Women in Italian Society

When attempting to create a new political party, and from that party, a successful party government, the ideology cannot be too extreme, relative to the beliefs and the ideas of the populace. For example, the degree of Nazi anti-Semitic polices seems extreme to outsiders, but general German distrust and distain for Jews allowed the Nazis to implement these policies. In his novel, Bread and Wine, Ignazio Silone depicts the role of women in Italian society, clarifying how and why extremely masculine movements developed in early 20th century Italy.

In “The Futurist Manifesto,” in 1909, FT Marinetti states that the movement seeks to glorify war, militarism, patriotism, destruction, and contempt for women. This attitude towards women is seen again in Fascist policies that attempted to keep women in traditional roles. Mussolini himself declares in “What is Fascism” that war is the ultimate test of a nation. War excludes women, for the most part, therefore, women are not nearly as important to the nation as men. In Bread and Wine, the main character, Don Paolo, says to a prospective nun, “ ‘You would have the other possibility that life offers most women…You could become a good wife and mother of a family’ ”(Silone 101). Women had two choices in life: the Church or a family. These were the places for women in society. And if a woman were to stray from these honorable paths, like Bianchina, and, for example, become pregnant out of wedlock, she dishonors herself and her family. This social view is reflected in Italian laws that forbid abortions.

In Fascist Italy, the role of women was clear and traditional. Don Paolo even feels that he must “get away from the tedious female atmosphere by which he was surrounded”(Silone 112). This expresses men’s distain toward women, as well as the fear of appearing too feminine, and possibly homosexual, like Gabriele in Ettore Scola’s A Special Day.

How and why did masculine movements developed in early 20th century Italy? Was it the fear of the rising status of women or the fear of the loss of masculinity? Was it both? Was it neither? Why?

5 thoughts on “Women in Italian Society

  1. Good job focusing on this theme from Bread and Wine, as women’s roles were a central component of the work. I believe that masculine movements developed primarily through the fear of the rising status of women. Women were gaining more opportunities to become self reliant; they became less reliant on men to be the sole providers of the household. Since men had a greater influence in Italian society the Italian leaders attempted to repress women in order to maintain power and keep the status quo.

  2. This was a great post! Women’s roles changed throughout Europe after WWI as a reaction the chaos. The Great War introduced new weapons and horrors to the continent and the world; many people reacted by wanting a return to the simpler days before the war–including more traditional family roles. In France, the politicians wanted to minimize women’s place in politics for fear that they would inhibit the socialist and communist movements. In Italy, the socialists may have also encouraged the traditional roles, like Mussolini, for fear that they would never ‘escape’ Fascism if women had a political voice.

  3. Really good post. I liked how you were able to connect the social commentary in Bread and Wine, with the views espoused in works like the “Futurist Manifesto”, and Mussolini’s “What is Fascism”. In responding to your question, I believe that it was a combination of both the rise of women and a loss of masculinity. Women had to take a large part in the production of war supplies, and these factory jobs gave them more freedom and responsibility. While the men who fought the war were shamed by Italy’s humiliation at the Versailles and status after the wars end. These two conflicting social arch’s led to much conflict in inter war Italy.

  4. Very interesting post with the idea women obtaining a political voice in Italy. I feel the question you’re looking to answer is inherently similar to both the fear of rising women’s rights and extreme growth of masculine development in Fascist Italy. The link to the extreme masculine dilemma of the Futurist Manifesto and the developing Italian government is a well developed connection to Bread and Wine in a gender theme. I think your post is well developed in these ideas, logically thought out, and constructed well. In the end your questions seem a bit too easily confused between themselves and not specifically developed enough.

  5. There are a lot of interesting ideas in this post. I definitely think it is important to note the significance of gender roles even though they are not explicitly stated throughout the first half of the book. I thought it was very interesting that Don Paolo believed true progress could not be made until he was working with only men. While subtle, “Bread and Wine” certainly perpetuates traditional gender roles.

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