Giorgia Meloni, mother from Italy

The new Italian president, Giorgia Meloni, presents herself as Italian, Christian and mother. The fact that she uses motherhood as a political tool is not an isolated case. Since Italian national unification, the figure of the mother has been used as a symbol of the unity of the sister nation.

Italy has a new Prime Minister. The first female in history. Scoop, fresh wind. And at the same time: old, old words that remind us of the dark times. “God, country, family,” a phrase dating back to Mussolini’s era, was one of her election slogans. Although she and her party (which has its roots in fascism) try to soften their image, the references to fascism are still there. For example, the party’s logo denotes Mussolini’s tomb and its prominent members are clearly fascists. Yet she is also different from the politicians who came before her. It is a woman, from a poor neighborhood in Rome, who has risen to the top. I am of course talking about Giorgia Meloni.

Georgia Meloni

“I’m Georgia, I’m a mother, I’m Italian, I’m Christian, you can’t take that from me. You can’t take that from me.”

Meloni’s words don’t lie. denounces the LBGTQ+ movement that wants to be stripped of its identity. She presents herself as the guardian of the Italians, who want to uphold a traditional identity. through it parades Spectators hold pictures of Mary and Jesus, emphasizing their Christian culture. I will protect you from all external threats, they seem to promise you, and I will once again make you proud of who you are: the Italian Christians. I am (your mother), trust me.

Italian mother figure

The fact that Melonie presents herself as a mother is not an isolated case. The Italian mother figure has a long history. in no madre (2005) Marina D’Amelia describes the history of what Eric J. Hobsbawm calls the “invented tradition”. The idea of ​​a particular Italian mother having certain characteristics was created as a kind of myth. In the 1950s, the term “mammismo” (mammism) or “motheralismo” (Motheralism) was coined to criticize the overwhelming dependence of Italian sons on their mother. We can see it as a kind of counterpart to paternalism, or a form of unwillingness to grow up (see also: Pinocchio effect). The dependent son lives in intimate cohabitation with his usual Italian mother. A mother dedicates her life to her male offspring.

symbol of national unification

The figure of the mother as a symbol of national unity – both symbolically and in the form of the bond of blood, like the brotherhood we also see in the name “Brothers of Italy” – has existed since ages. since then Risorgimento, the movement that sought the national unification of Italy in the nineteenth century, the Mother is a prominent figure. She was one of the most famous mothers of the period Maria Giacinta Drago (1774-1852), mother of thinker Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872).

Even after unification, especially after the First World War and during fascism, her mother was praised. Conservative historian Alessandro Luzio and Fascist Party philosopher Giovanni Gentile published Maria Drago’s letters to Mazzini in 1919 and 1923 [PDF]. The letters apparently show that without this mother’s support, Italy would never have existed. She was, in Luzio’s words, “leonessa superba”, a gorgeous lioness. She devoted herself with religious devotion to the success of her son’s project, the unification of Italy. All Italian women should take an example from her. Her political ideas were irrelevant, the Gentiles said [PDF].

Mother’s question

Maria Antonetta Macciocchi was one of the first to describe in 1976 how the fascist attitude towards women focused only on the number of children they had. The “mother’s question” is also a topical discussion in Italy today. More and more feminist authors are asking how motherhood and womanhood relate to each other. Are you also a full-fledged woman if you do not want to become a mother? Can you be a feminist and a mother at the same time? Meloni’s family policy is to make motherhood attractive (read: prevent abortion; read: “pro-life”). Many see the abortion law introduced in 1979 as seriously threatened and fear a resurgence of illegal abortions.

Given the image of women as the secretive guardians of the private sphere, the mother figure may seem less threatening than the male politician. According to some, as suggested by Hillary Clinton in an interview, having a female prime minister by definition feels like a form of change and progress. So it seems like a clever move by the “Brothers of Italy” to introduce a woman, a mother. Flowery, blond, feminine, but also tough, fierce, and one of the guys. We will not take Meloni’s Christian-maternal-Italian identity away from her, she warns. Women will be mothers.

Saskia Cronenberg has a Ph.D. in Italian Studies and is an Assistant Professor at Radboud University.

Photo: Giorgia Meloni with other centre-right cabinet members, Quirinale.it, via Wikimedia Commons

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