I remember when we first came to live here. The country (and the people) were strange. Things that I noticed were things like the fact that everyone seemed to have two mobile telephones (whereas in the UK there were still some people without 1 and two was hardly ever seen) and that there were “dancing girl slots” on so many television programmes. By that, I mean to say, a programme (usually a quiz show) would be “interrupted” whilst a scantily clad woman danced, usually in a provocative way, to some music. In that way, it was like stepping back in time. And yet, almost as soon as we moved here, Italy introduced laws to prohibit smoking inside publicly-used buildings. I think, at the time, only the second EU country to do this.
And, since then, I have understood that Italy, whilst being progressive in some ways, is so very backward in others.
Italy remains the only country in the EU that doesn’t have some kind of civil or other union facility for non-heterosexual couples. They’re discussing it in parliament now. But only after being “told off” by the EU for this “oversight”. There’s still a good chance that it won’t be agreed and that here it will not be possible. Yet.
But they’ve just introduced a law to stop people smoking in cars (where there are children or pregnant women) and fines for throwing cigarette butts anywhere but in ashtrays (that must be provided by the council).
Of course, you can’t always get the truth here. The cigarette prohibition, for example. For several days the news programmes had been all about smoking being banned in cars. Period. No mention of the actual rules, it seemed like a blanket ban. In fact, it was only on the day before the ban took place that some (only one that I found) gave the truth of the ban. The day of the ban, it was widely reported – correctly.
But, ignoring their treatment of “news” (which seems rarely to be based on fact) and their treatment of “non-ordinary” people (which seems to be stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages), there is the treatment of women.
For this they deserve a special place. I go back to the thing I mentioned above – the dancing women. In a terribly old-fashioned and sexist way, women on TV are generally seen as objects – and no one seems to mind this at all! Sure there are discussion programs where the older ladies (often pumped up with botox or sculpted to resemble some alien from outer space) is taken more seriously, but once you get on to light entertainment, women are nothing more than an adornment like beautiful jewels. There to be looked at and, preferably wearing something that “shows off their figure” or, even better, shows tons of flesh.
And, so it is that we have two stories today that sum it all up. The first is a woman who may be sent to prison for 6 years because “she didn’t do the housework” for her husband and, possibly most frightening of all, a company boss, cleared of sexual harassment but who, according to the judges, DID sexually sexually harass female employees! But it was only his childlike sense of humour, apparently.
The gay and gay-friendly people were using the slogan “Wake Up Italy” when they had their demonstrations to change the law re: civil unions and I’m inclined to agree – but not just for civil unions. In fact, maybe civil unions shouldn’t be the first thing on their list?
Italy – a land full of old stuff (which is a good thing) – think ancient ruins, etc.
Italy – a land which is just plain old-fashioned (which is not a good thing) – think attitudes to women, etc.
And I haven’t even covered racial problems, meritocracy and a whole host of other things. The rest of the world’s advances in some things seem to have passed Italy by.