Although Italy’s birthrate is well below replacement level, radical feminists have attacked the country’s campaign to encourage women to have more children, comparing it to Mussolini’s Fascist government.
“It all sounds so similar to the fascist slogans of the 1930s, when posters on the walls incited women to give more children to the fatherland,” writes Annalisa Coppolaro-Nowell in Monday’s issue of the Guardian.
“Many cannot believe that a female minister has launched such a sexist, ageist, anachronistic campaign in a country where many other urgent problems remain to be addressed,” she laments.
The campaign, brainchild of Beatrice Lorenzin, Italy’s Minister of Health, attempts to address Italy’s languishing birthrate by reaffirming the “beauty” of parenthood, as well as offering financial incentives for parenthood.
The health ministry dubbed next September 22 as national “fertility day,” accompanied by a series of postcard-style ads advocating having children.
Feminists are having none of it, insisting that “choice” and “reproductive health” are the stuff that the the minister should be pushing, not the birthrate.
Giulia Blasi, writing in Extra NewsFeed, avows that Lorenzin “has approved and promoted a campaign that treats all women as little more than walking incubators, people who should hurry up and have children for the sake of the country.”
Indulging in eyebrow-raising hyperbole, Blasi writes that the fertility campaign is “the stuff of dystopian novels and fascist propaganda, something Benito Mussolini was quite good at in times when contraception was unavailable and women did not have the right to vote, much less work outside the home.”
Blasi takes advantage of the situation to blast Italy’s abortion laws, which she says are overly strict. The solution to a radically declining birthrate, Blasi illogically suggests, is greater access to abortion.
And in an “open letter” to the health minister, a group of Italian feminists allege that the campaign is “confusing and dangerous” and that it is not the competence of political leaders to care about the fertility of families.
“NO,” they write, “fertility is not a public performance, it is a private, subjective fact.” Women’s bodies, they stated, “belong to women and the way they choose to dispose of them are theirs as well.”
The campaign, they assert, reflects nostalgia for a time of “social and cultural obscurantism that condemned women to secondary roles and functions, in subordination to and dependence on men.”
This is the situation “that we have been endeavoring to fight ever since the times of the Risorgimento!” they wrote.
If nothing else, the rabid reactions to the campaign do help to explain what got Italy into this situation in the first place.
How to get out of it is another story.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome