In the United States, ever since the “Weinstein scandal” in October, women have felt empowerment to share their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. The rise of the #MeToo movement has led to countless other public figures—including actors, musicians, journalists, executives, and politicians from both sides—being forced to resign in the utmost disgrace. The movement has been so incredibly influential, it has led TIME Magazine to name “The Women of the #MeToo Movement” as the TIME’s People of the Year.
Laura Boldrini, the president of Italy’s lower House of Parliament, talked about the way that the Weinstein scandal had begun a revelation of sexual harassment and misconduct all around the world—except Italy.
More than 600 women were listening to her as she said, “In Italy, it certainly hasn’t had the same effect. In our country, there are no harassers.” Her sarcasm elicited chuckles from others in the room.
Boldrini let it be known that harassment was no stranger to their nation, but the only difference between them and the rest of the world was that their women were too afraid to speak up due to the fierce prejudice that they face.
Their fear is justified. In Florence, two young women who accused parliamentary police officers of rape were asked if they were wearing underwear by the defense attorneys. No, that’s not a joke. In Sicily, a court even found a man innocent of sexual harassment charges because his groping of his colleagues was motivated by “sophomoric humor” instead of “sexual intent.” No, that’s not a joke either.
Even worse, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is legitimately attempting a comeback after he was forced out of power six years ago in the thick of mass protests and trials on his role in “Bunga Bunga” bacchanals with prostitutes and minors.
After being cleared of charges of soliciting underage prostitutes but continuing to fight related charges that he had bribed a witness, Berlusconi said:
For us, defending women is a priority and it always has been.
Do not think that the eighty-one-year-old man with the thirty-two-year-old girlfriend has changed his ways in any way. Just two months ago, he bragged in front of his supporters that he had introduced the bidet to the late Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi and that he “taught these lusty Africans that there’s also foreplay” by doing so. The crowd cheered.
Lorella Zanardo, a filmmaker, and a women’s rights advocate said that Berlusconi was at fault for much of the country’s perception of women as simply decorative objects.
It is not as if the United States is that respectful to women who speak out. Asia Argento, a proclaimed actress and the daughter of Italy’s most successful horror movie director, has described her life as a living nightmare ever since she came out against Harvey Weinstein. She says that she fears leaving her home and plans to leave the United States following the villainous slander from the media.
Vladimir Luxuria, a former Italian member of Parliament, transgender actress, and a self-described feminist, made a tweet that blames Argento for not “saying no to Weinstein as other actresses did.” She went as far as to say that Argentobasically should have expected it to happen after she agreed to give him a massage.
According to Lorella Zanardo, the best way forward is to begin teaching to treat women equally to children. Whatever the best course of action is so that women can be treated with respect, dignity, and equality, it is important that the people of Italy implement it as soon as possible.