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Ideas

Meloni And Schlein As Pregnant Activists? What's Wrong With This Italian Picture

Artist aleXsandro Palombo's mural of Italian politicians Elly Schlein and Giorgia Meloni as pregnant, tattooed activists elicits conversation about policies surrounding female bodily autonomy.

Mural of Meloni and Schlein in Milan

Mural of Meloni and Schlein in Milan

Assia Neumann Dayan

-Essay-

MILAN — In Piazza San Babila, near the Duomo, the artist aleXsandro Palombo has designed a mural representing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein nude, tattooed and pregnant.

Elly Schlein is depicted with the words "my uterus my choice" on her stomach, and Giorgia Meloni dons the words "not for rent" on her stomach — both phrases in English. Schlein, who came out as bisexual in 2020, has the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag on her shoulder, while Meloni has the tricolor flame of Italy’s flag on hers.

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

If we want to describe reality through the lens of our modern sensibility, then I hope someone writes "mansplaining" under the artist's signature. On his Instagram profile, Palombo uploaded photos of the mural and wrote in both English and Italian, “Surrogate motherhood - ‘Power is Female’ the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and opposition leader Elly Schlein challenge each other.”

It seems to me that this is such a light reading of the situation that it becomes impalpable. Talking about "complexity" is quite different from recognizing it. If it is my uterus, my choice, it means that I may or may not be in favor of surrogacy: this too is a matter of self-determination.


Political implications


Surrogacy does not only concern LGBTQ+ couples, it also affects heterosexual couples who are perhaps married and may vote for the conservative Brothers of Italy party. Not everyone who votes for Italy’s center-left party is in favor of surrogacy, as is the case for voters of the Democratic Party in the United States.

It would be very easy to live in a world divided between fascists and non-fascists.

But, above all, not being in favor of surrogacy does not correspond to supporting the Brothers of Italy, being right-wing or, as they like to say, being a "fascist."

In Italy and in the U.S. we are witnessing a ridiculous exercise in bad faith that will only lead to quantifying damage in a few years: if you disagree with something, you are a fascist. If you think or even have doubts about concepts such as surrogacy, you are a fascist.

Elly Schlein speaking in the Chamber of Deputies

Elly Schlein speaking in the Chamber of Deputies

Domenico Cippitelli/Zuma

What does fascism actually look like?

In the United States, this exercise is reflected in other spheres: for example, if you say that children should not undergo a gender transition, you are surely a fascist. Not only do people say it on social media, but it is also present in culturally elitist newspapers. It would be very easy to live in a world divided between fascists and non-fascists but, sadly, that's not how it works — and making believe that it does is a rather sloppy way of thinking.

We can't do anything with a female prime minister if she doesn't care about women's rights.

What we do know is that in Italy the ruling right-wing government wants to make surrogacy an international crime, and we don't understand how they can do so when in other countries it is a lawful practice.

Why isn't it enough that it's illegal in Italy? Is it a topic used so people can distract themselves? Is it a test of strength? Does someone really feel the need to make it illegal?

Female bodily autonomy is non-negotiable

It’s clear that we all seem to care about the debate revolving around women's bodies. The bodies on the mural are those of the two most powerful political figures in the country, both of whom are women.

Palombo declared, "Giorgia Meloni and Elly Schlein share a historic occasion, that of meeting at the summit together and debating directly without worrying about male interference on issues concerning the female sphere. This occasion will strengthen the path towards gender equality, emancipation and self-determination."

Millions of words have been wasted on the fact that we can't do anything with a female prime minister if she doesn't care about women's rights. The glass ceiling wasn't so breakable after all. In all of this, it is clear that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy should never be questioned: we are women, we are not stupid.

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Mariko Margetson/Unsplash
Marta Zaraska

In 2016, Ox Lennon was trying to peek in the crevices inside a pile of rocks. They considered everything from injecting builders’ foam into the tiny spaces to create a mold to dumping a heap of stones into a CT scanner. Still, they couldn’t get the data they were after: how to stack rocks so that a mouse wouldn’t squeeze through, but a small lizard could hide safely inside.

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