About women, between women. Dialogues on feminism. Cristina Tedde and Alessia Dulbecco
What do women talk about over coffee? Often, about women themselves.
Today, I’m lucky to be able to talk with someone I hold in high regard and care about very much: Alessia Dulbecco. Pedagogue and counsellor, specialized in gender violence, creates training courses for associations and businesses that want to concretely work on equal opportunities (alessiadulbecco.com)
We are both firmly convinced that a great deal of work still needs to be done to ensure that women can participate in social life without being subjected to clichés and stereotypes. How many women, before men, still do not recognize their value. They have to fight for space in a purely male world. They are often each other’s and their own worst enemies.
They are enemies because the male point of view has taught them to think that.
Enemies of other women – possible adversaries to be feared – enemies of themselves: never “enough”, always running the risk of suffering from the now-famous “impostor syndrome”, regarding their successes with suspicion, as though they had achieved them through manipulation and deception.
Today, the challenge for women is to recover an ancient concept, “sisterhood”; to unlearn the acquired model and rid themselves of a limitation that does nothing but relegate them even further to the sidelines.
Leafing through the pages of daily newspapers, every news item reports on male roles. Often “saturated” with them, women are firmly convinced that men only accept them if they show themselves to be strong and aggressive.
Almost as though they have to become masculine in order to be credible. They must not show themselves to be weak or fragile. Men are strong, or at least this is how they are portrayed.
For centuries women have been relegated exclusively to the domestic and family environment. In Italy, access to certain careers has been possible thanks to countless struggles and demands. We only have to think of the profession of judge: until the 1960s, people believed that women were unsuited to this job because of their “strong wills”, always at the mercy of their emotions, and so unstable during menstruation.
It’s easy to understand why, once able to access certain jobs, they were complicit in creating that image with masculine attributes: it was the only way to appear credible in the eyes of others. Once again we come back to the concept of the “male gaze”: it was this gaze that allowed us to exist … and it is from this that we now must become emancipated.
The same time however, I think that men must do the opposite: male ideal of the “strong man must never ask for anything” has finally been called into question by the men themselves, who have shown how damaging this model is for their own category. Emotions are not the exclusive prerogative of women, and educating men to understand their own emotions, to better manage the frustration arising from a “no” for example, from a relationship ending, is the basis of all campaigns against gender violence.
There are many women who although able, sense of themselves, are almost ashamed of their femininity, as if it were a crime to like oneself. If the woman is beautiful and intelligent, it almost seems wrong. Paradoxically, other women judge and condemn her.
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. By the same token, women have long been divided into two categories: “the saints” and the “whores”. Only the first – the modest woman, whose head isn’t easily turned, dedicated solely to the family – was elected a winning female ideal. Liking oneself becomes a crime, as you say, because a “good” woman does not consider beauty or attractiveness to be a value… which is what “bad” women do. It’s the famous “act like a young lady” that they raised us with. What does this mean other than “be careful to defend your virtue, do not act like those ‘other women’”?
Here, again, we need to work to eliminate all the stereotypes we’ve been labelled with, starting with this binary distinction. There are no good or bad women. There are women.
We only need to think of the news.
In Italy, femicides and violence against women and more happens daily now. Often, women are the first to be horrified but often condemn the victims themselves. They reap doubt, accuse the women of bringing the crime onto themselves through inappropriate or provocative behaviour.
And perhaps this is more frightening than violence itself, because it is still violence.
As though the struggles for rights or the so-called “sisterhood” had literally vanished.
Exactly. Heaping blame onto the victim is a practice as ancient as the world. The approach to the story of people who have experienced violence is loaded with stereotypes that suggest they were always “looking for it.” “And what did you do to deserve the slap?” It’s a line of thinking found not only in men but also women.
By the same token, women have been described as temptresses for more than two thousand years and it’s difficult to lose this image. Personally, I there is a crucial need for those communication campaigns reminding us that the first gesture of responsibility we should make towards a woman who reports having suffered violence is to believe her. If we think about certain news items (the American schoolgirls raped here in Florence a few years ago, and the recent Genovese case) we realize that we are light years away.
I don’t know if the sisterhood has vanished completely. Undoubtedly, it’s hard to find it in the main stream channels today but there are bubbles where it can still be found. Just think of the many social media pages that work hard to bring these facts to light (from the all MOLESTE collective to the activism of Benedetta Lo Zito, who created a self-help group for survivors): here it is. It’s from here that we have to move forward.
Thanks to Luchadora for the amazing image on the top of the article.