The only good thing that came out of the States General on the family held a few days ago in Rome, as always, was Pope Francis’ warning: the problem of birth rates, he said, is closely linked to the problem of migrant reception. For those of us who were in Trieste for the packed 9th Sabir Festival (the annual meeting of NGOs from the Mediterranean shores, promoted by ARCI, Pax Christi and a host of other organizations), we saw the Pontiff’s message as an encouragement to continue in our struggle to stop the outrageous rejections of migrants.
Striking a different note from what everyone else was saying at these States General, in just a few words, Bergoglio, this enlightened Pope that we’re fortunate to have, made it clear that only racists can think that only white children are needed, of “pure Italian race.” For these racists, in order to avoid “pollution” of the stock, it is a sacred duty to let thousands of children die at sea or from hardships along the Balkan routes, who would be enough by themselves to boost the birth rate, not only of Italy but of the world.
Beyond the declining birth rate as a general problem, however, there is another problem: what should be done to make sure that the desire to have children (and perhaps more than one) that many women (clearly, not all of them) have can be fulfilled, since today this is not the case? On this point, these States General seemed frankly obscene to me. Not only because of the violent tone with which Meloni threatened the rights of those who wish to choose according to their own beliefs regarding parenting and family, but because of the way everyone treated women: by ignoring them as subjects, even though they play a rather important role in procreation!
If you read reports of the event, you’ll notice that almost no one mentioned women directly, hiding them within the definition of “family,” or the category of “young people,” as if having children, and then raising them, was an equal amount of work for men and women. And on this basis, everyone listed every possible measure to “help” that wasn’t addressed to women specifically but only indirectly: the usual “bonuses” for families, or various tax breaks; at most, women were taken into account if they were unemployed and needed to find work. Women certainly do need such things, but most importantly, they have the right to denounce the fact that the reason why not enough children are born (which is not a tragedy for humanity, which has even more of them than necessary) is because women’s right to work is in danger of crumbling if it is not accompanied by a serious transformation of society and its norms in order to truly socialize care work. Because without such a transformation, the amount of toil that a working mother has to face is unbearable; indeed, in many cases this situation forces them to give up their plans, thus frustrating the desire of many of them to have children.
The figures – which were ignored at these States, hardly General but rather Unisex – speak for themselves: women have shown that they are capable of doing what men do (who probably finally figured that out as well), and in fact women are now the majority in the judiciary, in the health sector, and there are so many among managers as well. But if you go and look at the data, you will discover that while the vast majority of male judges, doctors, and managers have had children, the women who have been able (or willing) to do so are an absolute minority. That is to say, in order to reach the optimal “pink quota” of representation, always talked about but which alone serves little purpose, they have had to give up one of their rights, which for many of them would have been a joy: having children.
I needed to let it all out, because these States Unisex really pushed me to the edge. And I think that the battle for the socialization of care work is generally given too little attention. At most they talk about daycare centers, which certainly are a fundamental demand, but are insufficient, because they are both few and inadequate, their schedules not fitting with those of working mothers; who, moreover, would also need a general rethinking of neighborhoods and buildings, so that collective services could be provided for when children get sick, or for the old, as well as for all other such functions.
It’s ridiculous to propose that fathers and husbands should “do their part.” Sure, they could wash the dishes and get parental leave, but that’s not enough: what is needed is to rethink our whole way of life. And of thinking. That is, to stop making people believe that there is such a thing as a “genderless citizen,” which is instead based on the identity of the man (a cage into which the woman has been forced). And we need to understand that pink quotas have a symbolic value because they serve to prove that we women are just as intelligent, but they risk becoming a smokescreen if they’re not accompanied enough by the demand that laws, rules and the social and economic structure must take the gender difference into account.
Among other things, it is this gender difference that forces those women who wish to have children to have to give up work. Because it burdens us women with enormous labor that everyone thinks can continue to be done for free. With how things are right now, and Giorgia’s violence, I would not want it to come to a point of decreeing that all women must go home and have children and nothing more.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.