Because if the far-right Meloni is elected the first Italian prime minister, it might turn out to be… a disaster for women

Because if the far-right Meloni is elected the first Italian prime minister, it might turn out to be… a disaster for women
Because if the far-right Meloni is elected the first Italian prime minister, it might turn out to be… a disaster for women

Women in Italy could lose a lot if far-right Giorgia Meloni becomes prime minister, but some feminists seem to like her plans.

Giorgia Meloni, a 45-year-old single mother from Rome, is ready to make History… If the polls for the September 25th elections prove correct, she is set to become Italy’s first female Prime Minister.

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However, what Meloni’s victory would mean for women’s rights and the campaign for equality in Italian politics is less clear.

Chiara Ferrani and other Italian celebrities in the “dance” against Meloni

In recent weeks, a number of prominent women in the country have come out against Meloni and her far-right party, Brothers of Italy. They have attacked her policies on family planning, her devotion to the “traditional” family, and her disdain for minority rights as evidence that she will not help female representation or increase women’s rights.

The Levante singer wrote on her Instagram account that Meloni’s vision excludes minorities and women who don’t conform to an idealized image of the heterosexual, Christian mother.

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Elodie, another popular singer, highlighted points of the party’s 2018 election proposals to “defend the natural family, fight gender ideology and promote life”. “Honestly, it scares me,” she wrote on social media.

Last week it was top influencer Chiara Ferrani’s turn to take aim at Meloni in an Instagram story, claiming the “Brothers of Italy” have made abortion “practically impossible” in the Marche region, which is ruled by party.

“This is a policy that risks going national if the right wins the election… Now is our time to act and make sure this doesn’t happen,” Ferrani wrote to her 27,000,000 followers.

A remarkable eventual victory for Meloni, in a highly macho political culture

For her supporters, Meloni’s premiership would send the strongest message yet that there are no limits to the opportunities open to women in Italy.

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In a political culture notorious for its machismo, her victory would certainly be notable.

To date, women in Italy have reached the office of foreign minister and president of the Senate, but 76 years after the founding of the republic she would be the first woman to lead the government, after 30 men who served as prime ministers before her .

Throughout her career, Meloni has highlighted her status as an outsider. She has spoken about how she was forced to drop out of the race for mayor of Rome when she was pregnant, the online threats and racial abuse she faces. The fact that she is a single, working mother—raised by an also single mother—might bring her closer to normal women.

But for Giorgia Meloni’s rivals, none of these personal attributes guarantee that she will deliver what Italian women need.

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Fear for the future of women from the policies announced by Meloni

Meloni’s party has voted against proposals in Europe and Italy to protect women from discrimination and violence because of its opposition to gender ideology.

For congresswoman Valeria Valente of the center-left Democrats, “Meloni plays the card of innovation (being a woman), but she does not represent and does not work for women. Her prime ministership is not an opportunity for women.”

Valente believes Ferragni’s concerns about the threat to abortion rights are “well-founded.” In areas already run by Meloni’s “Brothers of Italy”, the national guidelines for the availability of the abortion pill are not followed.

To justify this policy, one of the party’s regional politicians in Le Marche, Carlo Ciccioli, cited the immediate danger of an “ethnic substitution”, arguing that, in the absence of children of Italian origin, the proportion of babies born to “foreigners parents’ will increase.

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In Italy, only 49% of women work, compared to 73% in Germany. Some of Meloni’s critics say her policies risk widening that gap.

Meloni has promised to cut taxes for large families to boost Italy’s low birth rate of 1.2 births per woman, compared with 1.5 in Germany and 1.8 in France.

While this would potentially be a welcome tax break for some, there are concerns that it could also hinder economic equality for women in Italy. “He wants to keep women at home,” Valente told POLITICO.

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Isabella Rauti, an MP for the “Sisters of Italy”, said Meloni’s policies would help women balance work and family by providing incentives to companies that hire new mothers and adopt family-friendly policies. “Her appointment as prime minister would be something completely new and would send a message to all Italian women,” says Isabella Rauti.

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Meloni has been clear that she will not repeal the 1978 law that legalized abortion. However, it will seek to fully implement a part of the law that directed state structures to offer women alternatives to abortion, to “overcome the causes that could force a woman to terminate her pregnancy,” Rauti explained.

Some measures, already approved in right-wing regions, include paying women not to have abortions and allowing anti-abortion groups to exist in hospitals and family planning clinics.

Abortion rights groups say these measures are designed to confuse women and delay their decision until it is too late, legally, to have an abortion.

The woman who has learned to overcome obstacles

No doubt, Meloni has already overcome many obstacles – she was, after all, the youngest cabinet minister in Italian history. But her rise is not guaranteed to open the door to politics for more women.

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Meloni disapproves of feminism and does not believe in proportional representation in Parliament. She argues that only merit-based promotion gives women power.

The “conundrum” for feminists is whether a Meloni government is a victory because it is a woman or a defeat because it is a right-wing woman.

Historically, Italy has a long way to go. “The system is so male-dominated and macho that the small number of powerful positions that women occupy are not springboards for others,” said Valeria Manieri, founder of Le Contemporanee, a start-up that campaigns against racial discrimination.

“It is very likely that her leadership will favor her and her alone, without smoothing the way for others,” notes Manieri.

For Marina Terragni, a feminist writer, the left has ignored radical feminists for too long on issues like racial politics and surrogacy. Now, they see possible common ground with Meloni.

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“The left has never wanted to listen to feminist objections on these issues. The right is more willing,” said Terragni.

Some feminist groups have pushed for surrogacy, which is already illegal in Italy, to be made a crime even if it takes place abroad.

“If Meloni is pushing this policy — and she already has — I can’t say no, because she’s the one saying it,” Terragni said. “That would be absurd. Obviously we have different purposes,” added Terragni, who supports abortion rights. But as a single mother, Meloni is “a woman of our time.”

If nothing else, her position at the top will raise questions about why in Italy and elsewhere it tends to be the right – which often advocates more reactionary policies – that produces leaders such as Angela Merkel in Germany and Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May and, potentially, Liz Truss in Britain.

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Whatever their politics, when women succeed, they are inevitably capable, Manieri added… “Because to get there they’ve worked 10 times harder than a man. That’s certainly true of Georgia Meloni.”

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