During my long involvement in the women’s movement I saw many street demonstrations, I waited a long time, I took part in the enthusiasm and I hoped each time that the momentum would continue. Of today’s demonstrations sweeping Rome and the world — Ni Una Menos, or A Day Without Women in the U.S. — I will say that it’s special compared to all the others. I consider it a revival of the cultural revolution, that spike of historical consciousness, that was feminism of the 1970s.
Then as now it was an international movement: a young generation that jumped out of nowhere into the public arena, discarding the “woman question” — their disadvantage, their partial citizenship, etc. — in favor of an analysis of the relationship of power between the sexes, the problems of the body, sexuality, motherhood, abortion. It was considered “not political” to question the existing order in its complexity. The slogan “the personal is political” was a challenge, the ultimate protest of an original feminist culture which, as Rossana Rossanda wrote, arose “as an antagonist, negating the other culture.”
The radical demands, which then turned out to be impossible due to external and internal obstacles to feminism itself, reappear today, as often happens, in a changing environment and in the leadership of a generation that, unlike ours, is not “against” women. They preceded and somehow made it grow.
In reports released by the crowded Bolognese assemblies of Feb. 4 and 5, the reference to feminism — to its practices and autonomy which gave rise to associations, counseling, anti-violence centers, educational programs in schools — is recurrent. Both in terms of the media and the need for an “independent observatory,” and in reference to the self-managed clinics born in the first half of the ‘70s on the initiative of groups of women medical practitioners and then institutionalized in 1975. With the fear that the same fate could touch the anti-violence centers, “the clinics must go back to being open and welcoming, independent and free, and numerous. … We want to see counseling centers as meeting places and cultural centers … able to receive and recognize the multiple gender identities that an individual may experience.”
Given the young age of the history of feminism, the new generations know little, but they know that they’ve come to their awareness from those roots, which spawned the freedom and the collective force that has brought them together so unexpectedly and in such large numbers.
Although the feminist revolution could have crushed the patriarchy and capitalism, liberating them from internalized models of the masculine and the feminine and subverting the sexual division of labor, the corresponding political movement was fatally fragmented almost from the moment of its inception because of the breadth of its themes. Subsequent actions have always been specific to a theme: abortion rights, domestic violence, etc.
Today’s international women’s strike seems to have recombined the spirit of the movement in a vision that encompasses everything: sexual and reproductive self-determination, job insecurity, migration, femicide and male violence, sexism, racism and homophobia. It’s investigating the links between sexuality and politics, between patriarchy and capitalism, which already appeared in the pamphlets of the ‘70s but which then seemed abstract. In the Italian government, however, they’ve now drafted a bill against sexual and gender based violence. For the first time, there’s radical and concrete legislation.
Male violence in its most savage and criminal forms can be said to have been the catalyst in connecting the domain of intimate events with the power and language of public institutions, revealing just how “normal” that behavior is. Paradoxically, it’s inside of people’s homes that love and violence perversely mingle.
If women have for centuries been at the disposal of others, then March 8 will be the first day of our new lives, the moment of our revolution.
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