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(Re)Presenting Women: social conservatism, gender and the politics of sex in contemporary Italian politics.

Guerrina, R (2012) (Re)Presenting Women: social conservatism, gender and the politics of sex in contemporary Italian politics. In: 40th ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, 2012-04-10 - 2012-04-15, University of Antwerp, Brussels.

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The coming to power of Berlusconi in 1994 marked a significant shift in the politics of gender in Italy. His leadership has been marred by numerous sexual scandals and has been widely criticised for sexualisation of women’s political participation. The last seventeen years have crystallised a particular gender paradigm that draws on traditional Italian values, not unlike those satirised by Franca Rame’s 1970s play Tutta Casa, Letto e Chiesa (All about Home, Sex and Church). The choice of women in the Cabinet under Berlusconi’s leadership remains deeply controversial and has overtly sexual undertones, particularly in relation to the appointment of Mara Cafagna, a former page three model as Equal Opportunities Minister. Recent surveys carried out amongst women at University highlight the impact of the last twenty year on men and women’s gender identities, pointing in particular to a commodification of sexuality or the rise of sexual capital as political and economic currency. Yet, women’s representation in the Italian Parliament has nearly doubled since 1996. What is therefore astonishing is the dearth of work currently being done in relation to women’s political representation in Italy, particularly as it is illustrative of the contradictions and idiosyncrasies of Italian social, religious and political values. This paper seeks to look at the position of women in the Berlusconi IV government. By the time Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister in November 2011, there were five women in the cabinet. Largely holding marginal portfolios, and criticised by many for simply helping to augment Berlusconi’s masculinity, they remain largely under-studied as a political phenomenon. The focus of the debate on Berlusconi’s velinismo only serves to further marginalise the role these women played in Italian politics. Moreover, this particular gender paradigm is not supported by every party on the Right, as highlighted by the 2009 controversy with Fini’s think tank. The main aim of this paper is to establish how these women sought to position themselves in relation to Italian political structures on the one hand and the politics of gender on the other. Ultimately, it will seek to establish the following: 1. Which interests these women sought to represent; 2. Their relative position to feminist politics; 3. Their position in relation to the emerging gender order in the country. The paper will therefore look at the position of the five women ministers in the last Berlusconi government as representative of the Berlusconi gender paradigm. It will also look at Alessandra Mussolini as an illustration of an alternative gender paradigm for women of the Right. This paper finally seeks to contribute to current debates about the long term impact of the Berlusconi years on the gender order in Italy. In particular, it unpacks the impact of these government appointments on the nature of women’s political representation and position in 21st Century Italian politics and society. This paper was presented at the 40th ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops (2012): Conservatism, Conservative Parties and Women’s Political Representation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Guerrina, R
Date : 2012
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 Feb 2017 12:37
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:01

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