Women's Rights in Italy
Chiara Volpato is to be commended for condemning Umberto Bossi, the noxiously xenophobic leader of the Northern League Party (New York Times Op-Ed, Aug. 27, 2009).
And she quite correctly castigates the Vatican for its undue interference in the Italian body politic.
But Ms. Volpato’s screed against Italy’s “famously patriarchal culture” has the whiff of hyperbole. Yes, the glass ceiling in “il bel paese” needs more full-fledged cracks and fewer hairline fissures. But Silvio Berlusconi’s silly flirtations are not the issue. Nor is anti-feminism a national character flaw.
Italy’s low birthrate — like Spain’s, Japan’s and Germany’s — is a choice. The reproductive rights of women in China are well-nigh nonexistent. Women in Saudi Arabia live in a state akin to apartheid.
Ironically, in “The Emancipation of Women in Ancient Rome,” Roger Vigneron and Jean-François Gerkens explain how the Italians of antiquity forged a polity where “the rule of juridical equality was the duty to be pursued.” According to the authors, the Romans believed men and women to be inherently equal.
Rosario A. Iaconis
Italic Institute of America
Mineola, N.Y., Aug. 27, 2009
(published in the New York Times, Aug. 29, 2009)