It’s Mothers’ Day. The hydrangea stalls have been busy for a week or more. They’re a tradition. The first sign (hint to husbands and offspring) that the day is near. They are not the only tradition associated with the word ‘mother’ in Malta.
Think ‘mother’ and of Mediterranean countries, and you’re likely to think of the Italian-style mama. That comforting stable figure at the heart of the Mediterranean family; the person at home and hearth, providing for kids, ladeling out minestrone and pasta at the end of the day.
Malta’s stereotypical, traditional mama is this person. With the islands’ mystical ‘fat lady’ statues from prehistoric times alluding to an Ur-alt cult of fertility, it is little wonder that Malta is attached to this image of the mother despite today’s realities. One of which is that a quarter of Maltese women have experienced domestic violence.
In celebration of mothers’ day, the prime minister’s wife, Kate Gonzi and Labour opposition leader’s wife, Michelle Muscat, were on the podium together, at an event organised a couple of days ago by the anti-divorce movement Zwieg bla-divorzu. They were discussing the role of women in today’s Malta, or rather their ideal view of that role. As predicted, they reinforced the image of that traditional mama; that a prime role of women here was to ensure the stability of the family.
The words were hardly out of the policitians’ wives’ mouths, when alternative views sprang up on blogs. One in particular, My Voice, by award-winning freelance journalist Caroline Muscat, caught our attention. “Discourse relating to the submissiveness of women over their emancipation ensures that nothing is done to stem the tide of abuse,” Caroline says. “It would have been far more relevant had prominent women like Kate Gonzi and Michelle Muscat taken a stand against the shocking reality of the violence Maltese women face in their homes – the family is not always a sanctuary, and women facing violence at home should be encouraged to walk away.”
Read Caroline’s post, entitled ‘With women like these…’, in full on her blog My Voice to understand what we should be focusing on this mothers’ day in Malta. Not the mother, but the person; someone capable of independent thought not defined by a dependency role.
Caroline Muscat is a journalist writing for major publications in Malta and abroad. She was awarded the European Commission’s national prize for journalism against discrimination in 2010.
Photo: Hydrangeas courtesy V. Sanderson