The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

The Madonna and the Whore

Rachel Borg Saturday, 7 September 2019, 10:49 Last update: about 14 days ago

Earlier this year, probably on a Feast day celebrating the Madonna, the priest delivered a sermon on the mother and emphasized in no uncertain terms, the commandment that we are to love our mother no matter what.  He was referring to the mother who gave birth to us or raised us.  He said that there is nothing a mother could do that would be a cause to not love her or always give her the respect she deserves.  Under no circumstances at all, could she be blamed for any wrong.  Even, he stressed, if it was true that she had failed you or hurt you, she was still not to carry any blame and you must never accuse her in any way.

 

You could feel the discomfort at this strong admonishment in the pews.  Quite likely, many were hearing protest in their head and may have even wanted to stand and leave.  Others may have appreciated the message of love.  It is not often that you hear anything said in black and white anymore and in truth, it could be said that it was a rather subjective sermon. 

 

It is still relevant today, though, that women are categorized and seen in the context of the Madonna or the Whore.  The man who is getting married, at his bachelor party, sees fit to throw eggs at the “whore” (no personal reference to the person who was involved). 

 

In a patriarchal society, such as ours, it is the belief that men often see women as either saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes.   It is said from studies that this perception is still highly prevalent today but more gender equality is the way towards stability. 

 

Our society has also seen its fair share of feminicide and domestic abuse.  One may say it is happening on a quite regular basis.  The media is still in many ways biased and portraying women poorly.  Female presenters are often sexualized in their appearance and if there is a male partner on the programme, there is an automatic perception that he is the leader and the woman is there just for window-dressing.

 

The behavior of the CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes as documented in the dramatization of his career in The Loudest Voice, was all about this inequality and abuse.

All around us now, we can see the massage parlours that are flourishing, the so-called gentlemen’s clubs and the early break-ups in marriage.  STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are spreading rapidly and human trafficking is a serious problem amongst us.

 

The public consultation on the Government’s proposals to regularize and decriminalize prostitution amongst other measures is just the reverse of what is needed. 

 

It once again gives permission to men to remain entrenched in the Madonna-Whore mentality and dresses up the regulation as intended to help women get help if they want it.  The underlying message is that the woman is free to choose this occupation and men cannot be blamed for seeking their services. 

 

Even with the U-turn on the licensing of the massage parlours, which were previously unlicensed, it was made clear that this licensing will be done so as to protect the legitimate massage parlours where a massage is nothing more than that.  They could not get themselves to say that these other massage parlours that operated in the grey area of their trade, were effectively brothels and the women working there are mostly being exploited.  Here too, men were afforded protection so as not to seem that they were doing the exploiting or that there was anything wrong with their choice of parlour.

 

Let us also be clear, that the trafficking of women is encouraged where there is a demand.  Taking away the illegality of prostitution will open the door to a thriving business but will do little to improve the victims’ chances of freedom and a legitimate life.  Instead of being under the law, they will be under a scrupulous boss, who, one fears would not be far off from the landlord who rents out his premises which then have to be evacuated due to the unhygienic living standard.

 

Another issue is that many women who are in the line of prostitution may be forced into it due to a drug habit, making them even more vulnerable.

 

Women in these circumstances should be able to receive help from other agencies and not by decriminalizing prostitution.  It is more likely that will be lost in the underworld than be reached by not being charged in court.  Professional agencies and support lines are trained in how they can reach victims.

 

To start with, there should be much more and much better enforcement on human trafficking.  Secondly, it should be made clear that any job, which may not be the chosen or expected or promised job of the individual, is not to be exploited for any other person’s gratification.  The message has to be clear, that society does not benefit in any way from having men remain dominant over women and debasing her gender. 

 

It is quite clear that the woman’s place in no longer only in the kitchen and some men have a problem with that.   Education is far better than patting them on the head and telling them it’s ok to pay a prostitute for sex and not to worry because she is no longer being criminalized for pleasing you.

 

Much, too, of the intention behind the draft bill is fake.  Just as it was with much of the Civil

Right’s bills.   The gender-balance law that will see women given a quota for representation on boards and in parliament, is another white-wash and does nothing to promote real equality between men and women and surely will give men a feeling of superiority, as though they are graciously conceding something of their rights to these women.  It will give men an excuse not to feel intimidated by a competent woman because he can ruse his entrenched superiority, rather than because she is his equal.  It continues to exclude rather than include women. 

 

Again, education would be a much better way forward with better role models who inspire women and girls to embrace their gender and not feel any less entitled than men to achieve, whether it is in their personal or public life.

 

More education, better quality programmes on TV and radio, more agencies to support women whether they are victims of abuse or single-mothers or drug-users or poor and need to feed themselves or their family.  Mostly though, in view of this public consultation, a proper investigation into the trade of sex-trafficking in Malta and what can be done to eliminate it, rather than promote it.

 

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