If one child starts bullying another child in a classroom, you expect the teacher to step in and put an end to it.
But what if the teacher decides to join in instead?
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar is quite literally that teacher – a profession she puts forward over the ‘hostess’ services she provided in Sicily. If she behaved towards any of your children the way she now, as an MP, treats citizens in Malta that she doesn’t like, she’d be fired.
Placed in a position where she is responsible for the citizens of Malta and answerable to them, Cutajar uses her time instead to avoid questions from some, and actively harass, bully, intimidate or attempt to silence others.
She even extends the favour to include foreign MEPs, as we’ve all had to witness with gritted teeth in her embarrassing social media spats with Socialist MEP Ana Gomes. In these exchanges she comports herself less like a diplomat (even if you ignore her lack of command of language) and more like a parochial, little-islander, street-brawling fishmonger.
That’s not an offence against the working class – it’s a criticism of Cutajar – but she would use that as easily as she would use women’s rights in her defence of all that is wrong with the goverment that put her on a pedestal. It doesn’t take much to understand why. And we are not even getting into how she got there.
There’s an equivalent term in Maltese for this kind of behaviour: “qisha qaħba f’xalata”. It was levelled at her recently by citizens disgusted by her behaviour. As the mysterious but ever correct Twitter profile BugM explained, this definition is available in any good dictionary and is the perfect idiomatic expression of how Cutajar behaves.
There’s another Maltese idiom – “Il-qaħba milli jkollha ttik” – easily applied to the men appointed to spin untruths on those critical of government behaviour. The fact that Cutajar is a woman does not exclude her from criticism. Nobody was calling Cutajar a prostitute.
You might be forgiven, then, for wondering if Malta’s youngest MP has access to a dictionary at all, because not only has she taken offence to an idiomatic expression that she either doesn’t understand or she’s exploiting – she has also somehow conflated this description with “sexism”.
There is another aspect that is being conveniently ignored. When former union boss, now government consultant, Tony Zarb called women activists calling for justice for the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia “prostitutes,” that was hate speech.
When Caruana Galizia reported on Cutajar’s ‘hostess’ services, and the body size and shape she was promoting, that was fact.
Journalists have a duty to report on those holding public office. It is a matter of public interest. When government members attack citizens and journalists it is an attack on democracy. MPs in Malta seem to forget they are elected to serve.
It should go without saying that sexism is abhorrent on every level and that there’s a serious prevalence of it in patriarchal Malta. However, in this case it seems more likely that Cutajar took her cue to level two libel suits at members of the public from the culture of impunity and intimidation that the Labour party advocates.
After all, when Caruana Galizia first pointed out that Cutajar advertised her wares under the pseudonym Nuxellina – complete with dress size and height – Cutajar did not take the opportunity then to explain herself. She never defended her right to do what she did – now, that would have been progressive.
Instead, she sought refuge in pro-Muscat hate groups on Facebook, built by the Labour Party over seven years. Their function, apart from promoting the Party and government’s propaganda, is to target the very people Cutajar is so reluctant to answer to. She liked and promoted posts that promoted a woman journalist holding the government to account as an abomination.
In these groups she finds kindred spirits among rabid supporters who dehumanise critics and call for physical and verbal violence on those who dare to hold the government she forms part of to account.
So to call out misogyny, we have to first call out hypocrisy.
When Urso went to the police station to file a report, Cutajar said “was playing the victim” even though the activist’s photos and personal data were being spread on the Facebook groups she actively engages in to encourage Labour Party supporters to target Urso.
Cutajar is no flag bearer for women’s rights. She is a hypocrite.
Cutajar is not championing feminism, or militating for a better quality of discourse. And she certainly isn’t trying to clear her name – because the parameters of the suits do not compel her to directly address Caruana Galizia’s claims. It’s hard to contest fact.
What Cutajar is doing is weaponising victimhood, at the cost of all the real victims on whose behalf Cutajar makes her claim. It doesn’t get much lower than that.