Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Silvio and The Gurlz

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime Minister, and the man who is going to host the G8 summit starting on Wednesday, really likes gurlz:

The good news for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is that Italians are no longer quite so obsessed with his wife's demand for a divorce or his flirtations with an 18-year-old model. The bad news is that now they are fixated on his parties with paid escorts and the high-priced hooker who has told Italian media that she spent a night with him.

A quick read through the articles discussing this demonstrates a focus on Berlusconi's private life, his libido and his great love of young female beauty. There's not a lot on how this translates to his actual policies, except for this bit:

A day after British newspaper The Guardian published a stinging editorial describing Mr Berlusconi as Europe's most sexist leader, a group of senior women academics in Italy urged first ladies, including President Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's wife, Sarah, not to attend the G8.

In an open letter headed "Appeal to the first ladies", the four professors - from Milan, Perugia, Padova and Ferrara universities - braved Government wrath to state their anger about Mr Berlusconi's behaviour.

"We are profoundly indignant, as women working within the world of universities and culture, for the way the Presidente del Consiglio, Silvio Berlusconi, treats women in the public and private realm," the letter states.

"We refer not only to the Prime Minister's relationships, which transcend the personal sphere and assume a public dimension, but more importantly to the way in which political personnel is recruited and to the sexist behaviour and discourse that, in a perverse and systematic way, de-legitimises the presence of women on the social and institutional scene."

In a criticism of the promotion of starlets, actresses and models as candidates of Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, the four professors - Chiara Volpato, Angelica Mucchi Faina, Anne Maas and Marcella Ravenna - said Mr Berlusconi's behaviour threatened the dignity of all Italian women and was having a negative effect on feminine self-determination and achievement.

That private-public distinction is always a tricky one. But there's something very wrong if Mr. Berlusconi promotes women simply on the basis of their sex appeal to him. Doing so ridicules those women in Italian politics who have genuine achievements and who have done their political apprenticeships.