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A virgin or a whore and nothing in between

One has to wonder if women will ever catch a lucky break...

In Greek mythology, Prometheus, a demi-god, creator of men, steals fire from the skies and brings it to earth. Zeus, angered by his actions, creates a woman, Pandora, and sends her to earth, as a gift to men, with a jar that she is ordered never to open.

Once her curiosity got the better of her, the ideal world of perfect, immortal life of men was ruined. Because of a woman's actions, men were forced to face their mortality and enter the circle of birth, life, struggle and death.

Needless to say, the myth of Pandora was easily incorporated into the mythology of Abrahamic religions. Eve, like Pandora, created as an afterthought once the world for man was already there, plays the same role and suffers the same destiny. This time (G)od expels man (and woman) from the Garden of Eden for daring to eat from the tree of knowledge. Again, the ideal, perfect life of men was ruined due to the actions of a woman.

The curse of Eve and Pandora has been haunting women through the centuries, reinforced by religions, laws and social structures.

Women are either seen and venerated as symbols of supernatural purity and perfection and therefore held to unachievable standards; or as temptresses of men, dangerous, evil by their very nature, creatures that have to be controlled and kept firmly in their place. A virgin or a whore and nothing in-between.

In no time, those who agreed with the request for a mature discussion were compared to Nazis, Dr Mengele, holocaust enablers and so on

Yes, I know, some of us have long moved away from this duality, but the residue of belief in either/or nature of women is still very much with us today. It exposes itself in casual misogyny we see and experience every day. You don't believe me?

Just check the comments underneath any online media article related to women and their rights. Just a few days ago, a wise guy suggested that when it comes to women's rights, going back to the Middle Ages would be a good idea. He must be a thrill to have around during dinner parties.

Or, you should read the diabolical opinion pieces that are being published almost on a daily basis. My favourite ones are by a man (again), rambling about “womb ecology”, in which he demands that women should stay at home while pregnant and should be subjected to pregnancy tests at the airport, just in case they are travelling for an abortion.

But if this is not enough, how about, just a few months ago, a man of certain power and status , labelling women who went out on the streets to voice their opinion prostitutes and traitors? The logic of misogyny is impeccable: a woman’s place is at home so any woman on the street is by definition a whore. She dares to have an opinion that is different to mine? Then she is a traitor and nothing else.

If you want some more, take a look at our parliamentarians. During the campaign for the introduction of emergency contraception in Malta, we had two MPs stating that they do not want to hear anything about women's rights and that the issue of women's rights does not come into consideration. A third one, (a woman, to boot) ranted on her Facebook wall that the use of the morning-after pill in cases of rape is a worse crime than rape itself.

At the end of the campaign, the then leader of the opposition non-chalantly claimed that the success was all due to opposition MPs. Women do not matter and success is due to politicians. Right…

The ultimate proof of a paranoid need to control women also happened during the morning-after pill debate. The morning after pill is available to 16 (and in some countries 14)-year-olds over the counter in almost every country in Europe.

Yet, our politicians still deemed it necessary to come up with the bright idea that it should be available to women in Malta if, and only if, a doctor prescribes it. The so called 'pro-life crowd, the same ones that labelled the morning-after pill as a “baby-killing pill”, welcomed this “reasonable compromise”. You see, baby killing pills are OK, as long as it’s not a woman herself making a decision to take it. Misogyny at its best.

Therefore, it was no surprise that as soon as the recommendation of a debate on abortion was mentioned by none other than the Comissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the foetus protection crowd crawled out of the woodwork and screamed foul.

These experts on ethics and science of women's reproductive health and rights (which in Malta includes a couple of dentists, a salesman, a pensioner and an IT specialist, among others), flooded all the media outlets they could reach with their expert opinions. In no time, those who agreed with the request for a mature discussion were compared to Nazis, Dr Mengele, holocaust enablers and so on. Gee, slow down, you’ll run out of evil, horrible things to compare women to in no time.

“My government has no mandate” said the Prime Minister. Oh yes, I know. But with all the talk on civil rights and gender equality, one has to wonder if women will ever catch a lucky break. Shall we wait till the politicians think that there is a mandate?

Hell no. If women had waited for the emperors, theocrats, rulers and prime ministers to take their concerns seriously, we'd still be servants in the house of men, without rights to vote, own property, work and without a right to decide how many (if any) children we want.

Alas no more. Time has come to take a bite off that apple from the tree of knowledge, open the jar and face the realities that women live on a daily basis.

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