A culture propagating femicide and misogyny

In this country, we try to convince ourselves that we have a system based around meritocracy and equal opportunity and that all are equal before the law. This myth is something that is challenged every day by those who are subjected to a culture of misogyny, from the harmful microaggressions experienced in the day-to-day up to the direct acts of femicide that go unpunished.

Paulina Dembska is not the first to suffer such injustice and unfortunately, she will most certainly not be the last. We must address the systems at play that led to her death as well as the systems that were meant to address the aftermath.

Paulina Dembska, latest victim of femincide

Femicide is the act of murdering females on the basis of their being female. We have already conducted studies and determined the value of classifying femicide as a crime in its own respect. The exceptional situation of our country has to be considered, we are a close-knit people and studies looking into the nature of violence against women shows that the victims of misogyny often know the perpetrator personally. Having femicide as a crime would bring greater attention and incentivize the strengthening of our governmental bodies responsible for preventing, dealing with, processing and documenting cases of such violence.

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As stated before, misogyny does not only come in the form of direct violence. Misogyny takes many forms, some of which are hidden behind the appeal to “traditional values”.

Reuters/Regis Duvignau

The most common example is the idea that females are “natural caretakers” and should therefore take on roles in society to “play to their strengths”. This is invoked in different ways in order to sound more politically correct however the sentiment will result in the same misogynistic lesson; women should be “encouraged” (made to believe) to “stay at home” (stay out of the workforce) or to “work jobs adapted to their skillset” (to work in jobs that conveniently are more underpaid such as teaching or nursing as opposed to managerial roles, IT, law and others).

Other examples of such “traditional values” are the stigmatization of sex-work (which has a larger demographic of females than males) the vilification of women who do not participate in monogamous relationships as being sinful (which surprisingly is rarely invoked towards men who do the same) or the dehumanization of women by referring to women as possessions of their male partners or as trophies to be “won over”.

Demonstration against femicide in Valletta, November 2021
Times of Malta

Most would consider these as minor infractions that cause little to no harm, but when these ideas are held as norms, they lead to normalizing behaviour that would in truth be sexual harassment and can even validate femicide at its worst.

If we want to tackle this holistically, we must do so like all other issues of systemic inequality; through our education system and through the systemic change from our government to take these issues seriously. By educating our future generations in the reality of these potential dog whistles to misogyny they would be better armed to weed out misogyny around them and fight against it. By making changes in the way we approach our economic and social systems through our government we can make a difference in how the system treats females to avoid the inequalities and the injustices they are forced to face.

Vigil for Paulina Dembska
James Bianchi/MaltaToday

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