Party time for Giorgia? We don’t need more women leaders like these
This autumn’s electoral campaign in Italy is a disturbing trip down memory lane.
Silvio Berlusconi, who turns 86 at the end of the month, is now busy addressing his potential new voters on TikTok. Meanwhile, the Cadorna train station in Milan is full of video walls flashing his latest slogan, Scelta di campo (“choice of field”) — echoing the infamous soccer-inspired Scendere in campo (“take the field”) phrase that announced his political debut in 1994.
"Now I turn to those over 18. To ask you what? To introduce me to your girlfriend? Not at all! To ask you to vote for me,” says the octogenarian in one of his TikToks. With such off-putting stabs at humor, you wouldn’t think that his political career almost ended with a 2013 conviction for having sex with an underage prostitute while prime minister, though the sentence was eventually overturned.
His eternally sexist vision of women is far from limited to the realm of his personal life or inappropriate jokes. In a campaign ad, a politician from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party stands in a tie and suit between two women doing housework, 1950s-style. "We will give a salary and a pension to our wives and our mothers,” says the politician.
Then there are the slogans that bring us all the way back to 1922, when Benito Mussolini became prime minister of Italy after a coup. To add to the whiplash and sense of disorientation, they are uttered by a woman.
Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right party Brothers of Italy is the frontrunner in the Sept. 25 elections, has often referred to Dio, Patria, Famiglia (“God, Homeland, Family”), which turned into of the leading mottos during the Fascist regime. Meloni calls it "the most beautiful manifesto of love” and refuses to recognize it as a Fascist motto, even though her own party chose the tricolor flame as party emblem, a clear reference to the Fascist party.
If polls are right, Meloni is on her way to becoming Italy’s first female prime minister — something she has claimed would amount to “breaking a glass ceiling".
But while having a woman in power sounds like a great step forward for Italy’s misogynist, backward policies, it is unlikely that Meloni would do anything to empower women, beyond herself.
She has shown it over and over again, with her stance against abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, where she even called on the children’s cartoon Peppa Pig to be censored after an episode featured a character who had two mothers.
To be fair, Italy's right-wing parties have had a good representation of women. In 2008, Meloni became Italy's youngest ever cabinet minister, at age 31, when Berlusconi appointed her to the Youth and Sport portfolio.
But that should not fool us: Authoritarian leaders use the appointment of women to legitimize their delimitation of women’s rights, as Harvard researchers Erica Chenoweth and Zoe Marks explain in their article "Revenge of the Patriarchs — Why Autocrats Fear Women".
This was true for Berlusconi and his sexist attitude towards women, as it was true for Donald Trump, and for Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, a true misogynist who uses his wife to lie about his track record vis-a-vis women and try to smooth out things with women voters.
Do we need more women leaders? We surely do. Will any woman do? Surely not.
Liz Truss, the newly appointed British prime minister, is the third woman in charge of British politics after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. But their presence, as that of iconic Queen Elizabeth, has not turned the United Kingdom into a fairer country for women. On the contrary, a study by the New Education Union shows how British women are more likely than men to experience persistent poverty.
When Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin was attacked after a video of her partying with friends surfaced on social media, neither Truss nor Meloni showed any solidarity. Meloni’s party, it should be noted, is named “Brothers of Italy.” Berlusconi’s puts up campaign posters to celebrate our ironing skills. Sisters, I’m joining the party in Helsinki!
— Irene Caselli
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping were in what country for their first in-person meeting since the start of the war in Ukraine?
2. What internet record did the plane carrying the Queen’s coffin from Edinburgh to London break?
3. Following a narrow defeat in general elections, Magdalena Andersson resigned from her position as Prime Minister of which country?
4. Swiss tennis maestro Roger Federer announced his retirement. How many Grand Slam titles does he have under his belt: 15 / 20 / 30 ?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
Just two months before it kicks off, the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar is facing considerable backlash on social media. The hashtag #BoycottQatar2022 is trending, with criticisms targeted at the blatant lack of consideration for either the environment or human rights, with some reports that hundreds of workers died in the construction of stadiums. Among the voices calling for a boycott is French soccer icon Eric Cantona who said this week he did not intend to watch any game and encouraged others to do the same. Le Quotidien, a newspaper from the overseas French department of La Réunion, also announced this week that the World Cup would unfold “Without us.”
• A week of mourning for culture: The culture world has had a tough week internationally, with the deaths of New Wave directing giant Jean-Luc Godard at age 91, pioneer Swiss filmmaker Alain Tanner at age 92, Award-winning Spanish novelist Javier Marias at 70 and French-American art and fashion photographer William Klein, at 96.
• Chinese museum distorts history: A state-run museum in China has been accused of distorting Korean history in its exhibition celebrating the 30th anniversary of China-Korea ties. The controversial chronology omitted two ancient Korean kingdoms and raised suspicion that China was relaunching its "Northeast Project", which argues that these regions belonged to the Tang Dynasty — an argument disputed by South Korea since 2002.
• Ireland introduces basic income for artists: The Irish government launched the Basic Income for Artists plan, which will pay artists €325 per week. More than 9,000 people applied to the program but only 2,000 were selected in a random draw. The three-year plan will be studied to assess the impact of this payment on the arts sector.
• Into Frida Kahlo's closet: In Paris, the Palais Galliera fashion museum is honoring the Mexican painter by drawing a link between Frida Kahlo’s art and fashion. Displaying skirts, plaster corsets or her favorite lipstick, the museum offers an insight into the artist’s personal life and how she shaped her identity and appearance after her 1925 bus accident.
• 2022 Emmy Awards: The streaming service HBO Max emerged victorious from the 74th Emmy Awards ceremony, swiping 12 of the most coveted TV statuettes with Succession, Ted Lasso and The White Lotus. Zendaya also made history by becoming the youngest woman to win two Emmys and the first black woman to win Best Actress twice.
As Ukraine's counteroffensive gathers steam, the city of Kharkiv is being targeted by Putin's forces and under threat from missile strikes on a daily basis. “We are hostages of geography: The time it takes for the missile to reach Kharkiv from Belgorod, Russia, as air defense officers tell us, is 43 seconds,” reports Ivanna Skyba-Yakubova for Ukrainian media Livy Bereg from Kharkiv.
The city is facing recurrent blackouts and water outages, as residents try to continue their lives amid rubble, broken glass and regular air-raid alarms. Still, the new threats contrast with a sense of excitement as reports accumulate of the Ukrainian army reconquering territory in the region.
Read the full story: Read the full story: Missiles And Euphoria: The Folly Of War On Full Display In Kharkiv
Since the discovery of several large gas fields at the bottom of the eastern Mediterranean more than 10 years ago, neighboring countries like Turkey and Greece have been fighting over maritime boundaries and drilling rights. Now with the Ukraine war and the rush to find gas sources that could replace Russia as the main supplier, plans to exploit gas deposits in the area are taking on new urgency — and with them, the dispute over supremacy at sea.
But could the gas deposits at the bottom of the Mediterranean really be the solution to Europe's energy crisis? “The short answer is no – at least not in the short term,” writes Christine Kensche in German daily Die Welt, adding that “so far, the infrastructure to transport large quantities of gas to Europe is simply lacking.”
Read the full story: Europe v. Turkey: A New Mediterranean Gas Race That May Turn Nasty
DNA could be used to “reverse” aging without having to go through the problematic stage of cloning. The good news is that aging specialists may have finally identified the “reset” button of the organism to restore lost youth: cellular reprogramming. The process has only been tested on mice (with success) so far, but genetic modifications on humans remains a controversial topic.
Yann Verdo, writing for French daily Les Echos, argues that a simple vaccine might do the trick, adding: “The passing of the years would no longer be irreparable!”
Read the full story: Benjamin Button For Real? Scientists Begin To Find The Code To Reverse Aging
Scientists have found that people with Parkinson’s have certain lipids of high molecular weight in their sebum — an oily substance found on the skin — that are more active. Using her hereditary hyperosmia (a heightened sense of smell) Joy Milne, a retired nurse from Perth, Scotland, has worked with Parkinson’s disease doctors and researchers to improve the diagnosis and management of people with Parkinson’s disease. The University of Manchester in England now says they’ve developed a simple skin swab test to detect Parkinson’s in as little as three minutes.
About 300 dogs of all breeds and sizes competed in Mexico City’s inaugural Perritos en fuga (“Doggies on the run”) dog race. There was no winner in the 2.5km event and all participants received gifts, including treats for the canine athletes.
Here’s the latest Dottoré! piece from the notebook of Neapolitan psychiatrist and writer Mariateresa Fichele:
The Political Revelation Of A Windshield Cleaning
Every time we stop at a traffic light, the same scene takes place between my husband and me.
It goes something like this: Someone approaches our car to clean the windshield, I tell my husband to turn on the windshield wipers, he gets outraged and tells me I’m a horrible person.
But then, if we've instead decided to give them something in exchange for their service, my husband somehow never has any change on him. I always manage to find some, and feel obligated to give the person whatever I've found.
Yesterday, I tried to stand firm and told my husband, "I don’t have any money — you figure it out."
He found 20 cents and handed it to the guy outside.
I looked at the man's face and couldn't take it, so I gave him another euro.
But every cloud has a silver lining.
What happened yesterday helped me explain to my husband our different political positions with a practical example: I am a horrible person but a true Leftist; he, instead, is a respectable person of the Center-Left.
➡️ Read more from our Dottoré! series on Worldcrunch.com
• The state funeral of late Queen Elizabeth II will take place on Monday at Westminster Abbey, starting at 11 a.m. local time. About 2,000 guests are expected to attend the ceremony, including many heads of states.
• A Russian delegation with representatives from 80 large Russian companies is set to visit Iran next week, in an effort to strengthen economic ties between the two countries, whose leaders met this week at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
• Eight Lebanese banks will announce a three-day closure next week due to security concerns after a series of violent incidents involving clients being denied withdrawal of their funds. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will send a team to Lebanon to discuss the implementation of reforms in the face of the country’s grave economic deterioration.
• Another L.A. facelift? The iconic Hollywood sign is about to get a fresh paint job: It will take eight weeks and 400 gallons of paint for the sign to be back in top shape ahead of its 100th anniversary next year.
News quiz answers:
1. Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met this week at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. During the highly-anticipated meeting, Putin praised China's "balanced position" on the Ukrainian crisis and acknowledged “questions and concerns” that Xi had on the topic.
2. The plane carrying Queen Elizabeth II's coffin became the most-tracked flight ever, with more than five million people following the plane’s journey online from Edinburgh to London. The record was previously held by Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.
3. Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson resigned following her center-left coalition’s narrow defeat in last week’s elections. A new government will be formed by Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson, who is at the head of a center-right bloc that includes far-right, anti-immigration party Sweden Democrats.
4. Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer announced that he will retire from tennis competition after next week’s tournament in London. At 41 years old, the 20-time grand slam winner said it was time to end his competitive career, after suffering several injuries over the past few years.
✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch
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