Why is femicide pop in Italy?

The wall between news and reality doesn’t allow the understanding of facts

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Erika is 28. She’s enjoying her holiday in Sardinia with her boyfriend Dimitri, 30.
Suddenly they start to argue over a silly issue, but he ends up stabbing her.
After the fact, he tries to frame the femicide as a deadly house robbery.
Italian media’s headlines will say ‘Erika has been killed for bread crumbles’, that ‘She is dead because of the mess on the table’, or even that Dimitri’s actions were ‘a raptus’. There are several other stories explained by media in the same terms: women would be killed for unsalted pasta or because the pizza wasn’t spicy enough.
That’s the bread and butter in Italy, where the way the public opinion deals with femicide ends up killing the victims for a second time.
Why is that?

According to data published by ISTAT, Italy’s national statistics bureau, there are more than six million Italian women who have been victims of violence; more than three million were victims of stalking. In 2016 the number of femicides reached the dreadful number of 116: more than one every three days. Since the beginning of 2017, we already count more than thirty new cases. Female blood has been spread mostly in the north: maybe Italian men struggle with the acceptance of stronger woman emancipation?
This is a particularly difficult topic to face in Italy because of the absence of knowledge, among both male and female population: women often blame themselves for their suffering, and also underestimate the early-stage signs of violence.

Femicide is the extreme consequence of a complex and serious situation.
The way media talk about the topic is sick and counterproductive in ending this butchery.

According to the current expert literature, the Italian information system is uneducated on this subject and resorts to inadequate terms like ‘raptus’ and ‘sick love’ to describe it, mixing them up with absurd motives to stimulate the public opinion interest. From the north to the south, Italy’s society is still entrenched in patriarchy.
The ‘Ventennio’ of Berlusconi (i.e. his two decades in office) fostered a diminishing and misleading woman image, increasing the difference between genders and covering up sexism with prank clothes.

If you’ve ever tried to search the name of any female Italian minister on Google, you would have come up with suggested queries such as “look”, “décolleté”, “high heels” and so on. Are you interested in the way a female minister is eating her gelato? No? Well, Italians apparently are. Culture is the real problem in the Bel Paese, a country where you can spot this reluctance in this kind of changes right from the language.
The “Presidente Della Camera” (i.e. the Speaker of the House) Laura Boldrini is fighting to reach lexical equality. Ministra, the female of “Ministro” (Minister) still faces a lot of resistance from both sides of the gender aisle. The issue has been under academic scrutiny for quite some time, and some universities have started new courses about this branch of linguistics, but scepticism, snarky comments and accusations of irrelevance remain the most common reaction.

Harder court sentences against men who kill women are necessary but still insufficient. In order to demolish the wall between news and perception, we need a bottom-up approach made of support to anti-violence centres and education about sexual equality, starting from primary school.
The re-education of men and women’s self-determination can blaze a trail that will make children become free adults and -why not?- feminists, who will consider equality as the normality.


Translation of the article “Perchè il femminicidio è pop in Italia?”, August 2017

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