“Hysterical”: the word all Maltese male chauvinists use for the women who challenge them

Published: August 12, 2017 at 1:43pm

Adrian Delia woke up this morning to write a defence of his actions in which he describes me as “hysterical”. Maltese men always describe angry women who they know are justified in being annoyed as “hysterical”. There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of Maltese women out there reading this who will be nodding silently because they know exactly what I mean.

The coded messages I have been picking up all along from Adrian Delia’s public pronouncements, his communication style, his choices and his bandying about of his five children as symbols of his virility and potency, are that he is socially and politically conservative, and not in a good way, but in a bad way. He is probably to the far end of the Right, which is why he refuses to be drawn on what he thinks about key issues.

Yesterday, I got a good dose of the way in which he thinks that women, even if they are highly trained in a professional career, should stop working completely when they have children and give their husband a full and general power of attorney so that he can take all the decisions just like in the good old days, regardless of what the law says.

He also thinks that when you have a woman at the other end of the line, you can talk to her in a tone that you would never use with another man or with a lawyer, but a tone that you might use with an uneducated client who’s just popped in to Valletta from some village to ask: “Irċevejt din il-karta, dott. X’inhi?”

He seemed to think that he could palm off on me the duplicitous explanations that he’s since been giving to others: that owning 9% of the shares means he is only liable for 9% of the debt (absolutely untrue); that he is not personally liable because it is a business loan (ditto); that the Mgarr flats still left to be sold are worth more than the €7.2 million and interest accumulating at 8% that they still owe the bank (but he refused to tell me how many flats are still unsold and pretended he doesn’t know).

Also, he assumed I didn’t notice that a big chunk of the asset value is tied up in the land on which the flats are built – land that has become technically worthless to the bank (and anyone else) now that flats built on it have been sold to third parties. Nobody is going to buy it under judicial auction, if they default, just to collect the ground-rent – not unless it goes for a fraction of its paper-value.

The biggest mistake Dr Delia made in our telephone conversation was to take me for a fool or for somebody who is impressed by the way a certain type of Maltese lawyer speaks in a circular way.

That instantly told me he is not as bright as he is made out to be. If he hadn’t worked out that he had better start off from a point of assumption that I know what a constitution of debt is, how limited liability works, what company shares are, and how limited liability does not safeguard you when the banks have made you personally liable for the loans, then I can’t imagine why people say he’s intelligent.

I always know when a man – or a woman, for that matter, but in political journalism I’ve mainly dealt with men over the last three decades – is intelligent because he never tries to outwit me or use circular arguments. He will either answer candidly and hope for the best (it usually works), or say in a completely non-hostile way that he would rather not tell me but he will keep the conversation going anyway. Here’s the thing: intelligent people recognise each other instantly. Intelligent people also instantly recognise those who aren’t.

The second biggest mistake Dr Delia made was to be condescending. When a man speaks to a woman in a condescending tone, especially when the woman is Maltese and of my generation and has had a lifetime of having to contend with this kind of dreadful behaviour, it is one of the worst things he can do. Perhaps Dr Delia is not aware of this (because he isn’t particularly bright), but when a woman deals with a man at any level, she knows that his attitude towards her codifies his attitude towards women in general.

The worst of it was the studied deceit. The constitution of debt which I published yesterday was not one which Dr Delia planned on making public – not only because his fellow shareholders would obviously have objected, but mainly because he doesn’t want anyone to know.

Because it features no new hypothecs but only refers back to the original ones made in 2006, it will not come up in a notarial search of the registry. So nobody would ever have found it. I was just lucky because I heard something on the grapevine, worked out who the notary could be (it was either X, Y, or Z), discovered that notaries can’t refuse to give you copies of public deeds when you request them, and rang for one.

When Dr Delia said to me in a condescending and patronising “iva jaħasra” tone of voice that he intends to make his assets and liabilities public after he is elected Opposition leader, he said it as though it is entirely normal and reasonable and I am being totally absurd for pointing out to him that it should be done before the election so that councillors and party members can take an informed decision.

“You’re expecting the party members and councillors to trust you blindly like you said your wife does with her power of attorney,” I said to him. “You’re basically asking the party members and councillors to give you their five-year power of attorney so that you can do what you like without feeling the need to explain yourself. And in five years’ time, you want the entire electorate to give you a full power of attorney to run the country as you please, but you know best and you will decide what the people need to know. You have a really bad attitude.”

I’m oblivious to being described as “hysterical” by old-fashioned, straight-from-the-backwoods, patronising and condescending middle-aged Maltese men, Dr Delia. Do you have any idea how many Maltese men exactly like you I have had to deal with over the last 30 years? Back then they were practically all like that. Now, you’re a bit of a fossil from another era. But you’re doing nothing new there. It’s the only line of defence your sort of Maltese chauvinist uses in a panic when he’s up against a woman who he fears might be sharper than he is, and who has ‘shamed him in public’ (because that’s the way your type sees it).

Hysterical, eh? I’d love to know what word you use when you’re outsmarted by a man – because given your unimpressive level of intelligence, it must happen a lot.

This man wants our full and general power of attorney so that he can take major decisions which concern us without our consent and without feeling the need to tell us about them. We have a prime minister like that already. I see no need to change.