Home > feminism, History, Life, Politics > I Was Berlusconi’s Love Toy

I Was Berlusconi’s Love Toy

Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters.


And you were what?!

Silvio Berlusconi is the Prime Minister of Italy.

I was only kidding about the love toy part.

Lately, Berlusconi has been denounced because he seems to jump into bed with anything that’s female, even if it’s a minor. But in spite of his piggish and possibly illegal behavior, more than half of the Italian population still supports him. What’s going on?

What’s going on is that a lot of people still haven’t caught up with the 21st century. That doesn’t make them bad people, but it does mean that they might support bad things.

Besides being prime minister, Berlusconi owns about half of the television stations and news media in Italy. According to Chiara Volpato, a professor of social psychology at the University of Milan in Italy, that enables him to reinforce sexist viewpoints:

In Berlusconi’s media, women and minors are denigrated to a “decorative” role. This representation cements women’s subordinate position in Italian society.

As a result, the World Economic Forum’s 2010 report ranked Italy 74th in equality of women.

There’s a reason that I’ll never be anyone’s “decoration.” It’s not just that I have self-respect: that’s an effect, not the cause. The cause is that my society gives me freedom, rights, opportunities, and a status (mostly) equal to men. Women haven’t always had those things.

Let’s review human history. Up until fairly recently, societies were organized mainly by violence. People who were physically strongest, most aggressive, and most driven to dominate others were the ones who ended up running things. Unsurprisingly, they were mostly men. Not all men are like that, but more men are than women.

Violence still plays a role, let’s not have any illusions about that. But as civilization has developed, violence has gradually become less important than thinking, negotiation, and cooperation.

Men can throw a spear farther than we can. They can outrun us and overpower us physically. But when cooperation replaces violence, women become just as powerful as men, though in different ways. In general, we’re better at cooperation. We don’t care as much about “dominating” others. We just want to make sure that everyone is included and taken care of.

When civilization advances to that point, the old stereotypes and social roles begin to break down. Women are no longer forced into the roles of servant and plaything for men.

Berlusconi and other defenders of the old order are fighting to stop that evolution. But in the long run, they can’t succeed. Nobody wants to go back to living in caves: for one thing, you can’t get cell phone reception there.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

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