Government spokesperson Robert Musumeci sparked major controversy after publishing a Facebook status defending the gender quotas bill currently being debated in Parliament that was quickly called out for being “sexist” by various quarters and even “a form of violence” by the Commission on Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence.
The bill in question will introduce constitutional amendments to lure more of the “underrepresented sex”, which includes women and gender-neutral people, into the House of Representatives.
However, the bill was quickly forgotten as commentators and critics took to social media to call out the outdated – and potentially harmful – ideology underlying Musumeci’s words.
“Whoever is saying that women will start getting co-opted into Parliament by Prime Minister Robert Abela in whatever way he pleases did not understand what’s written,” Musumeci wrote.
“What Robert Abela can do is identify charismatic women with no pretensions who are well-loved and encourage them to contest. (It’s not hard to identify who these women are, because we all know who they are – at least I do).”
Shortly after he published the status, many flooded to the comment section to lambast Musumeci
“You shouldn’t even write this as a joke. I’m going to stop there, because if I start I’ll never stop,” one commenter said.
“I agree with the reform, but thanks to this comment we can now see why it’s so well-needed. #everydaysexism,” another commenter wrote.
Needless to say, the status started making the rounds on social media soon after.
Eve Borg Bonello, the 17-year-old President of the Nationalist Party’s teen wing passive-aggressively amended her Facebook bio to “a charming woman with no pretensions“.
“Is this to your greatly esteemed liking oh dear master Robert Musumeci?” Borg Bonello wrote.
“Definitely getting elected now that I have the approval and validation of such a great and wise man.“
Movement Graffitti activist Wayne Flask took this as an opportunity to lambast Musumeci for being a ‘suck-up’ to whatever party is in government.
“Robert Musumeci, I believe that any ‘charming woman with no pretensions’ would be able to write a construction reform better than you,” Flask wrote.
“With regards to your own pretensions, especially with regards to permits in ODZ, there isn’t much to add, apart from the fact that you continuously suck up to whoever is in power, since way back when you were still a PN mayor in Siġġiewi.”
European Parliament Vice President Roberta Metsola encouraged budding female politicians to give no heed to “misogynists'” advice.
“Every woman that I know has, sometime or another, been on the receiving end of misogynistic comments – oftentimes from those who think they know what’s best, who think they are stronger or more capable. In my experience, this is never the case,” Metsola wrote.
“If you’re a young women thinking of pursuing a political career or simply refuse to be pigeon-holed by others – keep breaking those ceilings and obstacles. Live your life how you want it, not how some propagandist wants.”
The Commission on Gender-Based Violence & Domestic Violence labelled Musumeci’s status as an ‘act of violence’ and demanded an apology.
“A privileged man who, of course, assumes that he’s a ‘charming man with no pretensions’ describes the qualities that woman should have to be politically valid. The essential qualities are far more substantial than these frivolous trivialities that you mentioned,” the Commission wrote.
“There are many women that are capable, intelligent, responsible, integral, and extremely talented but not ‘charming’. Truly disappointing! Oppressive discourse like this should never be said or tolerated. This is a form of violence as well – the violence of patriarchal discourse that infiltrates people’s attitudes towards women.”
The Association for Equality did not mince its words, saying that the government should now dismiss Musumeci from a committee that he serves on in light of his “misogynistic” comments.