Egg-pelting tells us more about men than women

Being an adult doesn’t give you carte blanche to do whatever you like, whenever you like. Not unless you also happen to be a building contractor, a tuna rancher, or a Cabinet minister… but again, that’s a whole different basket of eggs

In a way, I can more or less understand that stripper’s ‘kiss-my-ass’ reaction to all the outrage about that viral egg-pelting video this week.
Not all of it, perhaps. For one thing, she certainly can’t expect us all to ‘kiss her ass’… at least, not before scrubbing some of that eggy goo off it first.  

Besides: stripped (ahem) of its context, her central argument – ‘I am an adult, so I can do what I like’ – is kind of…. um… wrong, actually.
I am an adult, too… or at least, that’s how the law defines me (I have my own definition, but let’s not go into that here) and I’d like to do all sorts of things, too. Like, for instance, throttle the guy across the street who keeps playing Justin Bieber at full volume, 24 hours a day.

But if I did, I’d probably be writing this from a prison cell today… even though I’d have performed an invaluable service to the entire community within a half-mile radius… if not to humankind in general.

So no: being an adult doesn’t give you carte blanche to do whatever you like, whenever you like. Not unless you also happen to be a building contractor, a tuna rancher, or a Cabinet minister… but again, that’s a whole different basket of eggs.

Nonetheless, she does have a very valid point when she “insist[s] that those who were speaking out against what had happened were not doing so to defend her.”

No, indeed they were not. In fact, some of those women’s rights organisations would be the first to make this woman’s entire profession illegal, if they ever got the chance. At least one is actively campaigning in that direction as we speak.

In any case, a ‘stripper’ – if that is even the correct word, given that she was wearing a bikini the whole time – was hardly ever likely to become an icon for any feminist/women’s rights campaign to begin with.

I imagine that most of the more outspoken activists probably do feel a lot of sympathy for this woman – whether she wants them to or not – but it remains a fact that ‘strippers’ and ‘feminist campaigners’ occupy polar opposite sides of the feminism debate.

In a nutshell, the latter sees the former as ‘debasing’ popular perceptions of the female form; while the former view the latter as an existentialist threat to their professional survival.

So, in all the reams upon reams of printed and online condemnation of this incident, there was barely a single line denoting any form of concern for the individual ‘victim’ herself (again, if such she can be called; evidently, she herself doesn’t think so).

No, it was all about the motivations and psychological leanings of the aggressors: i.e., all those men who chose to celebrate an imminent wedding by gleefully humiliating a woman in the most churlish, brutish way possible… using a method starkly reminiscent of the medieval ‘stocks’.

It doesn’t make the act itself any less misogynistic, of course. And I’m not disagreeing with those NGOs and organisations, either. I found that to be the video’s most disturbing aspect, too.

But it tells us far, far more about the mindset of that much larger contingent of Maltese men who willingly participate in such activities, than about any individual woman who gets (however consensually) pelted with eggs at a bachelor party.

And if I stress ‘Maltese’ men, it’s only because… well, we do have something of a history of this sort of behaviour here, don’t we?

For instance: one of the most profound aspects of the culture shock that gripped me when I first visited the United States – as an exchange student in Kansas, around 20 years ago – involved a group of guys who had just come back from a weekend stag party in Atlanta, Georgia, and were boasting of their exploits around the canteen breakfast table.

Even if the choice of victim has since transferred from male groom to female stripper… it’s probably only because ‘stripper culture’ only came to Malta quite recently
Even if the choice of victim has since transferred from male groom to female stripper… it’s probably only because ‘stripper culture’ only came to Malta quite recently

Never mind that they drove over 20 hours just to get there and back – that’s one of the weekend days gone, right there – or that they used the word ‘fanny’ to describe a pole-dancer’s backside, instead of her… well, you-know-what.

No, what struck me was not the usual, natural, unavoidable cultural differences... it was the mode of celebration itself.

To hear them talk, you’d think they had a sort of Hunter S. Thomson experience in the Southern equivalent of Las Vegas. And yes, there was lots of booze, and even a couple of strippers involved.

But what I wanted to know was… what did they do to their hapless victim, the groom-to-be? Did they crucify him naked to a signpost on a busy highway, and come back to untie him only the day before the wedding? Or did they spray-paint him bright glittery blue, lock him up stark-bollock naked in a cage, and parade him through the city’s busiest entertainment district like a Carnival float?

For believe it or not, those were but two of several analogous real-life bachelor party antics that I had witnessed myself, here in Malta, before going to the States (i.e., when still a teenager). No names mentioned, of course… but the crucifixion incident took place on the traffic island at Fond Ghadir, on the Sliema seafront: so it was witnessed by everyone who drove or walked by… which probably amounted to most of Malta, at the time.

The caged/spray-painted victim, on the other hand, was paraded outside Saddles at St Julian’s on Friday night, when it was still the undisputed fulcrum of that neighbourhood’s thriving entertainment hub.

There must have been around two thousand onlookers (myself included) at the time, only around eight of whom were actually invited to the wedding… but I need hardly add that complete strangers also gleefully took part in the ‘festivities’: mostly by showering the caged victim with beer, and other miscellaneous liquids (don’t ask).

Oh, and I also overheard his ‘best man’ boasting that the paint they had chosen to daub him with was ‘impossible to wash off in time for the wedding’. So I guess he must have walked up the aisle, on the most memorable day in his life, looking like a Smurf in a black tie…

So you can just imagine the look on my face when those Americans told me of their escapades in Atlanta (and, even more so, the look on theirs when I reciprocated with the above two anecdotes from Malta). What did they do to their hapless victim? They all wore tuxedos, dined him at the best restaurants they could afford, and then took him to the Casino on Saturday night.   

And yes, they also went to a ‘titty bar’ – as the more sophisticated Americans refer to our ‘gentleman’s clubs’ – but (unless they were lying, of course) only for a lap dance… and certainly not to pelt any strippers with eggs.

And that’s the extent of it. No acts of violence, no public humiliations, no twisted stratagems to utterly ruin their best friend’s wedding day...  Compared with what I had been brought up to expect, the American version of bachelor party culture can only be described as ‘civilised’.

How did ours turn out to be so different? This is the question that has been troubling me since watching (as much as I could stomach of) that video. And I don’t think the answer can realistically have much to do with misogyny… seeing as, traditionally, the victim always used to be the ‘lucky’ guy who was about to get married.

And even if the choice of victim has since transferred from male groom to female stripper… it’s probably only because ‘stripper culture’ only came to Malta quite recently (which is not to say that sex workers, in the broader sense, didn’t exist here before the 2000s; but you couldn’t just hire the services of a stripper through an online service, like you can today.)

It’s just a hunch, but I think it has more to do with how other mass celebrations – of the variety that would usually be ‘civilised’, in other parts of the world – tend to quickly degenerate into borderline ‘intifadas’ here, also often involving eggs, horns, stink-bombs, and the like.  

Graduation, for instance: an annual appointment with violence and hostility on campus… in which one lecturer even got hospitalised recently, owing to a football horn sounded directly into his ear, while scuffling with an unruly graduate outside his own lecture room.

There is no discernible misogyny involved in that sort of unsightly fracas… except perhaps that the targeted victims are usually students from the Law Faculty; and most people graduating in law these days happen to also be women.

But without a doubt, there is something fundamentally ‘male’ about this culture of leering, jeering public humiliation: something sweaty, testosterone-driven, and concerned chiefly with domination through force.

You get occasional glimpses of it at other male-dominated mass gatherings… at football stadiums, in fights between rival band clubs at village feasts, etc… but in that egg-pelting video, we got to see the thing itself, unfettered, in all its revolting, yolk-streaming glory.

There is something deeper, darker and more atavistic than even misogyny at the heart of this ugly culture we have created here.

And the more I think about it… the less I want to know.

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