Italy has long been regarded as being backwards when it comes to gender rights and sexual harassment. So in many ways, its reaction to the recent wave of revelations about sexual harassment by men in positions of power all over the world was depressingly familiar. But, at the same time, it also revealed the strength and diversity of grassroots feminism there, despite the odds.
Simona Siri, a US-based Italian journalist, pronounced recently in The Washington Post that “the already present and strong sexist Italian culture now seems almost impossible to reverse”. This came following the startling backlash against Italian actor Asia Argento after she gave an an interview to Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker in which she accused Harvey Weinstein of a horrific sexual assault. Siri argued that Italy’s entrenched misogyny, embodied by the figure of Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, made fighting back futile for Italian women.