Sunday 29 March 2020

Empowerment? How about we start with some respect?

There was a collective female guffaw when we heard that there is going to be a Malta Male Expo which, according to the official government press release, would focus on (among other things), male empowerment.  Do Maltese men really need to feel even more empowered than they already are, we asked sarcastically, shaking our heads in disbelief at the sheer absurdity of this phrase.

Of course, this Expo is nothing more than a glorified trade fair, and as one acquaintance pointed out, for a change it is going to be men who will be exploited to market brands and to generate revenue.

But this decision to use the term ‘empowerment’ in relation to men got me thinking, and the more I thought more about it, the more it occurred to me that we are going about the dynamics of the male-female relationship all wrong.  There is constant talk of the need to empower women, and sometimes it seems that by banging on about this so much, we are simply alienating men. I know this from conversations I have had with men who are getting pretty sick and tired of this buzzword and who accuse women of trying to reach an equal footing by simply turning the tables on who has the ‘power’, and doing so at their expense. I have never believed that for women to be equal (or to be empowered) we need to strip men of their masculinity or that women should be the ones dominating men in order to compensate for hundreds of years of female submission.

I have also never understood why women use the term ‘female empowerment’ to defend their right to dress in a very provocative way. They claim that this signifies that they are confident with their own sexuality and are in control of their own bodies (little realizing that they are still pandering to the male fantasy of objectifying women’s bodies, which considers them as dispensable sex toys rather than people). Buy hey, that’s just me, and if a woman wants to flash her cleavage at a job interview that’s her choice, although I am pretty certain that, once she gets the job, she is never in a million years going to be taken (or treated) seriously.

Women have enough trouble being treated with respect at the workplace as it is, as a recent video clip I saw amply demonstrated. A female news anchor on an American network was trying to steer the discussion back to the facts of the disappearance of the Malaysian plane, while her male co-host was more intent on stirring up more speculation.  His insufferable, patronizing attitude towards her was so infuriating that it made my blood boil (“relax, calm down”). It is this kind of belittling which women cannot stand and which makes them want to fight for the right to be heard.

I hear this tone all the time in the voice of boyfriends and husbands who speak to the women in their life as though they were imbeciles who need to be handled with exaggerated patience complete with the sighs of resignation which one usually reserves for a naughty child.  That is when they are not biting their heads off in public, and not giving them a chance to speak because, of course, they know it all.

What about the way women treat men, I hear you ask. Yes, exactly. Now women are doing it too.

Scathing, contemptuous and almost bordering on hatred – I have heard all sorts of derogatory comments spilling from the lips of gaggles of women who seem intent on getting together simply for the “fun” of thrashing their men. I don’t get this either, because I do not see the point of being with someone if you are going to badmouth him every chance you get in a way which you would never do to if it had to be your (female) best friend. Then you get the women who have been so badly burned by a toxic relationship that all men are now the pits and they have simply eliminated the possibility of any future relationship.  Yes, yes, it happens with men who have sworn off women too, and that is my whole point.

In our eagerness to claim empowerment, in our mad rush to focus on “me” and to achieve the ultimate in self-fulfillment we are in danger of poisoning any chance of healthy relationships based on acceptance and mutual respect. I think we have become so restless with everything that we find it difficult to just be content with what we have right now (and who we are with) at this very moment. There is always a yearning for more because we assume other people’s lives are so much better, especially with the relentless over-sharing on Facebook which has heightened this perception that everyone else has a much happier, more exciting life than we do.  First world problems, indeed.

It seems we have become so intent on asserting our power and control over the opposite sex that we seem to have forgotten that a couple should be a team, pulling the same rope, and not engaged in an endless, wearying tug-of-war over who is going to have the last word.

In the end, by replaying this tedious power struggle over and over again, no one is really empowered and no one wins.


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