Mara Carfagna, Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunity. Not a joke.
It’s no secret that women are portrayed in Italian print and television media as sexual objects.
I tried to make light of it in a recent post of mine. When I can, I try to look at the lighter side of things here in Italy, while also pointing out some of the cultural differences that puzzle, perplex or even at times irritate me.
Just a couple days ago, I read the article Ready for post-bimbo era in Italy from the L.A. Times about the possibility of change for the way women are portrayed in the Italian mass media. This forecast comes as a result of the more “somber” government tone ushered in by Mario Monti, who stands in stark opposition to his predecessor, the infamous Silvio Berlusconi.
While reading this article I was directed to a link for the documentary Il Corpo delle Donne (“Women’s Bodies”) produced by Lorella Zanardo. I hadn’t ever heard of this documentary that was released in 2009 amid a lot of controversy. I’m surprised I’m only becoming aware of it now. I found it provocative and sobering, as well as a lone voice in a sea of ridiculousness and superficiality. I especially appreciate the fact that it’s an Italian woman voicing her outrage at the way females are portrayed in her culture and society.
I was already hooked on Lorella once I read one of her quotes in the L.A. Times article:
“You switch on the TV at 8 o’clock in the morning, and there’s a nearly naked girl making pasta,” Zanardo says. “And I thought, why are you making pasta naked?”
This is a good question, my dear Lorella, one that I think many of us, women AND men alike here in Italy, often ask ourselves. Who is this programming targeted at? What is the benefit? Etc. etc. I don’t think the answers are as simple as one might first think.
I don’t watch Italian TV, not out of snobbery but simply as a time issue, but I do think that if the quality of programming were higher (ie, less game shows, boobies and general fluff in prime time and more meaty journalistic or documentary programming) and if the image of women were more palatable to an intelligent female audience looking for less male chauvenistic fare, I might be encouraged to watch more. A couple examples of women I like on Italian television are Milena Gabanelli of Report, and also Daria Bignardi who used to host Le Invasioni Barbariche. Both of these women offer another face for the image of females in Italy, an image that is thoughtful, intelligent, and powerful.
As far as the bimbo culture goes though, I encourage you to watch the Women’s Bodies (English subtitled version) video below by Zanardo in its entirety. It is nearly 25 minutes but I found it compelling, thought-provoking, and even heartbreaking all at the same time.
Many of you are probably already aware of this video but for those of you who, like me, weren’t, I invite you to watch and come to your own conclusions. I don’t think it’s propaganda. The average TV viewer in Italy could easily be accosted by any number of images that are presented in this documentary, without much difficulty.