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What wo(men) want - Sandro Spiteri

I few days ago I attended the Women’s Day march in Valletta. It was billed as a way of making your voice heard about violence against women, and I wanted to make a very small gesture in solidarity to friends of mine in SOAR. This is a victim support group within the St Jeanne Antide Foundation that is working hard to empower women who have gone through the mangle of domestic abuse and, to make matters worse, suffer the alienation of their own children as a consequence.

It was a wet and dreary evening, and the event was attended by the usual faithful few. I was struck by the absence of virtually every institutional figure and women in influential positions, with the notable exception of the Deputy Speaker MP Claudette Buttigieg. Then I read that one of the organisers had rallied her Facebook fans to use the march to promote her pro-choice agenda, and a pro-life group had reacted by warning off its own followers so as not to be inveigled into seeming to support abortion.

I, and many I know, were at the event because we cannot stand one more story of abuse, unfair treatment, unequal pay and promotional prospects, lack of representation, female poverty and femicide. It has to stop. It is demeaning, shameful and wasteful. I am less of a man when I feel powerless to help stop this.

Any option should be considered, including corrective legislation and quotas for positions of influence and power. I admit I am still quite sceptical about quotas because the proportion of women in power is steadily increasing on merit alone. In some areas, such as the judi­ciary, the priority for gender balance has been practised for years, with good results. But it is still too little and too slow in other key domains. We certainly need to think outside the patriarchal box.

But the real struggle is not institutional. It is cultural. As one of the posters at the demonstration aptly put it, men of quality do not fear equality. Men have to tell other men that leering at a youngster walking down the street is not on. Boasting with your workmates about evading your alimony payments is not on. Blaming women for men’s ob­scene behaviour is not on. Expecting to be promoted just because you are the paterfamilias is not on.

Men have to tell other men that leering at a youngster walking down the street is not on. Blaming women for men’s obscene behaviour is not on

This is what Women’s Day needed to be about. I and many others who consider the rights of the unborn as important as women’s rights were not there to be for or against abortion – that is for another day. We were there because women’s issues are all our issues. Neither the underhanded reframing of the agenda nor the boycotting of the event served women’s rights.

Window of opportunity

One year ago this week the Dwejra Window finally gave in to the pummelling power of the waves that had created it hundreds of years before. This was an ‘event’ only from the perspective of a human lifetime. In reality it was simply an intrinsic part of the geological cycle that is forever shaping our shores; other waterline arches will come and go.

That does not diminish the aesthetic pleasure we derived from its majestic presence, nor our sense of loss that yet another thing of beauty has gone. Much like a beloved elderly relative whose time has come, one would wish to postpone the inevitable, to at least make sure that no thoughtless action precipitated the final act.

We all remember the flocks of tourists and locals ignoring the prominent signs not to climb all over the Window, determined to get their value for holiday money. And the video of the last jumper who couldn’t care less that he had sheared off a sizeable chuck as long as it increased his Facebook profile.

Could government had done anything more to protect the Window? Well, at the very least it could have put boots on the ground to ensure that the warning signs were respected. We won’t know if it would have extended its life, but it would have been a comfort knowing that we cared enough to try.

Instead, one year hence we learn that the same government that could not find the money for a couple of wardens is now willing to pay for some weird form of virtual mummification. Forgive me for suspecting that there must be some tagħnalkoller salivating in the wings waiting for the tender ‘adjudication’ pantomime to be done so as jump off this window of opportunity and make another killing.

What a fantastic idea; imagine how it can revolutionise the conservation of our heritage. Don’t let a venerable building that represents the collective memory of a community get in the way of a shiny new apartment block. Just project a hologram of the original as you get on with the demolition. The stupid locals won’t know the difference.

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