[en] The Women’s Movement “Se non ora quando”

Background

Berlusconi’s troubled and sexist relationship with women has undoubtedly attracted the foreign media’s attention. But this is not the only problem that Italian women face. Indeed, approximately 50% of them are out of employment and they earn, on average, 30% less than men doing the same job. Due to a lack of social services, moreover, the care of children and the elderly is often left to the family, namely to its female members. All the statistics show that life, for an Italian woman, is harder than in the rest of Europe, and not merely because of Berlusconi.

The appeal

In January 2011 a group of women – including politicians, journalists, professionals and artists – launched an appeal to demonstrate in large numbers on February 13. Italian women had had enough, they said, and demanded their dignity. The call to action, the demonstration and the committees took the name _“Se non ora quando?”_, which means “If not now, when?”. The name was inspired by a novel by Primo Levi, about the Jewish, German and Polish partisans who fought against Nazi Germany.
The appeal was harshly criticized by Italian feminist organizations. The latter claimed that it seemed to concentrate on the latest sensational events to take place in the country and on the representation of women in the mass media, rather than speaking out against women’s working and economic conditions, and the endemic male violence in Italian society. Nevertheless, even the more radical feminist groups, with few exceptions, joined the demonstration, building their own political agenda.

The struggles

On February 13th, hundreds of thousands of individuals demonstrated all over Italy. Women and men of all ages gathered in dozens of squares of both small centres and big cities. In many cases the demonstrations were very spontaneous and free, overwhelming the parties and unions that were trying to guide it. In fact, while at Rome the demonstration ended with a large, official stage performance – in keeping with the tradition of big plaza events -, in Bologna the march did not follow the assigned course and instead proceeded to the central square, access to which had been denied by local authorities.
Generic chants such as “dignity for women” and “Berlusconi’s resignation” (“Dimissioni Berlusconi”) were heard alongside others such as “gender equality”, “stop the casualization of labour” and the demand for “more funds for women’s shelters”. It was the first time since the 1970s that women’s issues enjoyed such power to mobilize. On the whole, the event brought to the street a very diverse group of people, ranging from nuns to feminist organizations that fight against the power of the Roman Catholic Church; from right-wing female politicians to the most radical left-wing student groups.
Since then, _Se non ora quando_ has become a network of organized committees that works to keep attention focussed on women’s demands. It even called for another big event in Siena, Tuscany in July, however, this event didn’t receive the support of many feminist organizations, like _Femminismo a Sud_ (Feminism in the South), which considered it too “pink” and moderate, and attended by too many celebrities.

Sources
(it) Document http://senonoraquando13febbraio2011.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/ciao-mondo/
(it) Website http://senonoraquando13febbraio2011.wordpress.com/
(it) Document http://www.women.it/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=940&Itemid=83
(it) Article http://femminismo-a-sud.noblogs.org/post/2011/07/12/se-non-ora-quando-o-le-feminisme-caviar/