Gender Equality debate at Cluj Napoca – Impressions, criticisms and praises

As AVFM News announced, I led a small non-feminist team attending the event called “Debate: Gender Equality and Women’s Rights” that took place at a hotel in Cluj Napoca in the context of the European elections that are due to take place on May 25th.

Let’s start with the positive things.

Contrary to what non-feminists would have expected, the presence of cameras (there were multiple cameras rolling) and AVFM Logo on my press identification did not seem to bother anyone.

Even though some of the points made during the debate were at the very least questionable and misandric and some of them downright horrific, the individuals assumed their positions and, for the most part, they welcomed (or at the very least allowed) criticism and feedback.

With the notable exception of a self-described “sociologist and leftist activist,” who called me a “troll,” individuals both from the panel and from the public listened to what I had to say and some of them even agreed and were surprised to find out that there still are voices who dare to question the predominant gender narrative aggressively promoted by the EU without appealing to religion or tradition. This was highly impressive for me given that a while ago in another country I was booed for arguing in favor of a non-EU-friendly opinion even though we were at a debate competition (so it didn’t even necessarily mean that the respective opinion was my own).

Most of the individuals who disagreed with me were more than civil and some of them even asked me for more information about the topic and ways to contact me in the future. Whether they will contact me in the future or will change their minds on certain topics is of little importance at this point. What’s more important now is that I was able to have a civilized disagreement in a mutually respectful discussion on issues that are usually treated with way too much emotion. That’s something to cheer  given the hostility with which the non-feminist message is usually met with.

Barring the moment when she refbilder2used to publicly agree that the premise is wrong, even though she agreed with the facts I presented, the moderator, Elena-Alis Costescu from the Rațiu Center for Democracy, behaved exactly like a moderator of a debate should behave – i.e. not take sides. She upheld Ion Rațiu’s principle of fighting tooth and nail for one’s right to disagree so at least in that respect the organizers were inspired to pick her as the moderator of the event.

Even though there weren’t too many people attending, virtually all positions were present, from the boring and snorting speech of the establishment libertarian, from traditionalist to statist utopians and from non-feminism to downright communism. The communism part was quite disturbing to me. It felt like 1989 never happened. There were even some shocking points that even the feminists in the chamber considered strange. So, if the organizers’ intent was to have every opinion present, they definitely succeeded in that regard.

The not-so-positive things

First of all, the organizers failed to mention that they are a far-left organization even after they distributed their “Citizens Manifesto” to the participants. They insisted that they are an “apolitical” organization and that their manifesto was created following “consultations” with the citizens of Europe.

The fact that they’re on the far-left was not even by far my biggest problem with them. The fact that they insisted they were not was disturbing. Dishonesty is something that I find far more loathsome than disagreement over politics. You can’t claim you’re “apolitical” when your manifesto virtually coincides with the agenda of the Nordic Green Left and your website openly promotes class struggle, anti-capitalism and everything that one would expect to find in a communist publication. Their manifesto could be a separate story in itself for another time in another place.

Second of all, the organizers’ premise of the event was mostly misleading and in some cases downright wrong. You can’t have a fruitful debate about gender equality when you’re only willing to talk about women and you can’t even have a fruitful debate about women’s rights when you’re starting with misleading premises.

Thirdly, the lack of microphones. Except for myself and the female attorney, all the other people who spoke at the event have done so in such a low voice that it’s a tough job for the people processing the videos in order to make them audible for the larger public. And it’s not that the equipment we used was broken or underperforming. Even there, as I was listening to the talks, it was sometimes difficult to hear what some people were saying simply because they were speaking with very very low voices. A few microphones and an amplifier would have helped a lot both the press and the participants. Some of the participants were saying at the cocktail party after the event that they couldn’t hear some of the points being made and so they renounced the idea of signing up to speak and ask questions.

The “context” of the event and the points made in the debate

There were quite a lot of points made during the debate but most of them were made using misleading data at best and downright wrong data worst.

On the facebook page of the event there were two major facts – or, better said, a fact and a “fact” – named as the “context” in which the debate is taking place. The first one goes like this:

Romania occupies the 65th spot in the international table from the “State of the World’s Mothers report 2014” published by Save the Children, which makes this country the last in the EU at a considerable distance from Hungary (55th in the table) and Bulgaria (44th).

Now, I provided the source for you so you can read it yourselves and analyze it. The organizers didn’t bother to direct the potential participants to the source of the claims.

The problem with that report is that it’s not really reliable. The same report claims that British mums have as tough a job as Belarusian mums and that American women face the same risk of maternal death as those in Romania and Iran.

Is anyone sane really believing that British mums who have a life expectancy of 80 years have as tough a job as their counterparts in Belarus, a communist dictatorship with Europe’s lowest life expectancies? You don’t have to be sociologist to understand that those numbers aren’t giving the whole story.

As for the other comparison (US-Iran-Romania), the lifetime risk of maternal death is defined as the probability of a 15 year old girl to die of a pregnancy-related issue, under the assumption that the current levels of fertility and mortality will not change in the future. And herein lays the problem. This indicator was last time measured in Romania in 2010[1] and was on a descending trend compared to 2008. And since the fertility and mortality levels have changed drastically in the last 4 years, the results of this Save the Children report are simply irrelevant to the current climate. And these kinds of misleading numbers are being used throughout the report – thus rendering it unreliable for the current situation.

One should also note that the report is taking into consideration the child mortality rate (defined as the death of under 5-year-old children per 1,000 births) – which in theory is a good thing to consider. In practice however, countries like Poland or Romania record as actual people the children who are born and die in the incubator days or even hours later. In countries like Belgium, for instance, these kinds of births aren’t recorded as “children born alive” – so from a statistical point of view, Belgium is advantaged even though in practice it may very well have the same child mortality rate that Poland and Romania have.

Further on the facebook page of the event it reads:

Also, in Romania, approximately 11,000 cases of domestic violence against women are officially reported each ear

At first I was thinking that in a population of almost 20 million people, the number could be plausible. But I made the fatal mistake of actually looking for the source of the claim. And I found this[2]:

In the year 2010, 11,232 cases of family violence were reported in which the physical and emotional abuse were the most common (in over 1,200 situations). Over 3,300 allegations were made using the national hotline, and from those, 2,419 were referring to negligence situations and 543 related to physical abuse, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Labor, Family and Social Security

Ooops! It seems like we have a classical case of taking all the victims of all forms of domestic violence and call them all… women.

When I pointed this out to the panel, the moderator tried to equivocate, claiming that the number is anyway unreliable since most DV goes unreported (a claim which is anyway improvable and unfalsifiable). I insisted that family violence and domestic violence exclusively against women are, plain and simple, two different things and that the whole premise of the “context” is simply a lie. The moderator refused to admit the mistake and instead focusing on the fact that they didn’t say “exclusively” as if that made things better.

bilder3I kept insisting and brought up the results of Erin Pizzey’s over 40 years of experience in the field and the hundreds of scholarly investigations that exist on the topic[3] which make it more than clear that domestic violence is not and never has been a gender issue. To my surprise, the panel acknowledged that male victims of domestic violence exist, and in a higher proportion than many would think, but they refused to even consider that domestic violence is closer to 50-50 divided by sex in Romania, claiming that my data might be true for other countries – as if Romania is somehow located on Pluto where disturbed individuals exist in radically different proportions than in Europe.

To nobody’s surprise, the panel dodged my question of whether it’s fair or honest to focus solely on women and considered my analogy with the firefighter throwing water only on the front and left wall of a burning building to be “exaggerated”. But if we can’t talk about this on a debate on “gender equality,” then where should we?

Things went from bad to worse when the topic of gender pay gap arose. First, the two candidates for the European Parliament were happy to learn that the gender pay gap in Romania is “only” 9% favoring men and then Adela Mîrza from the New Republic went on to say that if it were for her, she would have a law or a structure in which women are paid significantly better than men solely because they’re women and they have another job at home as well.

Time-use surveys across Europe[4] show that both men and women do around eight hours of paid and unpaid work a day – so her claim of women’s “second job” at home is baloney at best and outright crap at worst. Even some of the feminist-leaning people in the chamber asked her if she means it and acknowledged that such thing is blatantly discriminatory towards men. And she made it perfectly clear that she wasn’t joking. Gabriela Rădoiu Leș from the Civic Force Party however distanced herself from such positions and even said that the State should not have the power to tell private companies how they should pay their employees.

Before rushing in to praise Gabriela Rădoiu Leș, one should also know that she expressed her “hope” that Romania would ratify the Istanbul Convention by the end of 2015. The same Istanbul Convention that institutes classes of “compulsory feminism” being taught to 10 year old children (Article 12.4) or makes feminist organizations to be both prosecutors and judges in allegations of violence made by females against males – and the State would just rubber stamp their “discoveries.”

But perhaps the most bizarre points that were made in the whole event belonged to Adela Mîrza (the New Republic Party) and a female attorney from the audience, whose name is inaudible on the recording.

Adela Mîrza said that she would want the media to be censored in order to counteract the objectification and denigration of women in the media. When I asked her who should have this power she unequivocally said that the State should do it. When I reminded her that the free market of ideas has changed a lot of things in the Romanian media in the last 10 years, she dismissed the idea that the free market of ideas is enough. And then a few minutes later she referred to herself as ”a libertarian with a moral anchor.” But where exactly is the morality when you want the State to censor TV shows that you don’t like?

The female attorney proposed that the State should fund courses aimed at women to teach them how to manipulate men. And no, she wasn’t joking. And no, none of the candidates disagreed vehemently – although they did question whether it is appropriate for the State to fund such an endeavor.

In all fairness, the panel agreed with me that, at the very least, the gender pay gap numbers don’t tell the whole story and that such differences in remuneration are natural due to the inherent differences between men’s and women’s interests in career and also due to the inherent biological differences which simply make women highly unlikely to do certain jobs at a comparative level with men. Also, both of the candidates admitted that they have never been discriminated against on wages and that they’re also unsure whether the gender pay gap numbers are really that relevant. I don’t know, however, how is this view compatible in Mîrza’s mind with her willing to create a structure that pays women more because they’re women. But I digress.bilder1There were some other non-feminist points that got across to the panel – such as the fact that it’s absolutely normal and logical for a policewoman to be prevented from advancing while she’s on maternal leave or the fact that some managers who decide to stop employing women are not necessarily misogynystic but are simply trying to prevent their business from going bankrupt or work understaffed due to the sometimes lengthy parental leave policies that some European countries have in place.

The latter point was made by the same female attorney who proposed State-funding for female-oriented manipulation courses. And she gave an example from a German hospital where 6 or 7 women in the already thin staff got pregnant and went home in just one year and, consequently, the (female) manager decided to stop employing women for a while in order to avoid paying more people to stay at home than people actually working in the hospital. I don’t know whether she intended or not, but she basically explained eloquently how the feminist-inspired and State-enforced policies for women turn out to be more misogynistic than the alleged misogyny that the business managers supposedly have.

Conclusions

There were more things that were said during the event but you’ll get to see them once the English subtitles for the video we have of the event are done.

All in all, the event went better than I would have expected. The participants were friendly and polite with me and my team after the event and the moderator specifically looked for me to gather feedback being particularly interested in knowing what I thought was wrong in her performance as a moderator so she could improve her debate-moderator skills for future events. This surprised me in a pleasant way although, in all fairness, this is what a moderator should do because that’s a moderator for. But after dealing with hostile moderators so many times, seeing a glimpse of professionalism is refreshing.

One of the organizers (after asking to see my press identification) promised they’ll look to check the reporting of the event on avoiceformen.com. I extended an invitation to do an interview with a member of the organizing team but so far have gotten no response (to be fair, there was a week-end in the middle so that could explain their lack of response).

Although I’ve been harsh with their way of framing the debate and the omission of their politics, I congratulate them for the outcome of the event. The fact that nobody was shouted down, recording was allowed freely and their inspiration in picking the moderator are things for which I honestly congratulate European Alternatives Cluj Napoca.

If every debate about gender equality in Europe would be like the one in Cluj Napoca, the entire climate would be far less misandric and being a non-feminist would have long become the norm.

Check out the European Alternatives NGO (particularly the Citizens Pact project) and see if they’re coming into your area. They are organizing events like this one across the European Union until May 25th and if one takes place close to you, by all means, attend to it and contribute. No-one can guarantee that things will go like in Cluj Napoca, but it’s an indisputable opportunity to get non-feminist points across directly to future MEPs.

In the upcoming elections, don’t forget to avoid voting for proven feminist MEPs. Check the list of feminist MEPs for that purpose.

References:

[1] http://www.tradingeconomics.com/romania/lifetime-risk-of-maternal-death-1-in-rate-varies-by-country-wb-data.html

[2] http://www.mediafax.ro/social/statistica-ingrijoratoare-peste-11-000-de-cazuri-de-violenta-in-familie-in-2010-un-ong-semnaleaza-problema-in-doua-piese-de-teatru-9006820

[3] http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm

[4] http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/news/archives/2010/08/CatherineHakimRenewal.pdf

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