Internalised misogyny: what Maltese women have to deal with

Published: June 20, 2017 at 9:58am

Look at this headline in Malta Today, which is supposed to be a non-conservative publication. That headline is completely unacceptable.

The term “scorned woman” invites contempt for the wife and empathy for the husband who has to deal with her (‘miskin, no wonder he ran off, and now she’s doing it to get back at him’).

It also assumes that when a man leaves a relationship for another woman, it is the woman he has left who is “scorned”. The facts are otherwise, as Jason Azzopardi is currently discovering through his mishandling of the situation.

The use of the word ‘scorned’ here shows an embedded, internalised misogyny that is probably going to be impossible to eradicate on this southern Mediterranean isolated culture where women we don’t like are witches and women who don’t get in line and keep their place are crazy.

Note the way this embedded misogyny has even conditioned Maltese women politicians, almost all of whom seem unable to leave the house without a tonne of make-up, carefully crafted hairstyles, curated outfits and then are extremely careful to smile and be non-threatening when they speak, even in parliament. And that’s on both sides of the house.

Not one of the men in parliament behaves like this, nor the male politicians outside parliament. They don’t feel they have to.

This ‘scorned woman’ business comes from a line in William Congreve’s (not William Shakespeare, as is often thought) play called The Mourning Bride, written in 1697: “Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.”

In the 17th century, misogyny was the normal state of affairs. Women were still burned at the stake as witches or hanged for adultery. They had no rights and all the ills of society were visited on them. If there was a plague, then a woman must have started it.

It is completely obscene that in 2017, a Maltese newspaper that considers itself to take a liberal editorial line would be using 17th-century misogyny in a headline.

Besides which, the facts teach us just how wrong William Congreve was. Most women who are murdered are murdered by the men they have ‘scorned’, and this not just in Malta, but the world over. Ironically, Malta Today’s ‘scorned woman’ headline appears just beneath a report of the ongoing trial of Andrew Mangion, who stands accused of murdering his wife Eleanor Walker in the most brutal manner, because she had ‘scorned’ him.

It is time serious note is taken of the deeply embedded misogyny with which Maltese women must contend, to the point where it has conditioned our behaviour.