Commentary. After the historic defeat of the Left in 2018, exactly 50 years after 1968, the only cultural and social revolution that is still alive seems to be that of feminists and their movements.

Italian vote ignores the other half: women

The elections came and went like a hurricane, raging through every corner of the country, but if we look at the number of women elected to office, it’s like nothing has happened at all. The presence of women in Parliament has changed only minimally. As we wrote in il manifesto on Wednesday, the system of being able to run in multiple districts has most benefited male Deputies and Senators.

In the wake of these elections, we now have three party leaders in their forties (Renzi, Di Maio, Salvini), but all male, in a country that has shown itself capable of overturning every kind of balance when it comes to politics, but not when it comes to gender. This male dominance is, on the other hand, perfectly logical and consistent, given the level of general backwardness that distinguishes our country.

It is true that the vote was an expression of anger and fear, but this misses the point that fear and anger are feelings that are being experienced every day, in and out of the home, in private and public settings. The country is indeed divided into two, but not just because the post-election maps have painted it blue and yellow, in the colors of the Lega and the 5 Star Movement. Another map of our divisions is hiding underneath.

Italy is indeed split in half, as the last Svimez report shows: the statistics speak of a rate of female employment of 61.9 percent in the center-north (almost at European levels), and only half of that in the south: 34 percent. These 10 years of crisis have meant almost 200,000 jobs lost for the women of southern Italy, and the grand recovery touted by Renzi and company has brought back no more than 6,000.

On March 8, women were the first to take to the streets after the earthquake of the elections, in Italy and in the whole world. After the historic defeat of the Left in 2018, exactly 50 years after 1968, the only cultural and social revolution that is still alive seems to be that of feminists and their movements, which have gained new strength and prominence everywhere. The women of NonUnaDiMeno are promoting a general strike, to denounce before public opinion the social condition that women have to face at all stages of life.

This message is striking a nerve with the younger generation, themselves having to deal with a condition marked by insecurity and violence, crushed under the weight of a poor labor market, in the service sector or in the factories, or taking care of family members, hit hard by austerity policies featuring cuts to welfare and pensions, whose consequences they will have to bear.

One of our recent cover stories at il manifesto had the title “Tutte di meno” (“For women – less”), dedicated to the latest international reports on the global gender gap, which put the difference between the average salary of a woman and that of a man at 23 percent. It is an inequality at the planetary level, which is manifested in different forms in every country.

In Italy, the statistics showing this real theft from the wages of female workers says that the women of northern Italy are not living in the same country as those in the south, who are forced to live without welfare, with a lower level of education and higher poverty. And given the low rate of female employment, as our own Chiara Saraceno noted, “the women who are employed are mainly those who are more educated, and the more educated are those who spent a lot less time away from the labor market, even if they had a family and were raising children.”

Female labor, rare and poorly paid, also comes with the veritable plague of violence and sexual harassment, and unfortunately being the victims of sexual violence is perhaps the only measure in which Italian women are equal to the women of the world. Hundreds of thousands have had their lives altered by painful experiences that hurt them in myriad ways, of which only very few resulted in formal complaints, and which often ended with them leaving their jobs. But when this disease breaks out within the family, there is often nowhere to run. Many times, it all ends with another addition to the tragic statistics of femicide. It is true that something is changing, as, for instance, study contracts have started to include leave for those who are victims of violence, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

What is really needed is funding and public programs on a level that hasn’t been seen so far, not even in the most extravagant of campaign promises. It is enough to recall, as a paradigmatic and highly symbolic case, what is happening now in Rome, a town run by a woman mayor from the Five Star Movement, who could go down in history for being the one to close down the International Women’s House, a place that is a symbol of feminist struggle. Let us hope against hope that the resounding victory of the 5 Stars bodes well.


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