Italy: A million march against sexism

On 13 February, one million women (and men) marched in 230 towns and cities across Italy.

On 13 February, one million women (and men) marched in 230 towns and cities across Italy.This was a spontaneous protest triggered by allegations that Italian president Silvio Berlusconi had, amongst other things, paid for sex with an under-age prostitute. But it was about much more than that. It was against the way in which his own personal behaviour and his control of all but one of Italy’s TV stations (directly or indirectly) and his media empire, portray women as mere sex objects to be ogled at and controlled by men. A sexist culture has been created in which some young women now think that their bodies are their only asset and only route to success in life.

This is the country in which the minister of equal opportunities is a former topless model! It is the country which comes 74th (out of 134) in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap league table (33 places below Kazakhstan!).

The tens of thousands of women who took to the streets were saying that things have to change. “If not now when?” was the main slogan of the protest. For many this also referred to the resignation of Berlusconi himself. “I’m here because I know what it’s like to be molested by a man who could be your grandfather”, said one protester. “I’m pregnant”, said a nurse, “but I can’t tell them at work because it will mean I’ll lose my job”.

CWI members distributed a leaflet on the demonstrations entitled “We are not goods for sale; capitalism = profits =inequality”. The protests involved women from different social classes and backgrounds but we explained how Berlusconi’s sexism and denigration of women are simply the logical (if extreme) expression of a system in which profits come first and in which everything has a price; a system based on wealth and gender inequality.

Only an anti-capitalist struggle, involving women and men, can lay the basis for an end to sexism and achieving real and lasting equality between women and men.

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March 2011