Violence against women. A marker of gender inequalities’ persistence. Meeting with the sociologist Chiara Saraceno

Chiara Saraceno is one of the most aknowledged and important exponents of italian Sociology who is specialized in topics linked to the social change and the demographic development since long time ago. On the last 10th of february she participated to the seminar: «Violence against women: a problem of civilization» – sponsored by the department of philosophy and communication, the city of Bologna and the Equal Opportunities Comittee of the University of who took place in Via Zamboni 38. From one side, at the desk with a gentle and smiling attitude, we find Her which for us – Compass editors, with a previous degree in Sociology- represents one of the greatest guides that we only knew through our books: a name on the cover of many works and a title on some newspapers’ pages. On the other side we find a public who listens with admiration and who applouds generously.

violenza sulle donne

violenza sulle donne

The speech begins with a brief mention of the events who took place in Colonia on New Years’ Eve and some other recent events concerning our country witht the purpose of framing the phenomena and giving a geographic dimension of it. «The basic idea is the existence of some gender models; the itallian background is perfectly on the same page of what’s happening in all the others developed and democratics west european countries, who claim theirself evolved».

Countries like ours where the principle of the man-woman equality is recognized by the whole society as a basic one, but still hasn’t been fully absorbed. Saraceno clarifies how easy it is to understand this by little day-to-day situations: «when I was a child I used to go to the shoemaker and I used to feel some embarassment by reading a board in which we could read an ancient chinese proverb who said tonight when you come back home, hit your wife; you don’t know the reason but she does […] in this same city, Milan, where I understood of being old once they stopped giving me a price in the Duomo’s Square».

All of these episodes show us how a woman could feel unsafe and inconvenient just living in this world, until believing, that as a fermale, she shouldn’t be in a given place, or being dressed in some different way. There are different types of violence: from insults to verbal insinuations, from bothering to more extreme cases, like rapes and homicides; it looks like some people believe in this stereotype, that we find deeply settled in their conscience and according to which Him – as a man – is allowed to do anything just because he has a woman standing in front of him. It’s His woman and for this reason he always gets to be pardoned. The majority of the cases come to happen inside the familiar circle or in the friendship’s chain, in other words in the more intimate context of the woman. This factor made their homes the unsafest and more unprotected places.

If we focus on the italian background, it looks evident how violence against women has become a phenomena who is transverse to social classes. The statistical datas broadcasted by ISTAT ,regarding 2014, seem to confirm the theory according to which highly educated women or women with a better social position come to be still more in danger because this women’s status can raise some aggressive attitudes in some men who can’t accept the breach in this stereotype and raising some doubts in the theory of «the obvious male superiority due to God’s will». It is not just a matter of education.

«The causes who are at the basis of this pheomena have not to be founded in genetics» – Miss Saraceno hardly refuses this explanation by claiming that: «although this is the real reason we, like evolved human beings, should be able to repress this genetic derivations. For sure the ones who in their past have been victims of violence have an inclination towards a gender’s model who can push to become aggressive or to suffer acts of violence, but one of the most important variables is still culture». The cultural models proposed in our society are affected by monotheistic religions; it looks evident that today we can no longer allow the existence of the «marital debt» so much claimed by the Holy Church and this model – often according to these principles – brings the vicitims to suffer violence and makes impossible for them to achieve the support they need.

The central idea of Miss Saraceno’s thought faces from one hand the gender theory and on the other the gender violences. «It’s a rigid and assimetric model of manhood who spread this education to aggressivity and doesn’t allow women to react”. The causes of the phenomenon have not to be founded in nature but in the cultural system. “I was living in Berlin, and, some years ago, an advertising campaign was launched by an italian telephonic company and I got surprised by the differences in the communication strategies they adopted: the campaign who was released in Italy had strong sexist aspects if compared to the German one […] in our country events like these come easy to be part of the public agenda because they reach a precise cultural substrate. We shuold realize that this fact increases the creation of gender stereotypes, so it becomes necessary to work also on some other aspects connected to Communications that maybe we can’t notice immediately. Italy seems to be an isolated case in the european background because we can still feel a strong rigidity and gender stereotypes are still deep-rooted. A fundamentalistic vision of the gender’s theory doesn’t help to get rid of these stereotypes: «This theory has been misenterpreted in his meaning; it doesn’t affirms that we can choose our sex or our gender; to dislocate the sexual identity with the gender one means to increase the common fears and it can raise the chaos. It doesn’t point to a forced desexualization».

Today, more than ever, we need to make gender’s roles more fluids and manipuable, in other words less rigids, by looking forward to a melting pot instead of a juxtaposition. Martha Nussbaum and Francesco Remotti claim that «there’s nothing objective or natual in tradition, also when it is a thousand-year old one; we should replace this traditions in the evolutions’ wheel, re-negotiate them and let cultural processes flow».



At the end of the meeting we interviewed Miss Saraceno, asking her for an opinion on a recent event who shatterd the public agenda. We report here a brief extract.

«Miss Saraceno, what do you think about all the space offered by mass medias to men who committed acts of violence against their women? Particularly I’m refering to the journalist Franca Leosini’s case which, in her Rai3 broadcast – Storie Maledette, interviewed Mr Luca Varani, the aggressor of the lawyer Lucia Anniballi».

«I don’t thik that medias should give space to people who committed these crimes for different reasons and I believe that it has been a wise thing to discuss this episode in the Italian Parlament First of all I think these interviews don’t help to have a right vision of the events, above all because of the lack of the opposing voice. It is also unuseful to understand what happened in the subject’s minds during the events, moreover this could increase the violence’s spyral and the repetition of these dramatic events. It doesn’t have to be underestimated neither what can happen on an hypothetical aggressor’s mind who is leaded to legitimate his intentions. Above all when we refer to a case in which the aggressor is a lawyer, generally recognized as an estimate professionist and with a good social position».

Luigi Cazzola has translated into English the article by Simona Patanè and Francesca Conte:

La violenza contro le donne. Un indicatore della persistenza delle disuguaglianze di genere. Incontro con la sociologa Chiara Saraceno 



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  1. Pingback: #donne. Violenza, femminicidio e differenze di genere raccontati da esperti linguisti e sociologi | CompassUnibo Blog


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