Feminism is back in vogue in Italy. Some say it lay dormant in spite of a vibrant '70s feminist movement, but thanks to raging misogynist Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, largely silent Italian women have had enough and are speaking up.
"[T]he scandals surrounding the prime minister have been like a violent slap in the face for millions of women who are just now waking up from a state of passivity," said political scientist Francesca Izzo.
A favorite tactic of the 73-year-old Berlusconi is to disparage the looks of his female political opponents. In a heated debate with 58-year-old opposition party member Rosy Bindi, he said, "You're more beautiful than you are intelligent," to which the annoyed politician shot back, "I am not a woman at your disposal." (Perhaps she was referring to his multiple girlfriends, which finally led his wife to file for a divorce.)
Many American women claim they aren't feminists, but I wonder if they'd change their tune if the president were speaking this way every day! To find out how Italian women are fighting back and to see a clip of a documentary about how women are represented on Italian television,
After Berlusconi's nasty comment to Rosy Bindi, pissed off women drafted a petition saying that his sexism was an insult both to women and to democracy. 11 days later, more than 100,000 women had signed it, claiming that Berlusconi participated in the "cretinization of women."
It took long enough for more women to speak up, but it's great they finally did it. Alas, Italian feminists have more than Berlusconi and his rhetoric to fight. In the following clip from filmmaker Lorella Zanardo's documentary Women's Bodies, you'll see that almost all the representations of women on Italian television depict them as sex objects.