racist' and 'xenophobic' are imprecise, as any generalised term would be. Despite its small size, there is no Maltese identity as such - not even in its own language, which is mostly spoken as a hotch potch between Maltese & English because of social, rather than historical, reasons.
I think Maltese are racist about its closest neighbours because they are afraid of being looked down upon by Italy (which was also an enemy country in the last war AND because the English language and culture forcefully replaced the Italian after) - and because they themselves look down on the Arab countries (obsessively asserting their European roots AND reacting to crimes which they feel was imported from the African continent).
At the moment, the Russians are no longer coming.....they have come - from what is now no longer the Soviet Union. Apart from the initial discomfort which insular mentalities experience when invaded by outsiders, Serbs, Croats, Albanians, Rumanians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenians, Russians etc seem to have been accepted very graciously. In the cities or towns, you might not even notice they are your neighbours - in the villages, there is as much good will as there still is for British residents.
Tourists are a different story. The friendly Maltese have been cursed by Manmmon who has turned them into clawing cats of prey. This has nothing to do with race - except to reveal our own basically materialist and consumerist attitude to others, even if they are Maltese!

As for sexism! I am over 60, and even the generation after mine remains entrenched in sexist attitudes. With many of the young, it is a different matter since virginity no longer needs to remain an economic asset, and a woman abused by her husband (or the other way round) has a right to half the community of acquests, even when motherhood has forced her to give up her job and work without remuneration.
As for female representation! I consider myself emancipated, but would never dream of voluntarily inserting myself into a structure so glaringly fashioned by a patriarchal framework! Too much of politics is empty air and I'd rather do something I enjoy than waste time in Kafkaesque situations, discussing issues, laws and treaties which are hardly ever respected when it comes to the test. I do not speak of Malta alone, either. Women who enjoy joining the ranks of blah blah blah can go ahead and do so (and may they make a difference some day!), but I think there are many who would rather do something which seems more creative and productive to themselves personally. What I'm trying to say, Ton, is that many women don't WANT to join the ranks of politicians and play the game according to the rules set up by men. Perhaps it is women who are being sexist, not the other way round.

Thanks and happy new year
maria grech ganado 

11:59 PM, January 07, 2005
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really keep up with Maltese politics, so in terms of the lack of women in this field is a big blur to me, I can only go by the comments posted on this website. Instead, I am going to comment on how Maltese women are treated socially by Maltese men in their everyday lives and this goes to many other countries around the globe. Why is it that when a male has three girlfriends, he is considered the man, and when a female has three boyfriends she is looked down upon as a disgusting slut? Why is it that the gender we're all born with make such a difference? We're all commiting the same actions so why brand us differently for similiar cases? I don't agree with multiple mates but I do in a way look up at women that do decide to take the so-called "male role", by dating whoever and whenever they want. They're the ones that want to make a change and a statement! Don't feel as if I'm a sexist against males but in general most Maltese men look at females as "easy", and don't try to deny that because you know it's the God honest truth......, but do you know what's the saddest part? Many Maltese females have the same views as Maltese males and agree with them! 

6:50 PM, April 22, 2005
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really interested in this subject, because I myself am married to a black man, and have racists even in my family. The funny thing is that growing up I was so amazed by the bullying and sexist attitudes on our wonderful Maltese islands, that marrying a Maltese man was never close to any expectation of mine, even the lowest! I had great male friends in school,and they were great at discussions. But I had great powers of observation and I always noticed that marriage to these men was a whole different story, Even so, ok, I admit, my conclusion was a little extreme and today I admit there are many Maltese men who deserve top be admired. But as a young woman the negative tends to have a great effect on your choice.

Dating my husband 14 years ago, when it was quite rare to see mixed couples, I was so intrigued by so many different reactions. We used to really laugh at people because most of them, especially women, never even noticed I was Maltese! They would comment about us and try to guess where I came from. Sometimes I'd talk to my husband in Maltese just to shock them. To tell you the truth I had such pity for this sexist society, that never ince was I ashamed or intimidated by anyone looking at me walking the styreet with my husband. To make it worse for bullies this man was a gentleman and believed greatly in communication and in self-control..... it put many Maltese men to shame ha nghidlek! Many of my friends loved talking to him and getting to know him.... imma bullies could not stand it...

To cut short.... a close family relative started to provoke my husband with racist remarks and offensive behaviour. The rest of the family quickly rushed to the rescue and condemned this relative. A most interesting discovery I found was that this relative was actually provoked by an this half-English guy who by the way left his girlfriend pregnant and came here not knowing one word in Maltese. Could it be that our British colonisers, while enjoying the peace and a little bit of patronism yet left in some Maltese who have little national pride, that they would like this provocation for other races in order so to speak to "live London in Malta?" 

10:13 AM, June 10, 2005

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