So one of the best things about working/participating in an international artists residency is the people you get to meet and the people you get to know. Nicoletta Daldanise is a curator and cultural manager participating in UNIDEE 2011. We had had several conversations on the problematic of the female position in Italian society. I lived here in Piedmont for 5 years and was so tired of the sexism and lazy stereotyping of women especially in Italian ads and marketing and let’s not even talk about the female presence on Italian television…or the smutty remarks that are the trademark of the onerous and follicly challenged S. Berlusconi…Anyway Nico started to tell me about her experience of going on a march with her mother in Naples on 13th February 2011. The march was one of many that took place throughout Italy under the campaign of se non ora quando? (when, if not now). I asked her if she would write about it for my blog, she very kindly agreed and her words and images are featured below…
Hand in hand and arm in arm
“It was a usual sunny Sunday morning in Naples and I was going out with my mother for a walk, everything was the same as it had been for many years: people coming out from mass, the same man with flowers at the corner, the reassuring air of a sleepy town… but at the same time everything was different. While I was walking I thought about how many times my mother brought me to the park with my hand in hers and now we were two women going arm in arm to a public square to ask for respect for our dignity.
How did this happen? I was wondering how it was possible that my generation (born from strong women who fought in the 70’s for our freedom) is in a situation so extreme that the public square is the only place we have in order to claim respect! The contemporary concept of sexual freedom is the biggest betrayal to their principles and it’s a wasted gift. The achievements in the discussion about social mores should be used to improve our ability to be incisive in every field, keeping away all the conventional chauvinist limits that restrain us from being considered for our true capabilities.
It’s a matter of power and it’s a matter of values (I’m not afraid to use this word, relativism can be a dangerous weapon whenever it goes too far): whether you think you are powerful because of what you own or if you feel powerful, because you don’t need to agree to a compromise. Of course the media have a big part in subverting the order of what is important in life, nonetheless there is a deeper root in Italian society that is very difficult to be dug out and it’s a cultural one. It starts from our houses and the way in which very clever women, very smart in their jobs, have to face the fact that they are not equal when they come back home.
In the Rome square Cristiana Comencini, a well-known Italian director, talked about old and new ways of subordination and that they usually find their place behind a façade of bourgeois respectability, every day. But what happens if even this façade crumbles? During the last months, with the scandal involving our Prime Minister Berlusconi, we arrived to a dangerous breaking point where some people tried to justify his behaviour, making acceptable prostitution and mystifying this fact as an expression of personal sexual freedom. That’s a crime against women! No words left to say and that’s what we screamed in the squares on the 13th February.
Of course there were a lot of sophisticated and controversial discussions about the opportunity to have a new feminist wave, but the slogan of the demonstration was right “Se non ora quando?” (When, if not now?). When if not at the time that the representatives of our country are trying to let a chauvinist conception of women pass for normality in front of the whole world. That’s not representative at all! Italy is made by women who struggle with all their strengths for their causes and suddenly they were no longer going to have a voice. It wasn’t a political demonstration in the slick way parties usually think about them, but for me it was absolutely political in the way we wanted to fight for our representation, because otherwise there is no real democracy.
But the surprise was that my mother and i were not part of a few nostalgic people (as the politicians wanted us to believe), but only a drop in the sea of a crowd of women and most of all of men who share the same awareness and the same worries. This time it’s a matter of hope and good will for the future and this is more concrete than any kind of fake reality that they want to show us.
Before going out we received the usual advice from home: “don’t stay in the middle, take distance from the crowd”, but actually we couldn’t because we were desperately searching for that crowd. We just enjoyed the presence of the others and when we came back home my mother said: “you can’t have the feeling of what is happening if you are on the borders”. Precisely! So I realised that she had taught me everything I know about my being a woman, but that day we learnt together to take public action as women and that made and will make the difference for a lot of people.” Nicoletta Daldanise