I must say on this Women's Day in Italy I am feeling a really exciting wave of change. Since I moved back 6 years ago, there has been a marked increase in public talk about women's issues. SNOQ (Se Non Ora, Quando - If Not Now, When?), the feminist movement formed in 2011 and responsible for the global marches in February of that year, including record numbers in Italy, is stronger than ever. Media coverage of violence against women and campaigns to fight it have increased. And since its inception three years ago, La 27ora, an Italian blog on women's issues for the Corriere della Sera newspaper, has slowly but surely started changing the conversation. As the blog's authors explain in a piece for Thomson Reuters to mark IWD 2014, "Time to smash female stereotypes in Italy":
When our blog was born, the central theme was reconciling the different aspects of women’s lives, as our name shows: “La 27ora” (the 27th hour). Twenty-seven is the number of hours per day that a woman would need in order to grow in her profession; be a wife and a mother; cook just like her grandmother did and keep in shape.
To be old-fashioned and technological at the same time requires a huge effort. ... We realized that reconciliation is only possible through sharing.
First, women must share their extra-professional commitments with men. There should be a dialogue with men about the journey that women have undertaken in the transformation of society. We should not forget that freedom of choice, beyond gender-based prejudices, is also in the interest of men. Ask yourself how society judges a man who – even only temporarily – decides to reduce his workload in order to take care of his kids. Men should be able to dedicate more time to their families without risking “a loss of virility”.
The second aspect of sharing involves other women. Unless “privileged” women share their ideas with unemployed or immigrant women or the girls who grow up educated by the television with the idea that what matters is beauty and image, our journey will be a lonely one.
Yesterday I marked IWD by participating in a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon organized by the American Consulate, the Advancing Women Artists Foundation and Syracuse University in Florence (where I work), to add entries on forgotten women artists to Wikipedia. This was the second time the AWA was doing this, and my second time contributing. The first time I wrote an article about painter, singer and poet Arcangela Paladini (1599-1622).
This time I wrote about Emma Bardini Tozzi (1883-1962), on whom I could find hardly any information. Her threadbare life story left me wanting to know so much more. She's almost exclusively described and defined in relation to the important men in her life, yet was an active artist and philanthropist. If I were into archival research I would totally try to find out the story behind, among other things, the fact that her husband married (and moved to America with) another woman five years after marrying her in 1923, before divorce was legal in Italy. I walked away from the event really excited for art historians who may worry everything's already been researched to bits. When it comes to women artists, there is a treasure trove at their disposal to explore.
The way IWD is celebrated in Italy bothers a lot of people, since for a lot of Italian women it's the only night of the year they're encouraged to go out on their own. For restaurant owners it's like Valentine's Day, only with groups of women filling their dining rooms instead of couples. In recent decades some raunchier rituals involving exotic male dancers have become popular.
Twelve years ago I was at the watering hole popular with my friends at the time and the woman bartender there had a man tied up in the middle of the bar pretending to whip him, among other things. Of course, I love the idea of turning the gender tables and flipping the female-object/male-subject paradigm, but I also think women should be free to do this any damn day of the year they please.
A lot of women in Italy don't mark the day at all, though they're likely to receive a mimosa flower. While I wish there were no need for this day, I love all the related media coverage and initiatives. In Florence today women can ride cabs for free and there are all sorts of woman-focused events they can attend, among other things.
I tried organizing a gathering of women friends tonight at my place to watch Lost in Living, a documentary I've been dying to see about reconciling art-making with motherhood that's being streamed for free for 24 hours for IWD. But only one woman confirmed, so I cancelled. And I totally understand. My theme word these days is OVERWHELMED. I feel like I accomplished something just sending the invitation.
Andrea had already made plans to give me the night off, and we kept it that way. So I celebrated IWD by doing exactly what I wanted; celebrating the fact that this is not a 'special' way for me to spend time but just part of being in an equal partnership with my co-parent, who respects and nurtures my need for alone time and splits parenting with me 50/50. I watched Lost in Living on my own and LOVED it. And I'm appreciating the irony of the title: almost none of these rocking, creative, productive mothers I know could commit to tonight because we're all lost in living--i.e. sometimes thriving and often flailing just trying to get everything done.