Italian Women To Berlusconi: Basta!

Recently I have been writing on how Arab and Muslim women have taken to the streets in political protest, shattering stereotypes in the process. Over the weekend we saw another group of women do the same, this time in Italy.

While Italian women are most commonly associated with the classic maternal image of “Mama,” the always cooking, nurturing domestic woman with her endless supply of pasta and babies, Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi has cultivated another stereotype of Italian women as what else, but sex-objects.

Italy is Ranked 74th by the World Economic Forum in its Treatment of Women, 97th in Equal Opportunity, and 121st in Pay Equity. Image Credit: Reuters

Well, Italian women are not putting up with it anymore and they went out onto the streets to let everyone know. Under the official banner of “If Not Now, Then When?” thousands of Italian women protested across the country, in 230 cities in Italy and 28 cities around the world, holding signs that read, “Our country is not a whorehouse,” sending Berlusconi a clear message: Basta! (Italian for “enough”).

Obviously that is what these women have had- enough of Berlusconi’s scandals, and enough of his derogatory treatment of women. Anyone remember when he stacked his Parliament with attractive, but unqualified former beauty queens and actresses in countless and meaningless positions?

Things only got worse from there. Unless you have been living under a rock, for more than a year now Berlusconi has been fighting off investigation after investigation into his lurid “sex parties” at his various mansions and villas from Sardegna to Milan, with scores of young women. Things came to a head this year after allegations surfaced that the Premier had paid to have sex with Ruby, a 17yr old Moroccan belly dancer. Sex with minors is illegal in Italy.

Karima El Mahrough, aka "Ruby," the Now 18yr old Woman at the Center of Berlusconi's Latest Sex Scandal. Image Credit: Newsweek

MSNBC reports that pictures and video footage of scantily clad young women in erotic poses have been “plastered” all over Italian media, and activists state that this image of women as sex-objects is advocating a culture encouraging women to use their appearances as the only way of making a living in Italy, where a third of the youth are unemployed.

The New York Times reports that Susanna Camusso, leader of Italy’s largest labor union, the Italian General Confederation of Labor, spoke to the bustling crowd in Rome’s Pizza del Popolo:

We’re not happy to be a second-rate country or an ugly television soap opera. We want a country in which it’s possible for women to live in dignity. A country that does not sustain women’s capacity for growth is a country that goes backward.

A judge is expected to rule in the coming days on whether 74yr old Berlusconi, will go trial on charges of having sex with a minor and using his power to get her out of charges of theft.

In the meantime, Berlusconi continues to insult women and their intelligence by dismissing the protests, stating: ” I have always tried to act in such a way that every woman feels special.”

Spoken like a true sexist, Silvio.

*This post of mine was also published on Ms. Magazine and Forbes Woman.

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