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?

A Futurist and a Surrealist

The “Futurist Manifesto,” written by F. T. Marinetti, and the “Surrealist Manifesto” written by Andre Brenton, are both interesting writings that contain radical ideas for the early 20th century. The Futuristic Manifesto focuses more on the rejection of the past, or in other words Futurism. It promotes sexism, war, and destruction of museums. The Surrealist manifesto focuses on revolution slightly more than the Futurist Manifesto does, but in a less violent way. It is written that they are “determined” on creating a revolution, yet refrains from mentioning violence in wars.

Two things about the Futurist Manifesto really intrigued me. Out of curiosity and to better understand the history surrounding this manifesto, I looked up the date it was published. I found out it was published at 1904, which I found interesting in regards to the manifesto’s discussion about violence and revolution. This manifesto was written before the Russian revolution and World War I, and at this point in time the world had not truly experienced the kind of war and revolution this writing was describing. This made me think, did this manifesto have any influence on the Russian Revolution? And second, why would Marinetti want to glorify war in the first place?

The main thing about the Surrealism manifesto that fascinated me was Article 2. Here it is written that Surrealism is not a means of expression but a freeing of the mind. Previous to reading this manifesto, I had always thought of Surrealism in the sense that it was an art style. To me, art has always been a way of expressing ones’ self, while concurrently freeing ones’ mind. I took my original view of Surrealism and applied it to the reading. I still think that one is expressing themselves while also freeing their minds, because free thoughts lead to great ideas. So to me, Article 2 was slightly contradictory. However, I could just be interpreting Breton’s ideas incorrectly.

Overall, I found both these manifestos very interesting in the ways they express their desire  and capability of revolution.

Surrealism and Futurism

Both the Surrealist and Futurist Manifestos preach straying from the conventional and praising the artist. Written by F.T Marinetti in 1909, the Futurist Manifesto is a rejection of the past and a celebration of the present. It glorifies war, danger, and speed. Although it is an Italian document, It almost foreshadows the upcoming Russian Revolution with all the talk of crowds, revolt, militarism, and patriotism. The manifesto is in essence looking forward to the modern state. All the “speed” that Marinetti is writing about can be interpreted as the desire for increased industrial output. In addition, the artist is painted as someone who must write and paint about courage and audacity rather than “sleeplessness.”The manifesto is looking for a world where work and revolt are praised, and history is left behind. This is a world not too far off.

The Surrealist Manifesto is similar in a sense that it wants to contradict the conventional. It also gives power to the artist. Surrealism, as defined by the Andre Breton in 1925, the writer of the manifesto, is “total liberation of the mind.” They are like the futurists determined to make a revolution. These manifestos represent the rocky ground European society is resting on. The Surrealist Manifesto contradicts  the emergence of reasonable thought. Its aim is to express the real function of thought. However, it is not clear what they believed the real function of thought was.  With this, what was the purpose of thought to the Surrealists? In addition, why was the artist so highly praised in this era? Was it their ability to influence society and change so much, or for some other reason?