by Eloisa Morra Pucacco
After the great battles of the Italian feminist movement in the 1970s – when fascist codes on “family law” were modified and women obtained the rights of divorce and abortion - it seems that today we are having a backlash. In Italy, as in many countries, women often study faster and with better results than men, yet at work they are paid less than their male colleagues. Violence against women is increasing. The current Italian government is not working to create laws against discrimination.
At the heart of what appears to be a backward trend is Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who owns three private TV channels and many national newspapers. Every day Italian families absorb his vision of the world. Italian TV shows are filled with naked women in imagery similar to pornographic movies.
Despite this, a “new Italian feminism” is emerging. To understand what it means to be a woman in Italy, I find it useful to have an outside point of view. In “Notes on Visconti’s Bellissima,” a brilliant essay written in 2009, English novelist Zadie Smith writes, “In the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, in the ombra del colosseo, expats gather to complain. Italian women is a subject to stretch from morning coffee to midday ravioli. ‘The land that feminism forgot!’ And on cue it all rolls out like an index: the degrading sexualisation of, the nightly televisual humiliation of, Berlusconi's condescending opinion of, perilous abortion rights of, low wages of, minimal parliamentary presence of, invisibility within the church of, et cetera. Yet there exist confusing countersigns, in the land that feminism forgot.”