Maybe it’s sour grapes. Going up to the counting hall after election day was something I did many times in different roles, to the point that it felt like it was the natural place for me to be. I started out as a cub reporter covering the first ever local elections in the early 1990s. I then helped out in a very minor role the PN’s monitoring of the count. I was never one of the guys interpreting the complicated mathematics behind the scene. I was one of those guys with a clipboard making sure there are enough of those little chit books for the guys ticking boxes and counting vote samples. I remember I featured in a press photo once when I was doing that in 2008. The reporter writing the caption assumed I was doing something important. It must have been the clipboard. Or the beard.

I was there in the faint and long drawn out PN victory in 2008 and I was there for the big loss in 2013. I stayed long enough to see my own, very few, votes languishing at the bottom of the sorting pile the only time I myself contested the election. That specific bough of the tree of my life withered before anything on it could bloom. A therapist would blame the trauma of that personal result as the reason I never went to the counting hall again after 2013. My excuse is that I never worked for a party since then and since civil society is not allowed to monitor elections in this country, there was no call for me to be there.

But that’s not what I want to write about. I want to write about the scenes behind the Perspex we’ve come to take for granted and that we’ve seen again as we watched live coverage of the counting: the slamming on the Perspex, the loud chanting, the group bear hugs, the lifting on shoulders, the taunting rhyming couplets, and the throng of people pushing and pulling as leaders wade in squalid triumph through an ocean of bare limbs and sweaty muscle.

It’s a scene of antediluvian machismo which belongs to another time and from a different kind of politics but which presents itself to generations of new Maltese voters on live coverage on all TV stations every third year or so. I started out by telling you about the times I went to the counting hall. I didn’t do any slamming on Perspex because even if I wanted to I couldn’t be that rude, or my arm would flinch before I could hurt myself. I didn’t lift anyone above my shoulders and God knows nobody lifted me. I did do some shouting though, screaming with relief at the last victory of those innocent years that ended in 2008.

So, I’m as antediluvian as any bald, hairy, middle-aged man with a booming voice and a disproportionate share of space and air which no single human being should rightly be consuming in a crowded place.

But we need to be a bit more thoughtful. We need to stop behaving like cavemen. If politics is truly a place for everyone, no matter their gender or age, orientation or culture, we need to stop these rituals that come from a time when active politics was a bullying, men-only business. Imagine that behind that Perspex on TV we watched this time women doing the banging, the shouting, and the intimidating chanting, not to mention the sweating and the spraying. We’d have spoken with shock and disgust about unseemly behaviour. But somehow this fake proletarian hooliganism is endearing when men do it.

Our democracy won’t be truly civilised if its rituals continue to be conducted in a way that is necessarily uncomfortable for women. No 14-year-old girl watching the counting process as it is done today is going to think, you know what, at the next election I want to volunteer and join election monitoring.

Let’s please step out of the cave and act less our sex and more our age.