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Gender Activism in Contemporary Italy

Fiorucci, Wissia (2017) Gender Activism in Contemporary Italy. In: Women and the Public Sphere in Modern and Contemporary Italy: Essays for Sharon Wood. Italian Studies . Troubador Publishing Ltd, Leicester, UK, pp. 171-184. ISBN 978-1-78803-891-1. (KAR id:62173)

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In many countries across Europe, but especially in Italy, twentieth-century reforms failed to bring about any substantial displacement of a widely-accepted sexist culture. Movements that had aroused optimism and political expectations in the early 1970s (e.g. Movimento Liberazione Donna (M.L.D.), Fronte Liberazione Donna, and Rivolta Femminile) virtually disappeared within the decade. Apart from a few early 1980s cases, women’s activism ‘si era contratto nelle voci di poche donne’ (Rosetti 51) and the feminist movement, though not dead, disappeared from the public sphere. ‘Avanza[va]no […] gli anni Ottanta, il tramonto dell’era dei movimenti, il disimpegno, lo yuppismo, il velinismo’ (Pisa 3), and the discrepancy between changes in society and their translation into legislation kept increasing. The situation worsened in the following decade, ‘when forces advocating traditional roles of women and the family prevailed’ (Rosselli 9). Any improvement in civil rights was met with strong opposition and, for a long time, women’s representation in top decision-making positions in the political and public scene continued to be near-negligible (ibid.). The late 1990s-2000s saw improvements in gender equality, most provoked by EU Directives and the allocation of European funds, while the media, particularly TV, feasted on gender stereotypes and women as sexual objects. However, in 2009, a nationwide wave of reactions against this state of affairs arose, stimulated in part by the international climate but ultimately triggered by the sex-body-power nexus of the Berlusconi’s era. In 2009, a journalist from the Irish Times wrote: ‘Historians are sure to devote much time and space to […] Berlusconi. But [will] they […] attribute to the Italian prime minister the merit of having […] sparked the renaissance of Italian feminism?’ (Agnew, ‘Berlusconi’). In this essay I first examine the moments that preceded this outburst of protestation, showing that Zanardo’s video, credited with having triggered a nationwide response, was in fact supported by years of studies. I then analyse the velina question in more detail, highlighting similarities and differences between issues tackled by second-wave feminism and current concerns. I subsequently take a closer look at two experiences, namely those of SE NON ORA QUANDO (SNQ; a network of organised committees) and the congress PRIMUM VIVERE (PV; Paestum 2012, 2013). Despite being different in nature, they both exemplify some important aspects of today’s activism, particularly the immediacy of communication granted by the web, and the far-reaching impact of any initiative/activity favouring convergence of many different, individual, and collective realities. This, in both cases, has been a source of both strength and fragmentation. As noted by FemminilePlurale, the encounter and co-existence of different approaches, while a potential source of strength, has been rather a cause of division: ‘Può essere che siamo così pervase dall’idea che ci siano infiniti modi di essere femminista […], che non valga la pena […] confrontarci?’.

Item Type: Book section
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PB Modern Languages
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Wissia Fiorucci
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2017 16:25 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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