Mar 21, 2011
“Enough! Italy is not a brothel!” This was the cry of hundreds of thousands of women who demonstrated Sunday, February 13 throughout Italy. They were fed up with the degraded image of women and their role in the country, especially, but not limited to, Prime Minister Berlusconi’s sex scandals.
For months, these scandals have come out one after the other. Berlusconi used the services of a prostitute who was a minor. He organized orgies in his villa near Milan, calling them “bunga-bunga” parties. A regional representative from Lombardy, elected thanks to Berlusconi, revealed the role of a madame who provided high-priced call girls for these parties – what Berlusconi’s procurers called “fresh meat.” Berlusconi’s business associates provided him with “escort girls” in return for various favors. These businessmen, some of them in the mafia, would reward a minister with pretty “masseuses” as thanks for the contracts they were awarded. The list goes on and on.
Now charged with a crime – only because he hired an underage prostitute – Berlusconi indignantly proclaimed these were slanders, that the prosecution was a “political” conspiracy of “communist” judges, who wanted him to resign against the will of the Italian people. He claimed the February demonstrations of women were scandalous, part of a political plot.
It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry watching this semi-mafioso, head of a major European state, enjoy the lifestyle of an old hedonist. Berlusconi argues that since he has the money to pay, he did nothing wrong. It is true that in society as he sees it, everything is for sale: he even bought his position as the head of government thanks to his money as a big television capitalist. He has bought his ministers, his deputies, so why not his women, even if they are minors. What’s wrong, he says, with “bunga-bunga” parties?
Many Italian women have shown their disgust with this sad display – and not out of fake moralism. They are angry not just at Berlusconi and his pathetic antics, but at the increasing contempt for women shown throughout society. While it’s true that the Prime Minister is a symbol of the traditional machismo in Italian society, it’s also true that this machismo is increasing as society regresses. Women’s growing unemployment and the precariousness of their jobs make their situation ever more fragile.
Berlusconi responded to a student complaining about the lack of jobs with a chuckle, “since she’s pretty, she can find a rich husband.” That is his response to the situation of women.
It’s more than a bad joke. In this society in crisis, where the only law is the sacrosanct market, unemployed women are given the goal to succeed in selling themselves. This “ideal” offers women the chance to become a “maid,” or else they can become undressed models on Berlusconi’s TV stations, as well as on state TV, for bra ads or for a men’s magazine. Or they can find a “rich husband.” So, in some men’s minds, why not also become an “escort girl” or a prostitute? Perhaps such methods could lead to a job as a deputy or minister.
People like Berlusconi laugh at women who don’t want to follow this “ideal,” because they think that women’s “natural position” is “horizontal.”
Berlusconi symbolizes this society very well, as those who screamed their disgust understand. But this society where everything is for sale doesn’t just degrade the image and role of women; it also increasingly degrades men, and, in the end, all human beings and our relations with one another.
Berlusconi will eventually fall because he’s less and less presentable, but the society he represents will continue. And it will remain until we make a revolution.