The Italian Almanac

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Miss Italia 2012

Pageant Furor

Italian House Speaker Laura Boldrini's praise of State-television RAI's decision to not air the Miss Italia beauty pageant sparked furor in politics and showbiz. Boldrini characterized the decision as a ''modern and civilized choice'', and an acknowledgment of media's important influence on how women are perceived.

''Only 2% (of women) in TV express opinions, speak. The rest are mute, sometimes undressed,'' Boldrini said at a Milan conference on image, power and the condition of women. ''Italian girls should be able to go on television without parading with a number. They have other talents,'' Boldrini said in a discourse that disparaged Italian media's consistent recourse to old gender stereotypes.

Boldrini's comments were skewered by right wing politicians and entertainment personalities. ''We agree with the Chamber Speaker Laura Boldrini who applauds RAI's decision not to broadcast Miss Italia because, as she says, it deals with a contest in which the girls are mute, undressed and have a number on them. For the same reasons we suggest also blacking out all those guys on TV, often on Sunday afternoons, who run behind balls in underwear, in silence and with a number on their backs,'' said Massimiliano Fedriga, MP with the anti-immigrant Northern League party.

A senator with the Northern League, Gian Marco Centinaio said, ''I have never been a fan of beauty contests, and I don't defend something I am not passionate about but (rather) the sacred right of women to proudly display their own beauty''. Centinaio went on to accuse Boldrini of erring in the direction of authoritarian men who feel entitled to ''barbarities'' against miniskirts, high heels and lipstick. ''I am sure that she understands that the debate is much wider. Woe those who note that Laura Boldrini is not scandalized by the imposition of the burqa. I imagine that she knows that Islamic women can not speak unless questioned and never with a man who is not a member of her own family. On this, which happens under our eyes and with general complacency, her silence is truly deafening,'' Centinaio said.

Boldrini also had defenders, like the undersecretary at the cultural heritage ministry, Ilaria Borletti, who on Tuesday said she agreed with the chamber speaker despite the pageant's ''long history of Italian tradition'' and the ''important...actresses'' emerging from its contestants over the years. ''In the last 15 years, the image of the woman in television has been gradually debased and crushed, without the proposal of an alternative model more consonant with the extraordinary journey that women in Italy have taken in work, in professions and in society to establish themselves,'' Borletti said.

The Catholic television viewer association Aiart also pitched itself into Boldrini's camp. ''We've been asking to stop Miss Italia since February. Thus we completely agree with Chamber Speaker Boldrini's declarations. It is a dated show that is watched with interest by ever fewer Italians,'' said Aiart president Luca Borgomeo. ''Let's say it clearly. The TV broadcast of Miss Italia may have worked well in the 1960s-70s, but in the 2000s it no longer makes sense,'' Borgomeo concluded.