Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

After the great and successful demonstrations, no smaller reactions by Il Cavaliere. This time, pointless.

Mystery image: Is this a car aimed at female clients? At old males wanting to gift their mistresses? At hormone-filled adolescents?

As far as I've seen, the demonstration turned mr. Berlusconi mad. Yesterday he aired an angry comment trying to turn all what happened into the "usual attempt by the left wing to subvert popular vote". And many of his supporters, starting from the women involved in the Government, to add their own dissociation.

A good sign, in my view. He accused the hit.

As I said in my preceding posts, however, this is just a secondary point. He might not be happy to hear this, but his actual effectiveness over Italian life (besides of course his massive personal stakes) is all but unquestionable.

Yesterday I made my own counter-comment to mr. Berlusconi, both in Pulsewire and in my Facebook page, hoping he will read, and sure he will not.

Today, I'd like to add a bit of context information, so that you (and me, and many of us) may try to elaborate meanings, and ideas, more effectively.

I'll follow the kind advice of the King to Alice: "Begin from the beginning. Go on till you reach the end." And the beginning is, women image in Italy.

* * * * * * * * *

"Se poi è una bella ragazza, che male c'è?"

Literal translation: "If she's a pretty girl, where's the bug?"

Actual meaning: "I want her around, at disposal, decorative and maybe sexually available. If she's also able to perform some useful work, better even."

Of course the last version is not politically correct enough to be sanely uttered. But the first edition has been used by mr. Berlusconi many time, as a justification for having co-opted some pretty women with whom she had intercourse with to some government office.

The debate is still going on, mainly focussed on whether these people can actually do something useful, or at least non-harmful, in their new jobs.

Very few vent a different kind of concern: how many of those pretty girls are operational agents of KGB, or whatever its name is, or anything similar.

The core point, however, in my view is still another: in his display of machismo, mr. Berlusconi clearly reveals what his consideration for women really is - pretty pets with feminine genitals. Mere instruments of his "free will", as an infinitely rich old man. And meantime, purely mechanical. Not far, just a bit more naive, than dr. Strangelove's idea of "reprotuction faktories in die deep mines" of Stanley Kubrick's movie.

Mr. Berlusconi often claims his attitude is the free, willful manifestation of an ideal many Italian men dream of, having not enough power or money to apply. He says all who do not like what he's doing are just motivated by envy.

No doubt he's right, at least in part. That of imagining women as moving blocks of flesh whose only use is to excite and satisfy sexually is, quite sure, a diffused - although unspoken - desire by many weak, impotent men.

Some women, too?

Not later than a couple hours from the end of demonstrations, Nicole Minetti (actually in the Regional government of Lombardy) claimed that being pretty is a form of power, whose "positive" effect is allowing to rise socially - provided of course someone notice and lifts you from the slums right into the King Castle.

Power. Used to which aim?

Just to rise oneself social position. As if this is a natural right, not the result of a forceful endeavor. Just "quickly become someone". Nothing else. Zero responsibility. No social obligation.

A tiny detail, in ms.Minetti's and some others' explain, is however missing: you can be noticed only as soon as you remain pretty. Say, one or two weeks before the Sultan becomes bored by your always-same (and maybe even declining) person. Afterwards, back to the slums, with a generous cachet...

* * * * * * * * *

"La competizione è femmina". "Competition is female". So recites the advertisement of a car, apparently aimed at female customers.

Today I improvised a photo-reporter, and wandered around on the way to work looking for images like no others in the world.

With regret, I have to admit my reportage took just fifteen minutes.

At end of it I got no less than ten (awful) snapshots, of whom the one I included is the most significant. I've even arrived at my business meeting beforehand.

I said "with regret", because since today I did not realize how women images are massively pervasive, and how uniform they are.

Invariably, they are young and pretty.

Most often they glance at you provocatively, with an expression which I'm not sure whether more seductive or bored to death, or both.

Some other look incredibly happy, in overstatement even to our Latin eyes ("Un diamante è per sempre", "A diamond is forever").

Some other times, the pretty woman looks apparently serious and professional, and the advertisement spends less than a nanosecond informing us she's a student.

All these background images are, frankly, distasteful - to say the less. In many cases, they look having precisely nothing to do with the goods advertised. When they have some relation, their overall look and attitude seems to me curiously off-target: an interesting example is a fashion firm placard advertising women business suits in which the model glances seductively to the clients (female, I suppose) passing by.

All the image I photographed portray women who are not only pretty, but also framed as passive, or inexperienced.

This is not incidental: placards portraying authoritative, evidently intelligent women peers do simply not exist. Or if they do, I didn't find them - my fault, maybe: sure I made no big effort.

The very same image on placards is continuously pumped by television. In the leisure shows women are either unrealistically pretty or caricatural. Never independent, never "normally beautiful", never apparently thinking.

This is notincidental. Image is a powerful mean to construct meanings, then to mold them into stereotype. And the desired meaning is, beauty and youth are the only value. They only can grant easy success - but to obtain it easily you have to make yourself "available".

Unreal, you say?

Sure so. The women I know, with no exception, are of a different type: independent and willful human beings who, incidentally, are also adult females. Alive people, not different from me, you, anyone else. With similar concerns about future, surviving, their children (for whom have them), building a sustainable future. Intelligent, sensitive, and sensible. Logical, and tough. Meanwhile, passionate.

That is, people or normal or above normal intelligence. Each different, in their individual way.

And in the same time, no. Images and words construct, as I said, meanings. These meanings, in turn, become values. Shared values, then stereotypes. Then, last, "obvious truths" no one feels the tiniest need to question.

We want to question, however, even the "obvious".

Words and images can, and should, be replaced by other, more inclusive, words and images.

Sure it will take long to remove the stupid placards and reformulate marketing practices. In the moment, what anyone can do is to imagine new worlds (no less real than "this"), and give them the birth they devise.

Ideas, and bridges.

I will do my best to add some. But this, of course, is an invitation! ;-)


Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative