Everyone knows about Italy’s male chauvinist reputation. Whether it is justified or not, every girl who mentions a plan to visit Italy will hear the same advice from those around her: Be careful around the aggressive men.
Having spent enough time here, I know it is pretty much harmless–lots of hooting and hollering but very rarely physical action. So while you may not have to worry for your safety, you, attractive woman, will have to accept being looked at like a juicy, t-bone steak.
So goes the reputation, anyway–a reputation that Italy has been trying to shake off for some time now.
And re-electing Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister for a fourth time in this month’s election (24-25 February) will not be the way to do that. Could you imagine Berlusconi even having so much as a chance to be elected in a place like politically-correct America?
If I recall correctly, Bill Clinton was nearly impeached from office for having an affair with a legal adult, despite his excellent track record in doing his job.
Yet, Mr. Berlusconi has closed the gap with the current frontrunner, Pier Luigi Bersani, and still has a shot to win the election (see Reuters article on the latest news here).
Let’s recall a couple of Silvio’s greatest examples of chauvinist buffonery:
- In the run-up to the 2008 Italian general election, Berlusconi said that female politicians from the right were “more beautiful” and that “the left has no taste, even when it comes to women.” It should be noted that he won the election.
- Around the same time, he criticized the composition of Spain’s Council of Ministers as being too “pink” because it was composed of an equal number of men and women.
- He compounded those comments by saying that Spain’s composition would be impossible in Italy, given the “prevalence of men” in Italian politics.
- And finally, let’s not forget the fact that he paid a 17-year-old girl an alleged $65,000 in 2010 so that she “would not have to become a prostitute.” Berlusconi was 73 years old at the time. And it should also be noted that he had sex with the girl. (Does this somehow not fall into the category of “prostitution” in Italy?)
It will be interesting to see if he is elected yet again, in which case, the movement for gender equality in Italy will be set back a decade or two yet again.