The Failure of Italian Feminism

Guia Soncini in The New York Times:

ImageAmericans and Italians are such similar creatures: We both care about news only if it concerns us. That’s why in Italy there’s no such thing as the Harvey Weinstein scandal; here, it’s the Asia Argento scandal. Either way, it hasn’t made us look good. “Victim-Blaming,” Vanity Fair proclaimed last week, after Ms. Argento, who says Mr. Weinstein raped her, declared that she was considering leaving Italy because of attacks on her by her compatriots. “Weinstein Accuser Feels ‘Doubly Crucified’ ” read the Associated Press headline. Suddenly we were patriarchal, sexist Italy again. It’s true, I thought while reading, but it’s not the whole truth.

…It hasn’t, for instance, been in the male-dominated world of newspapers where Ms. Argento has been on the receiving end of the worst attacks. While there have been some widely cited examples of egregious behavior — the editor in chief of a right-wing tabloid said Ms. Argento “must have liked it” — these are exceptions. The bulk of the Italian press has been on Ms. Argento’s side. It has, rightly, treated her gently: The newspaper La Stampa published a 2,000- word interview with her, in which she denied that she’d maintained a five-year relationship with Mr. Weinstein; the interviewer never challenged her on this revision. Prominent male columnists have come to Ms. Argento’s defense — this, in a country that has a total of zero national newspapers edited by women and zero female columnists in its main national papers.

Where the reaction to Ms. Argento’s story has been truly vicious has been on social media. And there, it has primarily come from women. There was the woman who wouldn’t believe Ms. Argento because she did not find her likable when she was competing on “Dancing With the Stars”; the one that claims “Asia asked for it” because she once filmed a scene in which she French-kissed a dog; the one who says — as if it matters — “I’ve simply never liked her.” (I won’t link to the likes of them here.) What this tells us about Italian feminism isn’t clear, but it’s certainly ugly. There’s something under-ripened about the state of feminism in my country. In other countries, to proclaim oneself a feminist is taken to mean that you are a person who defends the rights of women to live as they like, to have equal rights and opportunities, and to be in charge of their sexuality. In Italy, those who call themselves feminists treat what is supposed to be a fundamental component of one’s worldview as a sort of battle between high-school cliques: I will fight for your rights — as long as we’re friends. If a sexual assault victim has been unfriendly, we will side with the next one, the one who answers our phone calls. Our sympathies are determined not by who has suffered but by who has invited us to her dinner parties.

More here.