To spot a misogynist, why not try to look at the halls of your legislature? That's what members of the European Parliament are doing after a Polish lawmaker did the unthinkable in the age where gender equality is considered one of the fundamental human rights.
Janusz Korwin-Mikke said "women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent" in the heat of debate on equal pay. Some Parliament members rushed to ask for a hate speech investigation. Others went to Twitter.
For his slur, the lawmaker will be called to task for violating "mutual respect" under Rule 11 of the Parliament's Rules of Procedure and may face penalties ranging from "reprimand to a fine and temporary suspension."
Not A Mere Gender Pay Gap
Korwin-Mikke barely warmed his seat after his comments Wednesday, March 1, that tends to justify employers to pay women less when fellow member Iratxe Garcia Perez of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party lost no seconds to attack him.
"I know it hurts and worries you that today women can sit in this house and represent European citizens with the same rights as you," Perez said and stressed that "I am here to defend all European women from men like you."
Korwin-Mikke's hate speech, considered by liberals as "unfashionable views," may have brought into open the underlying force behind the gender pay gap issue. It may also have opened the crack behind the declining enthusiasm for the Union after more than 60 years of peace and prosperity.
Populist politicians, whom Korwin-Mikke neatly fits in the category, were once at the fringes, but their ranks increased by the days. The populists' cause gained momentum when Britain voted to leave the Union last June, while some of them have drawn inspiration from the elections of the likes of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The controversial Korwin-Mikke misogynistic comments were widely viewed as unfashionable at a time when liberalism has its heyday in Europe, but he may still find support, especially from the ranks of traditional voters. His party, Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic — Freedom and Hope, won less than 5 percent of the votes in Poland's recent elections.
"There is an appetite for the unknown amongst those who hate the known," said Raphaël Glucksmann, a political commentator in Paris.
The president of the Socialists and Democrats Group rushed on to Twitter and urged the president of the EU Parliament Antonio Tajani to penalize Korwin-Mikke for "his shameful statements," to which he has vowed to proceed.
Although many in the Parliament have viewed the investigation as indication of the European commitment to equal pay regardless of gender, upholding the Union's value of equality runs far deeper more than just penalizing a lawmaker.