International Women´s Day: against Machocracy

Met dank overgenomen van S.H. (Sophie) in 't Veld i, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 8 maart 2019.

The Alpha male is on the rise again

This past Valentine´s Day major international news outlets reported a remarkable archeological find in Pompeii. An exceptional fresco of the mythical Greek hunter Narcissos saw daylight for the first time since 79 AD. Most of us know the story of the young man, who only loved himself. Enamored by his own reflection in a pond, he didn´t notice the rest of the world speeding by. Up until this day, many European languages define vanity, selflove and egocentrism with a word derived from his name: Narcissism.

Fresco van Narcissus in Pompeiï, via SkyNews

Less known than Narcissos is the woman starring in the same mythos: de nimph Echo. Deprived from the ability to choose her own words, she was doomed to repeat the words of others. Confronted with her fate, to never truly be heard, she withered away in caves and forests. Until nothing but her will-less voice remained, still doomed to repeat the words of others. The echo we can still hear in the mountains.

Silent, consenting women and vain men. A stubborn phenomen in our culture, that we can trace back deep into Greek antiquity. Especiallly our political culture is rife with it. Political parties in my own country still struggle to find female leadership. Europe and the world at large are seeing a return of the so called ´strongmen´; strong narcissistic men, with patriarchical politics in tow. All over Europe, conservative-nationalistic forces are clearly showing they see the woman as Echo.

´Taking back control´, these days not just a rallying cry for Brexiters, but also the underlying philosophy of politicians that see women´s rights and LGBTQi-rights as a threat to their own positions. It is no coincindence the Hungarian governement opened its assault on the Central European University by discarding gender studies first. Appartenly, challenging traditional gender roles was seen as a great risk to the Orbán government. In Poland draconic anti-abortion laws are being proposed and gay rights are being threatened. Choosing your bed partners and control over one´s own body are seen by the ruling PiS-party as things that undermine the ´natural order´. In other words: undermining male authority. The Flemish nationalist party is against abortion, the French Front National protested gay marriage, Alternative für Deutschland wants to curb public information on abortion and Putin wants lower sentences for gender based violence. It seems nationalism and sexism go hand in hand very well.

pro-abortus demonstratie in Warschau. Foto: Rafal Guz/EPA

In my own country of the Netherlands, hostile rhetoric towards women has proven to be politically lucrative by Thierry Baudet. In the US it can make you president even. If we pause and look at the state of things on International Women´s Day 2019, then we have to conclude there are worries. Worries about the durability of the political revenue model of the ´strongman´

Male-dominated politics goes beyond these politicians themselves: our style of politics is getting more ´masculine´. It is all about winning or losing, black or white. We don´t see political opponents anymore, but rather political enemies. Personal attacks, instead of arguments. The results are devastating for our democracy. Each country its own top dog. Each country its own machocracy, where polarisation is rewarded with air time and clicks.

I propose a political culture that is the mirror image of this. One we already have and have gotten to know in the last decades; the true European democracy that is developing in the European Parliament. Built on the idea of European integration that requires escaping your bubbles and echo chambers. Away with the politics of personality, in with listening and debating. All in search of a way forward. Europe is about co-existing, and accepting that diversity represents a boon.

This type of politics may be less of a spectacle, but it is a way of politics in which we all try and hear each other. A way of politics that benefits the weakest voices, with the least power. It is a sad conclusion that women still fall in that category. Let´s empower their voices, instead of pushing them out. Let´s banish the tale of Narcissos and Echo alike, to the realm of fantasy forever.