Sunday 20 September 2009

Rome and Italian women

There's something I have to get off my chest about Italy and then I'll shut up about my wonderful holiday. First, though, a few more pictures.

I can't even remember where this street was, let alone what the church (is it a church?) was called, but the street scene was again incredibly beautiful.

This is 'my square' where I enjoyed an early morning Cappuccino while my friends were still asleep, and several quick Espressos amidst hectic shopping and sight-seeing. It was also opposite a Carabinieri station where I could but admire the stylish uniforms the Italian policemen wore as they paraded in front of me.

This is the cafe, on a busy afternoon...

...and here it is on an early morning. (Spot the uniformed dish in the distance?)

The Tiber at night. My camera is too old for night photos, but I was pleased to at least get one out .

And now onto my rant...

Whenever we're abroad, we try not to read English newspapers or watch BBC, Sky or CNN, but instead peruse local TV and radio channels. I knew about Italian television, UK comedians have run sketches on the quiz shows with scantily glad women for years, and of course I'd been to Italy before. But I was still shocked to see on prime time telly, on RAI 1, the Miss Italy contest running on two consecutive nights. We watched until husband said he felt as if he was watching a soft porn programme with girls the age of his daughter being caressed by the TV camera, dressed only in the tiniest of bikinis. How Italian women allow this nonsense to go on, I wondered.

On the third night when we once again tuned in while getting ready to go out, there was a heated discussion on RAI 1 with a panel perched on a crescent shaped white leather sofa, including a girl wearing some clothes (phew) and a 'Miss Italy 2009' sash. As this was Italian TV, she was hardly allowed to speak, but did get a few words in. I pointed at the TV and said to husband, 'At last, they're discussing the ridiculousness of the beauty contest!'
'You're sure it's not an Italian parliamentary candidate election programme?' he replied dryly.
I laughed.

Although I can get by in restaurants, I don't actually speak any Italian. This was apparent as I could not have been more mistaken about the content of the panel discussion. While surfing the net, waiting for me to get ready the next morning, husband found an Italian newspaper translation. Apparently there had been a scandal at the Miss Italy contest: the female presenter had mistakenly crowned the wrong girl as 'Miss Moda', a sub-category (of which there appeared to be several) of the Miss Italy competition. A sash had for a few moments been placed on the wrong girl. And this is what the heated panel discussion had been all about.

I'm not a fully signed up member of the feminist tribe, but felt that surely Italian women must rise up against this? Not only does Berlusconi make complete fools out of women in Italian politics, nominating his European parliament members on the basis of their looks, brief research done on the interweb showed that Italy has one of the lowest numbers of women on company boards in Europe. I greatly admire their style and general natural gorgeousness, but it seems they have little or no political or economic power. What happens when they age, their husbands start spending more time with their mistresses and their children leave home? I know I'm generalising, but I thought this stuff was fought for, decades ago, by our mothers and grandmothers?

I'm not saying all the other European countries are equal, non-racist or non-sexist, and the recent events in the UK with the ousting of older female TV presenters in favour of young and pretty ones, and the disparities in male versus female salaries in the City or elsewhere show that Britain is anything but fine on the subject. But at least BBC One doesn't run Miss UK contest as its headlining programme and Brown seems to be able to keep his trouser snake from interfering in his choice of ministers.

Don't get me wrong, I still think women should be women and men men. And in Italy they certainly both look wonderful. But when the gentlemanly and feminine behaviour is hiding a serious social disparity between the sexes I must but agree with actress Anna Magnani and journalist Maria Laura Rodotà who are leading a backlash on the sexism on Italian television. Apparently Rodotà's open letter to Italian women a couple of days ago has had a huge response. Thank goodness sanity seems to be prevailing. Then perhaps I can just remember my Roman holiday for the good food, great shopping and certain 'half-past ten' (size ten and a half) shoes and not for the sexism on Italian TV.


one of 365 said...

A little pay it forward thank-you on my blog. Hover over your link at the bottom of the page to see what I've said about you ;)

Cheryl said...

I've heard about Italian TV for years, but had no idea how bad it was in general. Sounds like their women's movement is just beginning so I wish them all lots of fortitude and strength. One good thing about the male attitude there, though. They, from what I've heard, flirt with women of all ages, so older women don't feel as invisible as they can often feel here in the US. I might be wrong about that though.