ADELE BUTLER – Women of Spirit: Italy's Disgrace


Adele Butler: Italy’s Disgrace


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi holds his face in his hand at the Villa Madama in Rome as he arrives for a meeting with Slovenia’s President Danilo Turk on January 18, 2011. Allegations that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi hooked up with prostitutes he kept in rent-free luxury apartments have weakened the government and damaged the country’s image abroad, experts say. Italian magistrates last week announced an enquiry into the relationship between Berlusconi and an underage girl, known as Ruby, as the prime minister was still reeling from a court ruling partially stripping him of political immunity. AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)



Adele Butler – Women of Spirit: Italy’s Disgrace

This morning I was listening to CBC’s The Current and heard that Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi is in hot water because he paid for sex with a teenage prostitute. He is set to go on trial for abuse of power and paying for sex with an underage girl. The host of The Current interviewed women who want him gone. They blame him for the negative images of women. He owns three television stations and on them women are objectified and treated like pieces of meat. One woman who did a documentary said that there was an image of a naked young girl hung up like a slab of ham. She said that women are not portrayed truthfully. There are many who are professionals but on television and in advertising they are portrayed as sex objects. Another woman called Berlusconi “a chauvinistic pig”.

My concern is that this man is supposed to be the leader of a country and here he is exploiting women. He will be tried by three female judges. “It would be a delicious irony indeed if the people who finally pushed Berlusconi out of power were the women he has spent so much of his career exploiting and degrading,” wrote James Walston, a professor of international relations at the American University of Rome, on the Foreign Policy Magazine website (

Berlusconi has a reputation of surrounding himself with under aged women. At an awards dinner in January 2007, Berlusconi was quoted as saying, “If I wasn’t already married, I would marry you right away,” and “With you, I’d go anywhere” to Mara Carfagna, a representative of Forza Italia and former showgirl. These flirtatious comments prompted his wife Veronica to demand an apology in a front-page letter to the Italian newspaper la Repubblica, one of Berlusconi’s rival publications. In a statement released through his political party, he begged for forgiveness and stated that he would “always protect [Veronica’s] dignity.” Mara Carfagna is now serving under him as minister for Equal Opportunities.

At the end of April 2009, his wife, Veronica Lario wrote an open letter expressing her anger at Berlusconi’s choice of young, attractive female candidates—some with little or no political experience—to represent the party in the 2009 European Parliament elections. In November 2010, teenage Moroccan belly dancer and alleged prostitute Karima El Mahroug (better known as “Ruby Rubacuori”) claimed to have been given $10,000 by Berlusconi at parties at his private villas. The girl told prosecutors in Milan that these events were like orgies where Berlusconi and 20 young women performed an African-style ritual known as the “bunga bunga” in the nude.

It was also found out that, on 27 May 2010, El Mahroug had been arrested for theft by the Milan police but (being still a minor) she was directed to a shelter for juvenile offenders. However, following two telephone calls by Berlusconi to the police authorities (in which, in particular, he falsely indicated that El Mahroug was a close relative of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt), the young woman was released and entrusted to the care of PDL regional counselor (and Berlusconi’s personal dental hygienist) Nicole Minetti. The investigation of Berlusconi for extortion (it:concussione) and child prostitution regarding Karima El Mahroug has been referred to as “Rubygate”. MP Gaetano Pecorella proposed to lower the age of consent in Italy to solve the case.

Now Berlusconi’s past is catching up with him but he is not worried about his trial which is set for April 6. Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing. He has dismissed the accusations as “groundless.” Read more: Berlusconi says he’s not worried about sex trial – The Times of India His lack of concern may be due to the fact that he has always been able to afford top lawyers ( This is compounded by the comment of Daniele Capezzone, a spokesman for Berlusconi’s party who claims that the case was politically motivated. “If someone … still believes that Silvio Berlusconi can be defeated through judicial means, once again they will be sorely disappointed,” he said.
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I was disgusted when I heard that some men actually admire (envy) Berlusconi because he is surrounded with beautiful women. It makes me wonder about the kind of message this leader sending out to young men. I worry that like him, they will treat women as objects and show them lack of respect. cites journalist Elisabetta Povoledo who wrote recently in the New York Times that: ‘Italy significantly trails European Union counterparts on equality indicators like employment of women or women in leadership positions, and indignant women say the latest scandal highlights a troubling message: the way for a woman to get ahead in Italy is to sell her soul, if not her body, to powerful men’

How exactly do men who act out against women view them? According to Anthony Porter, co-founder of “A Call to Men,” a national organization addressing domestic and sexual violence prevention and the promotion of healthy manhood, there are three key aspects of male socialization that are the foundation of men’s violence against women:

• Men viewing women as “less than;”

• Men treating women as property;

• Men viewing women as objects (

On Sunday, February 13th women in Italy are spoke out against the sexism of their leader, making it clear that they do not approve of his scandalous sex life. “Italy is not a brothel,” was one of their slogans. Another chant ran “If not now, when?”). The largest rally was in the capital Rome which started with a minute’s silence. Women’s groups say the premier has hurt their dignity. They also object to the indecent representation of women in newspapers, advertising and on television. Italian women in Greece took their protests to the street outside the Italian embassy in Athens. They held large banners splattered with red paint, which read: “Enough – Italy is not a brothel.” Others carried full-page stories in Greek newspapers on Berlusconi’s sex scandals, and many waved posters that said, “I’m a woman and I say enough” (,-thousands-protests-berlusconi.html#). I read somewhere that even nuns were part of the protests.

I watched a video of the protest on  and was amazed at the number of people there. It looked like a sea of women of all ages with a sprinkle of men. Posters of Berlusconi with a line drawn across his face were waving and one person had a kind of cut out sign saying, “I have a dream” with a caricature of the Prime Minister behind bars.


Adele Butler, A Celebration of Women 2011.


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