The anti-women agenda is likely to be Italy’s next prime minister

When Italians head to the polls on September 25, the far-right party, Brothers of Italy (“Fratelli d’Italia”), is expected to win a majority of the vote. The party’s leader, Giorgia Meloni, could become the country’s first female prime minister.

Meloni’s premiership has been the subject of much discussion in recent weeks. Commentators, both in the Italian press and beyond, are questioning whether this is a step forward for women or even feminism. Even former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently, “The election of the nation’s first female prime minister has always represented a rupture with the past, and that is certainly a good thing.” But is this true?

“Being a woman does not automatically mean being a feminist,” says Italian journalist Giulia Severo. “The claim that a woman – that is, a woman – [die de macht wint] It is a victory for all women and for feminism, it is very sexist to me, because it puts sex above the person and their ideas or policies.”

Meloni’s politics are in fact what you’d expect of a party leader descended from the Italian neo-fascist social movement founded after World War II by supporters of former dictator Benito Mussolini.

In late August, the leader of the Brotherhood in Italy posted on Twitter a video of a Ukrainian woman being raped in the street by an asylum seeker from Guinea in the Italian city of Piacenza. Someone filmed the assault from a nearby apartment and the perpetrator was arrested. Meloni captured the video from a newspaper: the picture is blurry, but the woman’s screams are clearly audible. “One cannot remain silent in the face of this horrific episode of sexual violence against a Ukrainian woman perpetrated by an asylum seeker in broad daylight in Piacenza,” Meloni wrote. She added that she had sent “the bosom of this woman” and promised to do everything she could “to restore security in our cities”.

The post was later removed by Twitter. The woman who was assaulted told a newspaper that she felt “desperate” because someone recognized her in the video, which only added to her suffering. Meloni has been heavily criticized for using rape as election propaganda and disrespecting the victim.

Although Meloni defended herself for sharing the video, Severo said that the leader of the Brotherhood of Italy had finally closed the debate on whether it was good for feminism or not: it was really needed.” Severo added: “She uses violence against women, not to denounce not to make proposals on the same issue, but rather to reinforce its racist policies towards immigrants.”

While this is likely the first time an Italian politician has posted a video of sexual assault on social media, Severo called Meloni’s tweet an “old hoax” that “fits perfectly with what we’ve always seen” from the far right. .

Violence against women is a structural problem in Italy. Between August 2021 and July 31, 2022, 125 femicides were recorded – more than one woman killed every three days.
The majority of the perpetrators are Italian, but “the far right always provokes violence against women when it is perpetrated by a non-Italian,” Severo explains.

The myth of the immigrant rapist and the exploitation of women’s insecurity for racist purposes is a phenomenon called “feminine nationalism”.

The myth of the rapist or immigrant killer, and the exploitation of women’s insecurity for racist and xenophobic purposes, is a phenomenon that Sarah Faris called it in her 2017 book, Women’s Rights: The Rise of Nationalism.

The following year, in 2018, the course of the Italian general election campaign and the country’s political discourse was greatly affected and completely transformed by the murder of a young woman by a Nigerian man in Macerata, Central Italy.

Georgia Serrugiti, political philosopher and author of Conservative Wind – The Right’s Populist Attack on Democracy, explains why Meloni’s “Feminism” is so successful. “Being the woman who opposes violations of women’s rights using traditional right-wing rhetoric is a march because it appeals to a potentially anti-immigrant public that can’t wait to express that hostility.” “It targets a specific demographic: a group in which families are made up of men and women, fathers and mothers, both indigenous and white,” Serrugiti added.

Meloni already has a “traditional” view of what it means to be a woman. She publicly described herself as a “wife, mother, Italian and Christian,” in a speech she gave at a rally in Rome in 2019.

According to Severo, “Using [Meloni] Of her gender, based on stereotypes. She perfectly embodies the model of male power and does not question the existing system. She’s using her gender to do things that are totally anti-feminist.”

Severo asserts, “Melone glorifies motherhood as if a woman’s only function is to be mothers by nature. At the same time, she deprives them of their sexual and reproductive rights.” Meloni describes herself as a “pro-family.” She and his party collaborate with anti-abortion and anti-LGBT movements.

One of her main campaign themes is the need to boost Italy’s low birth rates by encouraging indigenous women to have children, while denouncing the threat of “racial replacement” by immigrants.

For these reasons, feminist journalist and philosopher Ida Domenegani has likened the Brothers of Italy to a “wretched ship.” Meloni, the party’s co-founder and the only woman to hold a leadership position in it, decided that other women must fulfill their “traditional destiny as a mother,” “within the traditional family, where gender roles are once again taking place.” Dominic said.

For Sergetti, Meloni’s motto of “wife, mother, Italian and Christian” is simply a reiteration of the traditional far-right view. It is a very visible expression of the identity politics of the far right. It perfectly illustrates how issues of family, religion, and borders translate into issues of identity.”

This article previously appeared on OpenDemocracy.

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