In gemellaggio con Cristina Tagliabue, l’articolo di Elisabetta Povoledo per l’International Herald Tribune di oggi, dove Cristina, Lorella Zanardo e la vostra eccetera dicono la loro. Sì, anche sull’utilizzatore finale.
Women Take On Sexist Image in Italian Media
ROME — Even before the brouhaha over “Noemigate,” the scandal sparked by the nebulous liaison between Silvio Berlusconi, the septuagenarian Italian prime minister, and the teenaged Noemi Letizia, Italian women had been pondering their collective self-image.
On television, the Italian penchant for adorning soundstages with skimpily clad, surgically enhanced showgirls has radically metastasized, spilling over from game shows to all forms of entertainment, including the nightly news.
But feminist grumblings only exploded into public debate in recent weeks after reports emerged that Mr. Berlusconi, a media magnate whose family owns Italy’s three largest private television channels, was grooming a stable of TV starlets for the political arena. (Although the prime minister has denied the reports, Barbara Matera, a former showgirl, was elected earlier this month to the European Parliament with Mr. Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party).
Adding spice to the mix was the buzz over the harem-like surroundings at Mr. Berlusconi’s villa in Sardinia.
The timing could not have been better for a book and a short documentary — both released last month — that critically analyze what has become the dominant model for Italian femininity and what it takes to achieve it.
The notion of women as sexual objects exists throughout the world, “but here it is prevalent,” said Lorella Zanardo, a management consultant on diversity and equal opportunity, adding, “here only this model passes on television.” She said she felt compelled to film “Il Corpo delle Donne” (Women’s Body), an arresting documentary about women on Italian television, “because I was ashamed of the image of us that is broadcast.”
The documentary is culled from hundreds of hours of TV shows, both from Mr. Berlusconi’s private Mediaset channels as well as RAI state television.
“It was a terrible experience because I didn’t think I’d see so much humiliation,” Ms. Zanardo said. When they aren’t decorously poised like mute stage props or stumbling through chorus line choreographies, women have been used as table legs, thrust into showers for the designer equivalent of the wet T-shirt contest, or strung up like slabs of cured ham in a meat locker. “If they put a black man in the same situation, people would take to the streets to protest, but with women there isn’t the same involvement. And we are allowing this to happen.”
“I’ve had foreign visitors comment that they’re surprised by the number of pornography channels in Italy and I have to tell them that they’re actually the state broadcaster and Mediaset,” said Loredana Lipperini, who wrote a book in 2007 on the female image in Italy, “Ancora dalla parte delle bambine” (Still on the Side of Girls).
Emphasis on beauty and the aspiration for physical perfection is not unique to Italy. But what concerns some observers here is that the emphasis on physical attractiveness as the principal prerequisite for success may be corrupting younger generations.
“The body is the new capital for adolescents in Italy,” said Cristina Sivieri Tagliabue, the author of “Appena ho 18 anni mi rifaccio” (As Soon as I’m 18 I’m Getting a Makeover), which recounts case studies of image-obsessed teens. In carrying out dozens of interviews, the author concluded that what drives the young women in the book to undergo painful plastic surgery is not merely physical improvement, “but an awareness of what they can achieve afterward,” she said. “In Italy what dominates is the cult of the body, people believe it’s what you need to get ahead.”
Other media tend to hammer home the same theme. Magazines for teenage girls, for example, regularly query their readers on their showgirl skills rather than their intellect. “If this is proposed as the winning model, it means that there is a huge void there,” said Ms. Sivieri Tagliabue. “And it leads to a society that has lost values central to humanity.”
Because Mr. Berlusconi has such a hold on Italian media, discussion of the issue inevitably takes on political overtones. “There is a clash between the left and the right as though the right were proud of the body and the left has made it an ideological question,” said Aldo Grasso, a television critic for the Milan daily, Corriere della Sera. “But from society’s point of view, the image of women is depressing and stereotypical.”
Other social costs may be more hidden but no less real. According to the 2007 Global Gender Gap drafted by the World Economic Forum, Italy ranks at number 84 out of 128, the worst showing in Europe, where Sweden, Norway and Finland are ranked in the first three spots. “There is complete inequality, and this has to be addressed,” said Ms. Lipperini.
Still, the attention given to Ms. Sivieri Tagliabue’s book and Ms. Zanardo’s video suggests that a tipping point has been reached. “I expected a response but nothing like this. I think people felt the need to say enough, but were unable to react,” said Ms. Zanardo of the positive reaction to her documentary and linked blog.
And the protest is growing. To mark the date celebrating the birth of the Italian Republic, June 2, a group of women, several of them recipients of prestigious awards, drafted an open letter against the commercialization of Italian women, and a model that “damages female identity.” More than 17,000 people have signed the petition.