Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Italy, feminism out, sexploitation in

Actually, the NPR headline was "In Italy, Feminism Out, Women as Sex Symbols In," and the story was broadcast yesterday on Morning Edition. Among the interesting facts in Sylvia Poggioli's story was that a recent poll found that "showgirl" was the number 1 role model for young girls and women in Italy. The report explores whether Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi's media empire is to blame for this big step backward for women in Italy, where a smaller proportion of members of parliament are women than in, for example, Rwanda and Burundi.

Here are some excerpts, including quotes from feminists about the Italian situation, of which one aspect is a decline in solidarity among women:
Both on public television and on networks owned by Berlusconi, who also is a media tycoon, scantily dressed women can been seen — but rarely heard — on all types of programs, from quizzes to political talk shows.
* * *

One very successful showgirl is Mara Carfagna, who left an uncertain singing career for politics. Berlusconi chose her for the slot of minister of equal opportunity — and both denied media reports that they were having an affair.

* * *

"To sell your body for a calendar, for a career, is not considered now so bad for many young women," says social scientist Elisa Manna, who has studied this issue's impact on Italian society. "This kind of attitude is connected to television, because they have this kind of model in every hour of the day."

On a more hopeful note, a journalist interviewed for the story observes that a majority of students now at Italian universities are women, and she anticipates that they might succed in breaking down Italy's "old boy network." I share her hope, though I am not optimistic if many of the them share the show girl role model.

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