Italian sexism and racism two sides of the same dark coin?

by Dana on January 12, 2010

The sorry state of Italian society is no more evident than its portrayal of women on television.

Fearing there’s no dignity left for Italian women if the current trend continues,  Il Corpo Delle Donne is a montage of over 400 hours of Italian prime-time television. The result is a soft-core fantasy world constructed through the lenses of middle-aged men.

There’s the image of a showgirl hung up as a piece of meat while as the male presenter jokingly puts on his stamp of approval on her butt, a woman squatting under a plexi-glass table like an animal, or cajoled into taking a cold shower.  All for the sake of, entertainment?

But at this moment, all these are overshadowed by raging race riots in southern Italy. Surely, mafia, drugs, corruption, and crap labour practices are all contributing causes, but it had me going back to this op-ed again.

Written by an Italian academic, its insightful are particularly timely.  Emphasis mine.

The portrayals of women bring to mind darker moments in our country’s past.  During Italy’s Fascist era in the first half of the 20th century, there was no shortage of derogatory images of people from its colonies in Africa. Women were portrayed as sexual objects and the men as barbarian enemies.  In recent years, as immigrants have been flocking to Italy, these kinds of crude stereotypes have been coming back. … These attitudes in part reflect the feelings of economic and social insecurity that have only deepened over the past decade or so.  The responses to this, namely sexism and racism, are just two sides of the same coin.

Just exactly how deep does this racism run?

Over 300 cases of violence of this kind have been reported in the last two years, mainly against the Roma people, Romanians and Africans. Human rights organisations and trade unions expressed serious concerns until the Italian government was called upon by some European and UN bodies, such as the Council of Europe and the International Labour Organisation, to answer accusations of xenophobia and discrimination against foreign workers, either legal or illegal.

Unfiltered, socially regressive views like these seep into the national psyche.

There is no serious stigma attached to the use of racist language in Italy today. Umberto Bossi, minister for reform and founder of the Northern League, has called African migrants “bingo-bongos”. The prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, seemed to be vying with the League when he remarked earlier this year that the streets of Milan reminded him “of an African city” these days.