Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
“Being mayor means being in your office 14 hours a day,” he mansplained to an established female politician.
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is back in the news with one of his infamous quotes. In a radio interview Tuesday, the billionaire media mogul dismissed Georgia Meloni, a politician from the rival right-wing party, as a viable potential candidate for Rome’s mayoral race—simply because she’s about to be a mom. Via The Guardian:
“A mother cannot be mayor. Being mayor means being in your office 14 hours a day,” Berlusconi told Rai Radio station. “I don’t think this could be the right choice for Meloni.”
Berlusconi, after all, knows a thing or two about making good choices. The man was knocked out of his prime ministerial position in 2011 after allegations that he had sex with a minor surfaced. (He was convicted of that crime, but later cleared.) And that sex scandal was just one of many corruption controversies that have surrounded Berlusconi.
Now, neither his history of terrible judgment nor the fact that it is 2016 has stopped him from mansplaining the demands of Rome’s mayoral position—one that he himself has never held—to an established female politician, then promptly ruling her out on account of having a vagina.
These comments shouldn’t really come as a surprise: He’s just at bad at feminism as he was at governance. And the misogynist culture he’s helped perpetuate has been hurting Italian women for years, Barbie Nadeau, writes in Newsweek:
The parade of prurience is inescapable, an expression of the rot that’s now manifest at the very top of the Italian government, a reflection of the society’s deeper problem with the evolving role of women. While headlines tell an endless tale of teenage models, paid escorts, and Moroccan belly dancers cavorting with 74-year-old Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the media make it clear that men are men, and women are window dressing. Boycotts, protests, and even complaints are rare, and when they’re voiced, few listen.
The proof is in the numbers. According to the 2010 World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report, Italy was in 74th place, down several places from 2008, when Berlusconi started his last term in office, The Week reports. And while the country has climbed up a few notches to 69 in 2014, it’s clearly nowhere near where it needs to be when it comes to equal pay and representation in government.
That’s been evident in this mayoral race even before Tuesday’s comments. Just recently, another female candidate, Patrizia Bedori, dropped out after being criticized for her appearance and her role as a housewife. Here were Bedori’s parting words, via Facebook (translated from Italian):
I wanted to tell you that… I'm not offended. There are millions of housewives in Italy… your mothers, sisters, wives, and girlfriends that every day devote their time with dedication to the family, sons, husbands and take on a whole series of tasks the state has failed at—like caring for the elderly… [It’s] thanks to them that Italy is standing.