Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Lottiamo Ancora (1): Reviewing One Hundred and Fifty Years of Italian Feminism

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Lottiamo Ancora (1): Reviewing One Hundred and Fifty Years of Italian Feminism

Article excerpt

Abstract

This essay examines the struggle of Italian feminism for transforming long rooted beliefs and gender roles in Italy since the late nineteenth century. I specifically focus on the legal, political and symbolic levels. First, I describe the historical formation of Italian feminism and its relation with literature and politics. Next, I examine the emergence of new feminist groups, and their involvement with the late 1960s protests. I then briefly explore the issues of divorce, labor and family laws during the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, I summarize the progress of the lesbian and queer movements in their struggle for recognition and freedom.

Keywords: Italian feminism, identity, lesbian and queer activism

Introduction

In some popular representations, Italy appears to be a land of fertility, style and old tradition. In this land, women have sensual curves and gesticulate while they talk. These women are the headmistresses of their families, but are subordinated to the male rule and have little practical liberties in the outside world. Is there a core of truth in these lay representations? As a matter of fact, gender equality has been more problematic in Il Bel Paese (3) than in other Western European countries, and the unprivileged status of women (from parity at work to sexual orientation rights) demands continual struggle in the present.

While the direct achievements of Italian feminist movements on legislation cannot be overemphasized, their challenging of the cultural status quo has also been remarkable. In a country with structurally grounded male patriarchal power, the history of Italian feminism is revealing and inspiring. Although internal strife and heterogeneity characterize the history of Italian feminism, the movement's representatives have traditionally shared a belief that women should act as integral subjects towards one another (Passerini, 1996). The principles of groups such as Unione Donne Italiane (Union of Italian Women, officially created in 1944), for example, were composed of a hybrid coalition of militant communists, socialists, Roman Catholics and laity. As Andreina de Clementi (2002) suggests, however, the history of the Italian feminist movement can be divided in two parts--early and contemporary--separated from a long period of hibernation during Fascism (4). The specificities of Italian feminism have to be discussed taking into account the wider European emergence of feminism that functioned as context and sometimes horizon of the Italian movement. Whenever distinctions are made among feminist groups or movements, it is important to stress that these distinctions are based on practical reasoning, and can only partially reflect the complexity of a constituency whose history has alternated between fragmentation and unification. Accordingly, although some authors choose to discuss at least six branches of feminism in general--liberal; difference; socialist; poststructural; black; and postcolonial feminism (Barker, 2004)--influential Italian film critic Teresa de Lauretis prefers to look for commonalities as characteristic of the Italian context. She terms these commonalities comunita (community), "in the sense that everything is intrinsically unstable and contextual, not based on the identity of components or their natural bond, but a community that is the result of work, of struggle, of interpretation" (1999 p. 3, my translation).

In this essay, I discuss the role of Italian feminism and its struggle for transforming long rooted beliefs and practices of gender roles in Italy since the late nineteenth century, paying attention to the legal, political and symbolic levels mainly. I first provide a brief description of the historical formation of Italian feminisms as political/activist and philosophical movements that are representative and agents of women's rights, experiences and subjectivity. I offer a brief description of the relationships between some of these movements with literature and politics. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.