1922-2022: Italy one hundred years later.
Femminismi di destra

January 27, 2023, 3-6pm E.T.

Curator and Moderator: Ombretta Frau, Mount Holyoke College.

“Giorgia Meloni guida un partito che relega le donne al ruolo di welfare vivente: questo la rende una leadership inutile per le donne." (Elly Schlein, former vice-president of Emilia Romagna, August 2022)

The event was organized in two parts.

GROUP I. Theoretical Questions

1. Cristina Lombardi-Diop, Loyola University Chicago
“Fascinating Fascism: Sexuality, Heteronormativity, and Italian White Femininity”

2. Amanda Minervini, Colorado College
“Girls will be Boys? A Gender-Based Analysis of Giorgia Meloni's Speech Acts”

3. Ruth Glynn, University of Bristol
“Giorgia Meloni: Femonationalist Matriarch?”

4. Roger J. Crum, University of Dayton
“Io Sono! Giorgia Meloni’s Feminist Authorship of Her Own ‘Righteous’ Image”

5. Ursula Fanning, University College Dublin
“Meloni, Thatcher, Robinson, McAleese, McDonald: Women, Power, Navigating Gender”

GROUP II. Case studies

1. Veronica Frigeni, School of Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam
“Un ministero per la natalità: il femminismo (conservatore) di Eugenia Roccella”

2. Cristina Gragnani, Temple University
“Anna Franchi: Nazionalismo e femminismo dalla guerra di Libia alla prima guerra mondiale”

3. Katharine Mitchell, University of Strathclyde
“The (Anti?) Feminism of Matilde Serao”

4. Erin Larkin, Southern Connecticut State University
“Benedetta. Futurist Genealogies of Giorgia Meloni’s Conservative Feminism”

5. Jordi Valentini, Università di Torino
“«Eowyn» (1976-1982): politica e cultura fantasy nei femminismi di destra”

Materiali di studio - Scroll down for details.


1. Cristina Lombardi-Diop, Loyola University Chicago
“Fascinating Fascism: Sexuality, Heteronormativity, and Italian White Femininity”

The election of Giorgia Meloni, a right-wing politician and an admirer of Mussolini, as Prime Minister of Italy, compels us to reflect on political power, white femininity, and the fascination that fascism exercised and continues to exercise on women. This inquiry stems from an even broader concern that Simone de Beauvoir raised after WWII. In Le deuxieme sexe (1947), the French feminist asked why women support systems of power that are inimical to their cause. My presentation draws its title from a famous article by Susan Sontag (“Fascinating Fascism”), published in 1975, where the critic analyzes the sexualization of fascism and Nazism in the visual imagery of Leni Riefenstahl, and in the revival of Nazi symbols more generally. Sontag begins her analysis with Riefenstahl’s 1974 book of black-and-white photos, The last of the Nuba, shot in the mountains of southern ern Sudan and depicting “godlike Nuba, expressive faces, and muscular bodies that are depilated and decorated with scars.” (Sontag, NA). The fact that these are Black bodies is somehow lost on Sontag, but not on me. I will return to this point in a moment. Male self-control, submission to the charisma of the male body, perfect choreography with the ornamental of naked primitives, and the triumph of power constitute some of the appeals that Sontag attributes to these pictures, and to Nazi ideology, more generally. Most importantly, Sontag identifies in fascism a timeless aesthetics in the form of, “the cult of beauty, the fetishism of courage, the dissolution of alienation in ecstatic feelings of community; the repudiation of the intellect; the family of man (under the parenthood of leaders).” (Sontag). Central to Sontag’s formulation of fascist aesthetics is a sublimated sexuality where women are both object of contemplation and subject of the gaze, where the erotic of power takes the form of sadomasochistic sexuality, that is, an erotic ritual of domination and enslavement that makes Nazism and Fascism seem attractive (thus her infamous demonization of gay S-M sex, and all seduction in black leather for that matter).

At the end of the 1970s, Italian feminist Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi also explored Fascist ideology in its connection to women’s consent to fascism and female sexuality. Women, Macciocchi argues, “are also responsible, and in any case never innocent, in the old and new path of fascism.” (80) Mussolini targeted women, in need of their support in the early stages of his state power, addressing them in his speeches and political efforts in search for their adoration. What Macciocchi deems as “a theology of women” (67) begins with an idealization of the widows and mothers, turns to women as reproducers of the species, and creates a “new female metaphysics” (68) where “women are imprisoned in the iron ring of an eternal ‘mother image’.” (69). The cycle of heterosexual reproduction makes women not only the sacred link to the proliferation of a stronger and white nation, but also the guardians of men’ s heroic death in a totalitarian project that involves their action “dalla culla alla tomba.”

What we learn from the work of De Grazia, Macciocchi, Spackman and others is that Mussolini’s regime was not only about “returning women to home and hearth, restoring patriarchal authority, and confining female destiny to bearing babies.” (De Grazia, 1). The conservative gender politics of Fascism were real, indeed. The Fascist state compelled women to have more children by banning abortion, contraceptives, and sex education. After 1929, it dismissed women from professional work, from teaching in schools, and from higher education. Yet, Fascism was also about “the camaraderie of volunteers organizations and for recognizing rights and duties in a strong nation state” (De Grazia 1-2). It was also about female uniforms, the political and social life of the female clubs or Fasci femminili, the emancipation of women as mass consumers, efficient household managers, and leaders in the public sphere. It was also, as I have argued elsewhere, about their racial entitlement as guardians and reproducers of white bodies against Black bodies, about the class entitlement of urban women over Italian peasants. Fascism fascinated women with the promise of mobility and modernity, with the appeal of cleanliness and hygiene, virile masculinity, and slick style and visual aesthetics. In sum, the ambivalent fascination of fascism on women is to be found in the oscillation between heterogenous forms of heterosexual power and racial and class privilege. It is in the aesthetics of a political message that reinforces boundaries between bodies, making the private political, and reinforcing women leadership. If there is a threat of Ur-fascism, a fascism that, as Umberto Eco defines it, contains “a list of features that are typical” (Eco, 289) of fascism as the result of a combination of its various historical - yet often contradictory - forms, then the elements above mentioned may help us understand the fascination of Giorgia Meloni in present-day Italy.

Essential Bibliography

Susan Sontag, “Fascinating Fascism.” Under the Sign of Saturn. New York, 1980: 73-105.

Victoria De Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women, Italy, 1922-1945. Berkeley, University of California Press,

Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi, “Sexuality in Fascist Ideology.” Feminist Review, N. 1 (1979): 67-82.

Barbara Spackman, Fascist Virilities: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Social Fantasy in Italy, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996

Umberto Eco, “Eternal fascism.” Fascism, anti-fascism, and the Resistance in Italy, 1919- to the Present. Edited by Stanislao G. Pugliese, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004, pp. 289-293.

2. Amanda Minervini, Colorado College
“Girls will be Boys? A Gender-Based Analysis of Giorgia Meloni's Speech Acts”

In my intervention for this Giornata di Studio, I would like to discuss the issue of Giorgia Meloni's language framed through the triple lenses of a feminist, linguistic, and historical analysis. I am a scholar of Italian Fascism who has been invested in trying to introduce gender neutrality in the teaching of Italian language in the US. Having encountered resistance even in the academic environment, I would like to highlight how the political dynamics on which we are focusing today could, and should, also act as a warning in our very own field.

As the call for proposals suggests, it is especially interesting to analyze, in light of the main questions of this Giornata, what Meloni's choice of the masculine article could say about Meloni's "feminism" and participation in a supposed "sisterhood." While this choice is easy to dismiss and label, swiftly and superficially, as "right-wing," I would also like to suggest that there are more complex layers that would be worth discussing in feminist and nonbinary terms, as well as in light of historical research on Italian Fascism.

One of the first questions to ask, which I also believe was a motivation for this day of discussion is what Meloni says about Italian culture and politics.

Let's look at Meloni's choice to be addressed as "Il Presidente" instead of "la Presidente," as one might have expected from someone who identifies as a woman. Instead of breaking the glass-ceiling, it seems that the gender choice of the first female Primo Ministro has constituted it as a bullet-proof glass: when in power, act like a man (a male). It is crystal-clear, to continue along the glass metaphor, that when power is involved, and especially political power, male imitation is still the way to go.

There are some complications to this analysis if one only dares to look at nonbinary people and the current efforts for genderless and gender-inclusive grammar in the Italian language [see: Papadopolous, Minervini, et al]. Before Meloni's election, my own title was "Il direttore," and my language of choice remains English because of the better opportunities for language neutrality. I am also a scholar of Fascism and a very convinced leftist, so the fact that my gender choice will be identified as right-wing, is extremely problematic. My reason for such a choice are radically different from what I am assuming Meloni's are: to confirm status by imitating male power. So, I invite everyone to consider how the same choice cannot have the same political reading, if motivated by radically different reasons.

As a scholar of Fascism, I have also had my own different reading of Meloni's use of Saint Francis and Montessori, for instance. While I saw outrage for the way these mentioned were perceived as an unduly appropriation, we must face the evidence that Meloni is right (as much as it costs me to admit it). Meloni is pointing precisely and unwaveringly at the fascist elements within the figures of St. Francis of Assisi (or better, the Fascist appropriations of this saint, see Minervini), and of Montessori and Mussolini's reciprocal early sympathies (at least from 1924 to 1931, see Moretti, Quarfood).

Once again, as scholars, we are facing the consequences of a never-digested history of Fascism, as well as the effects of the detachment of academia from larger audiences in Italy. We know that excellent works on Italian fascism have been translated into Italian and do circulate in Italy, but the main representations and discourses (for instance in film and television) remain all'oscuro.

Cited Works

Minervini, A. (2021). Educational Materials. www.amandaminervini.weebly.com/educational-materials.html

Minervini, A. (2017). “Face to Face: Iconic Representations and Juxtapositions of St. Francis of Assisi and Mussolini during Italian Fascism” in M. Epstein, F. Orsitto, A. Righi, TOTalitarian Arts: the Visual Arts, Fascism(s) and Mass Society.

Moretti, E. (multiple publications).

Papadopoulos, B. (Ed.). (2022). Gender in Language Project. www.genderinlanguage.com

Quarford, C. (2017). Montessoris pedagogiska imperium.

3. Ruth Glynn, University of Bristol
“Giorgia Meloni: Femonationalist Matriarch?”

Giorgia Meloni’s emergence at the helm of the Italian State would appear to represent something of a revolution in Italian politics. The first woman to lead a political youth group; the youngest vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies, the youngest minister in the history of the Republic, the first woman to lead a political party, the first Italian woman to lead a European political group and, now, Italy’s first female prime minister, Meloni would appear to bear all the hallmarks of a feminist icon in the making – particularly when we consider her rise against the backdrop of the misogynistic political climate of Berlusconismo and the wider antifeminist culture so widely contested by feminist and women’s groups since the ‘Se non ora quando?’ protests in 2011.

However, Meloni’s extraordinary success presents something of a conundrum for feminists. If, like Margaret Thatcher before her, Meloni’s success in breaking through apparently invincible barriers to reach the heart of establishment has enormous symbolic value, normalising women’s political and social leadership, her expressly anti-feminist stance strikes a contradictory note for feminism.

Rather than exploring her public performances, I want to focus here on Meloni’s self-representation in her autobiography Io sono Giorgia (2021), interpreted in the light of Francesca Scrinzi’s work on women’s activism and gender relations in the Lega Nord (2013), and Daria Colella’s discussion of Fratelli d’Italia’s deployment of femonationalist discourse in the 2018 electoral campaign (2021). The autobiography, published in advance of the 2022 national election campaign, strikes a cautious note in relation to the more extreme elements of Fratelli d’Italia’s policies and represents an attempt to appeal a wider potential electorate than had been addressed before; it thus focuses on central but more palatable aspects of the party’s political project.

In relation to gender norms, Io sono Giorgia reveals a key development in the way that women’s participation in the political sphere in Italy is articulated. Significantly, Meloni’s self-representation as ‘donna, madre, italiana, cristiana’ places her identity as a woman and a mother at the forefront of her political persona. The inclusion of reference to Meloni’s maternal status might appear to build on the practices of female outsiders in the Italian political sphere – militants of the anni di piombo, left and right, and activists in the Lega Nord – who legitimated their political activity with reference to an ethics of maternal care that extends beyond the nuclear family to the wider social family. However, Meloni refuses to play the maternal card to justify her own political action while nonetheless insisting on the social value of maternity; that refusal, I would contend, represents genuine progress in relation to women’s role in Italian politics and should be acknowledged as such.

However, Meloni’s often subtle deployment of gender discourse and her imbrication of gender and nation presents a critical challenge for feminists. Her primary identification as a woman in the political sphere in Io sono Giorgia presents a complex understanding of her relationship to gender norms. On the one hand, Meloni defends her right to political protagonism in overt defiance of those who believe women are unsuited to the pursuit of power. On the other, she veers between defending women’s political potential as an extension of their acknowledged capacities within the domestic sphere and constructing her own political activism in accordance with the masculinist discourses also deployed in the self-representation of the women of the Lega Nord (Scrinzi 2013). In that respect, Meloni’s narrative engenders a sense of her exceptionality as a political matriarch (in the guise of Margaret Thatcher) while reinforcing the patriarchal gendered division of labour and undermining rather than promoting the gender equality she purports to encourage and represent.

However, it is Meloni’s imbrication of gender discourse with an understanding of her national, religious, European and Western identity that lays bare the femonationalist politics at the heart of her political project. As outlined by Sara Ferris (2017), femonationalism represents the contemporary mobilization of feminist ideas by nationalist parties and neoliberal governments under the banner of the war against perceived patriarchy of non-western migrants, while also reshaping the meaning of gender and reinforcing patriarchal norms. Though Meloni avoids overt attacks on non-Italian others, her pronatalist defence of the traditional Italian family and her discussion of her Italian, European and Western Christian identity implicitly speaks of a project to preserve the tradition and purity of the national body in a manner that reinforces traditional and patriarchal norms.

Meloni’s premiership thus proposes a model of female political participation that has grave implications for Italian feminism.


Anon, ‘Margaret Thatcher: A Feminist Icon?’, The Women’s Blog, The Guardian, 5 Jan 2012 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2012/jan/05/margaret-thatcher-feminist-icon

Colella, Daria, ‘Femonationalism and the Anti-Gender Backlash: The Instrumental Use of Gender Equality in the Nationalist Discourse of the Fratelli d’Italia Party’, Gender & Development, 29:2-3 (2021), 269-89

Farris, Sara, In the Name of Womens’ Rights: The rise of Femonationalism (Duke UP, 2017)

Meloni, Giorgia, Io sono Giorgia: Le mie radici, le mie idee (Rizzoli, 2021)

Scrinzi, Francesca, ‘Women’s Activism and Gender Relations in the Northern League (Lega Nord) Party’, unpublished paper, 7th ECPR General Conference, Sept 2013

4. Roger J. Crum, University of Dayton
“Io Sono! Giorgia Meloni’s Feminist Authorship of Her Own ‘Righteous’ Image”

Since the early 1990s and her teenage years, Giorgia Meloni has been involved in conservative, even far right, and some—those most alarmed—would argue near neo-Fascist political organizations as she has been correspondingly focused and notably vocal around the steady advancement of the concerns and agenda of these organizations. In this history Meloni has also been aligned, in perspective and in tone, with conservative, far right political movements elsewhere Europe and in the United States (appearing at the CPAC convention, among other international speakers, as the “face” of contemporary Italian conservatism). The most evident and recent result of Meloni’s commitments was her election as Prime Minister of Italy on October 22, 2022. In this history, regardless of how it is interpreted and classified along the political spectrum, Meloni has also been very much a budding and active politician in the contemporary, media-culture mode. She has been so (and continues to be) not simply in her vigorous and vociferous campaigning and the consistency of her messaging, but in her evident, indeed vigorous strategy of self-definition, publishing two books that present a national agenda transparently cloaked in the genre of autobiography, and being nearly omnipresent in her campaign appearances, interviews, and visual presentations of her person. These appearances, interviews, and presentations of herself have been notably characterized by Meloni’s strident insistency that she is not at all a pawn or megaphone of the far right; rather, and quite to the contrary, she—by her own insistency and messaging—is entirely her own person whose views and commitments, as she has presented herself as a candidate/politician and now as a public servant, are naturally held and not agenda-driven by forces puppet-controlled from behind any ideological curtain larger, less honest, and less present than herself.

Presence, here, a kind of “Io sono Giorgia!” (to quote the far-from-self-effacing title of Meloni’s recent autobiography) visual presence is key. In all of this Meloni is uncontestably the author, indeed the “artist” or “iconographer” of her own visual image, a fact not insignificantly underscored by the double appearance of herself as both “I am” and “here is my portrait” on the cover of that same autobiography. Perhaps no woman in Italian or Italian global politics has exerted a more concerted control, careful control, over her publicized image since Peter Paul Rubens collaborated with (perhaps even was controlled by) Marie de’ Medici as he mythologized the French queen in the 17th century or, more recently—and more notoriously—since Ilona Staller (better known by her stage name “La Cicciolina”) fashioned and had herself fashioned as a “serious” political player and politician. To be sure, in the era of photography, television, and public advertising, the projection of likeness of modern political candidates is de rigueur; yet a case can be made that feminism or, more specifically femminismo di destra, is additionally an essential methodological frame for seeing the shaping, presentation, and reception of Giorgia Meloni’s portrayal of her image and visage in person and in publicized imagery on banners, posters, and television advertisements. Focusing and giving credence (which is precisely Meloni’s intent) on this imagery of campaign rallies, political posters, interviews, the words “Io sono” and Meloni’s own image on her book cover, and especially “selfies” of which Meloni is an avid participant (what is rather like the contemporary equivalent of politicians “kissing babies), this intervention will provide an overview of Meloni’s public image in the context of a commentary or gloss on this imagery as a collective, feminist (or perhaps, debatably, feminationalist) act of self-authored and insistently-independent self-portrayal to the specific political end of presenting Italy with the “right” political persona as solution.


Vanessa Friedman, “Giorgia Meloni and the Politics of Power Dressing,” The New York Times, November 9, 2022.

Paul Kirby, “Who is Giorgia Meloni? The Rise to Power of Italy’s New Far-Right PM,” BBC News, October 21, 2022.

Giorgia Meloni, Noi crediamo, 2011.

Giorgia Meloni, Io sono Giorgia. Le mie radici le mie idee, 2021.

Giorgia Meloni campaign speech, October 20, 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXocFMRtBQk

Giorgia Meloni official website: https://www.giorgiameloni.it/

5. Ursula Fanning, University College Dublin
“Meloni, Thatcher, Robinson, McAleese, McDonald: Women, Power, Navigating Gender”

This paper seeks to briefly probe the historically problematic relationship between women and power (lack of access in the first instance, modes of access and the use of this power thereafter), as well as to pose questions around ‘femininity’ and feminism. Examples are taken mainly from the Italian context (Meloni’s Janus-faced self-promotion as mother: ‘io sono Giorgia, sono una madre’, alongside her simultaneous rejection of her feminine gender when it suits as she falls back on resolutely masculine terms to describe her role, ‘il ministro’, ‘il Presidente’) and the UK (Margaret Thatcher as Iron Lady, ‘handbagging’ Ministers, ‘dutiful’ wife and ‘absent-minded’ mother) – both of these women right-wing and adamantly opposed to feminism; these examples are juxtaposed with others from the Irish context (President Mary Robinson, President Mary McAleese, and particularly Mary-Lou McDonald, head of Sinn Féin and likely to be the next Irish Taoiseach), all left-wing and firmly identifying as feminists.

It is fascinating that Italy and Ireland, countries often represented in similar terms by both historians and the media (‘Catholic’, often profoundly conservative, family-centred, the campanilismo of one mirrored by the ‘parish-pump’ politics of the other) find themselves at the start of 2023 led, in one instance, by a strong and charismatic right-wing woman and in the other with a strong and charismatic left-wing female party leader poised to take power in the next general election. I suggest that both Meloni and McDonald stand for ‘something different’, in terms of their function of and roles within their political parties (both of which are strongly associated with particularly masculist ways of ‘doing politics’ that also hark back to a dark past) and also that their parties have been/are particularly well-positioned to take power at this moment, since they constitute the only effective political opposition to broad coalitions in their respective countries.

The public interest in (even fascination with) such figures is fed by the media, which in all instances, falls back on tired tropes to characterise them. This speaks to our relative unfamiliarity (and to a widespread discomfort) with women in positions of power, as well as to media hegemony. The careful self-identifications and obfuscations of these women against this backdrop are also outlined. Meloni and McDonald (like Thatcher, Robinson and McAleese before them) are forced to contend with issues around gender in a way that is never expected of male politicians. Their femaleness, and how they measure up to expectations around femininity (as well as the expectations of feminism), seems ineluctable and inflects their characterisation and positioning of themselves as well as the language they use to describe themselves. They are profoundly different, and on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and yet they find themselves walking the same gender tightrope and standing, always, for more than themselves, more than their class, and even more than their politics.

Essential bibliography

Giorgia Meloni, Io sono Giorgia. Le mie radici, le mie idee (Rizzoli, 2021)

Susanna Turco, Re Giorgia. Controstoria della donna che si è presa l’Italia (Piemme, 2022)

Mary McAleese, Here’s the Story: A Memoir (Penguin, 2020)

Mary Robinson, Everybody Matters: A Memoir (Hodder, 2013)

Shane Ross, Mary Lou McDonald: A Republican Riddle (Atlantic, 2022)

Ursula Fanning, Professor of Italian Studies, UCD



1. Veronica Frigeni, School of Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam
“Un ministero per la natalità: il femminismo (conservatore) di Eugenia Roccella”

Eugenia Maria Roccella è stata nominata ministra per la Famiglia, la Natalità e le Pari Opportunità nel governo presieduto da Giorgia Meloni, il 22 ottobre 2022. Figlia di uno dei fondatori del partito radicale, Franco Roccella, e della pittrice Wanda Raheli, ha militato nel Partito radicale ed è stata leader del Movimento di liberazione della donna. Portavoce del Family Day nel 2007, nel 2008 e nel 2013 è stata eletta alla Camera dei Deputati nelle fila del Popolo della libertà. Sottosegretario di Stato al Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali e in seguito al Ministero della Salute nel governo Berlusconi IV, nel 2022 è stata rieletta alla Camera nelle fila di Fratelli d’Italia.

Roccella costituisce una figura imprescindibile per provare a verificare l’ipotesi di un possibile femminismo, se non post-femminismo, di destra. Ospite a In onda, trasmissione televisiva di La7, in data 25 agosto, durante un confronto con l’ex presidente della Camera Laura Boldrini, Roccella pronuncia la celebre affermazione “L’aborto è un diritto? Io sono una femminista e le femministe non lo hanno mai considerato un diritto”, poi ripresa dai principali quotidiani italiani. La sua nomina suscita aspre e controverse reazioni nel mondo femminista; esemplare è la diatriba con Loredana Lipperini che, nell’articolo “Cara Roccella dicci la verità sull’aborto”, pubblicato su La Stampa il 23 ottobre 2022, la invita a una maggiore onestà rispetto al proprio passato. La risposta immediata di Roccella conferma la sua posizione: nella lettera del 24 ottobre, su La Stampa, la ministra ribadisce che la sua affermazione trova origine proprio nel pensiero femminista della differenza, citando, per esempio, riflessioni di Carla Lonzi. La sua ‘storia particolare’, come lei stessa la definisce nella lettera affidata a La stampa, dalla firma del libricino del 1975 Aborto: facciamolo da noi sino alla copiosa analisi dei lasciti e dei limiti del movimento femminista, sviluppata nel pamphlet Dopo il femminismo (2001), può essere interpretata mediante categorie teoriche come quella di post-femminismo, femminismo neoliberista e maternalismo. Casalini in Il femminismo e le sfide del neoliberismo Postfemminismo, sessismo, politiche della cura, definisce il post-femminismo come “la presa d’atto dell’esaurimento del progetto femminista – ciò che viene “dopo” il femminismo, dopo il suo compimento” nell’ottica di un “femminismo che guarda a destra, celebra l’individualismo, e una visione imprenditoriale del sé” (2020, 8). Similmente il femminismo neoliberista indica un discorso che sostiene la possibilità di raggiungere l’emancipazione femminile entro e a partire dal sistema capitalista, attraverso l’ascesa professionale di un numero sempre maggiore di donne, che ricercano la conciliazione tra maternità e affermazione professionale. Quanto al maternalismo, esso designa tradizionalmente “un’attenzione nei confronti dell'assistenza alle madri” allorché si basa “sull’assunto che la maternità sia la condizione unificante del sesso femminile” (Pizzini, Lombardi: 2001, 46), e che si ripropone, a livello globale, nell’ultimo decennio, in una direzione fortemente conservatrice.

Tracciare un’ipotesi ermeneutica rispetto al femminismo di Roccella impone pertanto una riflessione e un chiarimento rispetto ad una serie di questioni dirimenti:

1. anzitutto, quali sono effettivamente le letture che il femminismo della differenza dà dell’aborto e della legge 194/78 (spesso sovrapposte e invece non coincidenti)? In particolare esiste ed è auspicabile un ripensamento femminista, come sostenuto da Roccella, o si tratta piuttosto di un arricchimento, di cui parla per esempio Luisa Muraro? E ancora, fino a che punto è coerente e storicamente corretto radicare una posizione ‘pro-life’ nel femminismo della differenza, senza ricorrere ad una fallace ambiguità semantica?

2. Nel contesto attuale, relativamente a maternità e natalità, quali sono le istanze e quali i possibili margini per un post-femminismo di destra, maternalista e/o matricentrico?

3. Infine, in che modo il post-femminismo auspicato da Roccella nel pamphlet del 2001 si può definire tale? Quali sono i punti di contatto e le distanze rispetto al femminismo neoliberale?

Essential Bibliography

B. Casalini, Il femminismo e le sfide del neoliberismo. Postfemminismo, sessismo, politiche della cura, IF Press, Roma, 2018

E. Roccella, Dopo il femminismo, Ideazione , Roma, 2001;

E. Roccella, “Ho imparato dal femminismo che l’aborto non è un diritto”, La Stampa, 24 ottobre 2022;

L. Muraro, “Il ripensamento femminista”, Libreria delle donne, 12 Febbraio 2005

2. Cristina Gragnani, Temple University
“Anna Franchi: Nazionalismo e femminismo dalla guerra di Libia alla prima guerra mondiale”

Nel 1916 esce il romanzo pamphlet di Anna Franchi Il figlio alla guerra. Stando all’autobiografia di Franchi, La mia vita (1940), il libro sarebbe stato commissionato alla scrittrice dall’editore Treves. Si tratta di un romanzo-manifesto che presenta i punti cardine dell’ideologia interventista di Franchi (maternità patriottica, valore e sacrificio dei soldati, demonizzazione del nemico, guerra come proseguimento e compimento del Risorgimento, guerra come missione per salvare l’umanità dal militarismo e dall’espansionismo tedesco). Il libro è parte di una trilogia di propaganda interventista che comprende un volume sulle terre irredente, Città sorelle (1915) e un libro per ragazzi che ribadisce la continuità della guerra in corso con il Risorgimento (A voi Soldati future dico la nostra guerra, 1916). La trama del Figlio alla guerra è scarna e delinea il percorso di crescita della narratrice (da madre angosciata per il figlio al fronte a madre eroica); della fidanzata del figlio (da giovane spensierata a generosa sposa di guerra); e del figlio stesso (da fanciullo svogliato a eroe). Integrano questa narrazione schematica esempi di virtù patriottica e lunghe digressioni ideologiche volte a promuovere l’idea della guerra giusta contro gli Imperi Centrali. Lo scopo più evidente dell’opera è quello di persuadere le donne ad accettare il sacrificio dei propri figli per il bene più alto della patria. Corpose sezioni sono dedicate alla costruzione del nemico. La retorica è quella dell’etnonazionalismo con una caratterizzazione razzista del popolo tedesco e una forte contrapposizione tra la virtù delle genti latine e la brutalità e inferiorità dei popoli germanici, basata sul concetto biologico di razza. Per chi conosce gli scritti di Franchi risalenti alle decadi precedenti la Prima Guerra Mondiale, tale violenza retorica può risultare sorprendente.

Anna Franchi era un’intellettuale e un’attivista che gravitava attorno al Partito Socialista. Oltre alle sue note battaglie (culminate nel coraggioso romanzo Avanti il divorzio, 1902) per una legge sul divorzio, la scrittrice aveva combattuto al fianco delle operaie toscane durante i moti del 1898, tanto da essere schedata dalla Prefettura. Cosa rimane della fede socialista e del femminismo di Franchi in un libro come Il figlio alla Guerra in cui esorta le donne a sacrificare i propri figli per la causa più alta della patria, critica il concetto di fratellanza universale e denuncia l’inferiorità biologica e morale della “razza” tedesca?

Il percorso di Franchi può essere compreso meglio se fatto dialogare con il contest della travaglita storia del rapporto delle femministe italiane con il pacifismo tardo ottocentesco e l’internazionalismo, il patriottismo di stampo risorgimentale e con l’idea di nazione. Il dibattito all’interno delle associazioni femministe dell’Italia liberale sul tema della guerra e della pace fu tortuoso e complesso, tanto che diverse posizioni convivevano all’interno della stessa associazione e si susseguivano nei percorsi individuali, come nel caso di attiviste come Alma Dolens (Teresita Pasini), che si espresso contro la Guerra di Libia ma a favore dell’entrata in guerra dell’Italia nel 1915.

Tante furono le femministe che passarono dal socialismo umanitario, l’antimilitarismo e il pacifismo a un’ideologia nazionalista e militarista (Anna Maria Mozzoni, Paolina Tarugi, Maria Rygier, Regina Terruzzi). Franca Pieroni Bortolotti prima, poi Augusta Molinari, Stefania Bartoloni, Emma Schiavon e Catia Papa hanno contribuito in modo sostanziale nell’identificare e

interpretare le ragioni profonde di un panorama tanto complesso. Nel mio intervento esporrò brevemente come Il figlio alla guerra si inserisca per molti versi nel solco dell’evoluzione del pacifismo femminista italiano verso un “pacifismo patriottico” (che intende la pace non come assenza di guerre ma come armonia tra nazioni a cui è garantito il diritto di autodeterminazione), l’adesione all’irredentismo e infine il support all’entrata dell’Italia in guerra. In particolare, vorrei sottolineare come, tra tutte le correnti interventiste attive allo scoppio della guerra, quella nazionalista sia diventata predominante tanto da “infiltrare” la propria retorica anche negli scritti dei cosiddetti “interventisti democratici,” di cui Franchi faceva parte. Il discorso interventista nazionalista basato sulla celebrazione della superiorità della stirpe latina e della missione civilizzatrice di Roma, accolta da numerose attiviste del suffragismo italiano, affondava le sue radici negli stessi principi etno-antropologici alla base dell’orientalismo di tante femministe che avevano sostenuto la guerra di Libia per “civilizzare” i popoli conquistati. Gli stessi principi avrebbero poi trovato, in un orizzonte geopolitico mutato, inquietanti sbocchi retorici e concettuali nella mistica fascista della razza italica, e della sua appartenenza al ceppo indoeuropeo.


Stefania Bartoloni, Donne di fronte alla Guerra: Pace, diritti e democrazia (Bari, Laterza 2017).

Anna Franchi, Il figlio alla guerra (Milano, Treves, 1917).

Augusta Molinari, Una patria per le donne: La mobilitazione femminile nella Grande Guerra (Bologna, Il Mulino, 2014).

Catia Papa, Sotto altri cieli. L’oltremare nel movimento femminile italiano (Roma, Viella 2009).

Emma Schiavon, Interventiste nella Grande Guerra: Assistenza, propaganda, lotta per i diritti a Milano e in Italia (1911-1919) (Firenze, Le Monnier, 2015).

3. Katharine Mitchell, University of Strathclyde
“The (Anti?) Feminism of Matilde Serao”

Matilde Serao (1856-1927) from Naples was the author of around forty works of fiction and the first woman in the new Italy to establish and run her own daily newspaper, Il Giorno, from 1904 to 1927 (she also co-founded several other newspapers in Rome and Naples). Known internationally for her fiction, she was widely translated into French, English, German, Dutch, Spanish, Finnish, Swedish, Russian and Bulgarian. She was nominated on four separate occasions for the Nobel prize for Literature, and was also a playwright and screenwriter in the latter part of her career.

Much has been written in the last few decades about her ‘two faces’. Indeed, on the one hand her early non-fiction writings which address a male readership reveal an ideological stance against the movement for female emancipation, divorce, and female autonomy. For example, in 1878 she published an article in Il Piccolo entitled ‘Votazione femminile’ in which she objected to the vote for women on the basis that it would be a ‘voto alle signore’, and in a later piece published in the same journal, which appeared in 1880, she argued that women should not be politicians because they are only capable of ‘feeling’ and not ‘reasoning’. She also argued that women should not become lawyers and they must not have political opinions. At most, “they can be monarchs” (Corriere di Roma, 1887). Such examples reveal Serao’s outspoken stance against the movement for female emancipation.

On the other hand, Serao’s journalism intended for a female readership is revealing of her concern for, and sympathy with, the social and psychological pressures affecting ordinary women from all social backgrounds in their daily lives (for example, arranged marriages (until 1910); women’s legal subordination to men; women’s confinement to the ‘private’ sphere of the home and their limited access to the professions and formal and higher education). From 1885 to 1886 she ran a column for women readers in the Corriere di Roma (which she established with her then husband Eduardo Scarfoglio from whom she later separated), and her theatre and cinema reviews, as well as her fiction, are revealing of a sincere and sustained sympathy for women from all social backgrounds. For example, in Serao’s short story ‘La virtù di Checchina’ (1883), the narrator gently mocks the physician, and, by extension, the scientific profession for incorrectly diagnosing the female protagonist, and Ursula Fanning (2002) has shown how Serao foregrounds female friendships in her fiction.

If at the start of her career, Serao was expressing views against the movement for female emancipation, from around the 1903 onwards (the year in which she separated from her husband), Serao began to show a more open attitude towards feminism. By this point, Serao had firmly established herself as a renowned writer and journalist and was in her forties. During the 1890s, her husband had had a child with a singer and actor and had continued to court other women, but would not leave Serao. In her conduct manual Saper vivere (1900), Serao speaks favourably and sympathetically of unmarried women, and encourages them to enjoy the freedoms singlehood has to offer. In 1906, Serao published an open letter in her newspaper Il Giorno in which she stated she ‘profoundly respects feminism’ and that she is ‘also a feminist […] [in her] own way’. In 1911, she collaborated on a fashion magazine with a female emancipationist from Florence, Donna Paola, (pen name for Paola Baronchelli Grosson), and Serao took part in Italy’s International Congress of Women in 1915 as part of the press committee. As an anti-fascist, she was a signatory of the Manifesto of the Antifascist Intellectuals. On her death, the New York Times labelled her a ‘feminist leader’ for her ‘invasion’ of literature and journalism, ‘two fields which were then considered reserved to men’ (Cortesi, 1927).

In an interview with Ugo Ojetti in 1894, Serao revealed that she saw herself as belonging to a “school” of predominantly male writers as opposed to being perceived as a “woman witer”: ‘Noi quattro (intendo Verga, De Roberto, me e un po’ Capuana) accusati di scorrettezza abbiamo un pubblico che ci segue e ci legge’ (p. 236-7). She was also reportedly labelled a “hermaphrodite” by Verga. Was Serao’s success built on her embrace of her ‘difference’ from other women writers of the day and what might be termed a typical ‘boys’ club’ in a deeply patriarchal and misogynist culture? Do these cultures necessarily require their female leaders to uphold ‘the boys’ club’ (different from more ‘progressive’ cultures, for example, Scotland and New Zealand, which each boast self-identifying feminist leaders)? Taking Serao as a case study of a celebrity conservative woman pioneer, this talk will consider the reasons why the patriarchy has a compulsion to label such women ‘feminist’, despite never fully self-identifying as such.

Select bibliography

Fulvia Abbondante, ‘Il femminismo antifemminista nel pensiero di Matilde Serao: ugualianza formale vs. uguaglianza sostanziale’ in Il diritto incontra la letteratura, ed. by Silvio Torre (Naples: Edizioni scientifiche italiane, 2017), pp. 61-65.

Wanda De Nunzio Schilardi, ‘L’antifemminismo di Matilde Serao’, in La parabola della donna nella letteratura italiana dell’Ottocento (Bari: Adriatica, 1983), pp. 277-329.

Katharine Mitchell, ‘La Marchesa Colombi, Neera, Matilde Serao: Forging a Female Solidarity in Late Nineteenth-Century Journals for Women’, Italian Studies 63: 1 (2008), 63-84.

---------, Gender, Writing, Spectatorships: Evenings at the Theatre, Opera, and Silent Screen in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy and Beyond (London: Routledge, 2022), pp. 144-162.

Katarzyna Romanowska, ‘Non chiamatemi femminista! Il caso di Neera, Matilde Serao e Natalia Ginzburg’ in Acta philologica 43 (2013), 215-222.

Matilde Serao: International, Profile, Reception, and Networks, eds Gabriella Romani, Ursula Fanning, and Katharine Mitchell (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2022)

4. Erin Larkin, Southern Connecticut State University
“Benedetta. Futurist Genealogies of Giorgia Meloni’s Conservative Feminism”

When looking for literary and cultural genealogies for the feminism of Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first female prime minister and co-founder of the ultraconservative political party Fratelli d’Italia, the women of Italian Futurism can provide valuable perspective. While the historical avant-garde offers compelling examples of the very rhetoric of exceptionalism that continues to be marker of conservative feminism, nowhere do these genealogies resonate more clearly in Meloni’s political becoming than in the work of Benedetta Cappa. “Io sono Giorgia, sono una donna, sono una madre, sono italiana, sono cristiana.” This refrain, which has come to define Meloni’s political persona, contains the same themes of nation, motherhood, and religious identity that were the organizing principles of Cappa’s futurist poetics. Like Meloni, Cappa was one of the few women in a movement of men. She acknowledged the privilege of this position, which was the subject of her first parole-in-libertà, Spicologia di 1 uomo (1919). In the concrete poem, handwritten words representing “components” of a man’s psychology float within a series of overlapping triangles that meet at an axis labeled "vuoto". The title is a play on futurist rejection of literary psychology (“spicologia”/psicologia), and the object of analysis is clearly Cappa’s spouse, the movement’s founder FT Marinetti, whose superstitious affinity for the number “1” was legendary. Echoing the concrete poem’s shape, its title also recalls “spica”: in ancient astrology, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo (spica virginis, “the virgin’s ear of wheat”) that figured prominently in the mystical traditions Cappa studied at the Theosophical Society of Rome in the 1920s. What is more, the poem carries the signature Benedetta fra le donne; that Cappa was blessed (“benedetta”) among women is ironic, as she was one of the only women in futurist circles. But it’s also a Biblical citation from the Gospel of Luke, in which Elizabeth—herself pregnant—sees Mary, and realizes that she is carrying the son of God. Thus, in her first publication, with its double Marian reference, Benedetta establishes the central themes of her later novels and political essays: that is, her identity as woman, artist, mother, and Christian.

There are limits to the Cappa-Meloni analogy, however. Cappa’s Futurism hinges on a binary opposition between the feminine and masculine. This dichotomy is explored in her 1924 experimental novel, Le Forze Umane, which features graphic syntheses embodying ‘forze femminili’ as abstract, spiritual energies, while ‘forze maschili’ are represented by vertically pointed shafts suggesting bellicose physicality. While Cappa’s work never breaks from this gender essentialism, the political persona and personal narrative crafted by Meloni play with traditional notions of the feminine and masculine. On the one hand, motherhood is a critical facet of her identity; calculated mentions of being mother allude to both the private (an interview concluded, she is off to make a birthday cake for Ginevra) and public (seemingly emotional at a recent Hanukkah celebration she explained, “Noi femmine […] siamo troppo sensibili, noi mamme in particolare.”) Conversely, her defining declamation “Io sono Giorgia, sono una donna, sono una madre […]” was followed by a defiant, “e non me lo toglierete!” Indeed, the hallmark of speeches that have gained her global infamy is precisely this rhetoric of heroic defiance: her voice raucous and low, posture strong, Meloni has cast herself as warrior defender of family, country, and religious freedom, a “soldato” who will not desert the battle. In fact, in looking for genealogies for her political performance, it would be fruitful to look to Marinetti himself. As important, the women of the PD, who in the words of journalist Monica Guerzoni, “hanno provato a scalare […] un partito formato […] dagli uomini”, while Giorgia Meloni “ha costruito un partito attorno a sé”, becoming the most powerful woman in the republic’s history. What remains to be seen is what progressives will learn in the post-Meloni era. Will they shake off their glass-ceiling headaches and learn from bruises earned? That’s why we are here today. Italy does not need a woman who is, in the words of Federica Passarella, a “maschio tra i maschi” or Antonio Polito a woman “brava come un uomo”. What Italy needs is a woman, not an exception. Una donna tra le donne.


Aspesi, Natalia. “Meloni e il dramma di noi sinistre.” La Repubblica, 27 Sept. 2022.

Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti). Le Forze Umane. Romanzo Astratto Con Sintesi Grafiche. Franco Campitelli Editore, 1924.

----------, Spicologia di 1 uomo, 1919. India ink on paper, 16 x 16 cm. Private collection.

Passarella, Federica. “No, il femminismo non può essere di destra perché non può limitare i diritti delle donne.” The Vision, 2 Sept. 2022.

Pellizzari, Tommaso. Elezioni 2022: Giorgia Meloni premier sarebbe una buona notizia per le donne? Il podcast. Corriere Della Sera, 9 Sept. 2022.

Polito, Antonio. “Giorgia Meloni ha un problema con le donne? La variabile del fattore D.” Corriere Della Sera, 4 Sept. 2022.

5. Jordi Valentini, Università di Torino
“«Eowyn» (1976-1982): politica e cultura fantasy nei femminismi di destra”

Nell’immaginario storico e culturale legato agli anni Settanta, si è soliti ricondurre all’editoria alternativa e ciclostilata i movimenti di contestazione specialmente collocati nella sinistra extraparlamentare. Riviste come Re Nudo o A/Traverso, radio libere e i Festival del Proletariato Giovanile di Parco Lambro (1975-1976) sono espressioni di una cultura eversiva che si esprime, specialmente nella seconda metà del decennio, attraverso musica e letteratura, teatro e saggi meno aderenti ai classici del marxismo. Anche i movimenti femministi sono attraversati da questo interesse maggiore per la creatività delle donne: antologie di poesia, canzoni e teatro, così come la ricerca di una genealogia, di “madri culturali”, coincide con le delusioni sul piano politico tanto nel rapporto con i partiti quanto con i movimenti extraparlamentari. Pur continuando a ottenere vittorie importanti sul piano istituzionale – la legge 194 sull’aborto nel 1978, la legge 442 che cancella delitto d’onore e matrimonio riparatore nel 1981 – i movimenti femministi avvertono, come tutti i movimenti di contestazione sorti specialmente dal Sessantotto, la stagione del “riflusso”. La riflessione sul decennio passato, sulla critica e l’autocritica delle scelte politiche e di prassi, come la pratica del separatismo, si unisce al riconoscimento di una presenza che è penetrata nello stesso circuito alternativo e anti-editoriale reso popolare dalla sinistra rivoluzionaria. I movimenti giovanili a destra organizzano i propri festival e producono le proprie riviste ciclostilate, con modalità simili a quelle di altri movimenti diametralmente opposti sul piano delle idee politiche. In questo contesto sorge la rivista Eowyn (1976-1982), fondata da militanti del Fronte della Gioventù, che si discosta dai movimenti femministi criticandone il “malcostume” e la lotta al maschio, a cui invece le donne di destra guardano, pur non risparmiandogli delle critiche sul piano politico, come a un “camerata”.

Il confronto con Tolkien e il personaggio di Eowyn è più strumentale che altro: una donna cui non pesa il ferro della spada., come scrivono le redattrici, è disposta a combattere la battaglia contro il Male a fianco degli uomini. Rispecchia per questo un’ideale di donna forte, indipendente,

ma al tempo stesso per nulla incrinante il privilegio maschile nella società patriarcale.

L’intento principale della rivista è quello di sostituire all’immaginario di stampo fascista

quello del fantasy tolkieniano, che si richiama a un medioevo estremamente stilizzato. A questo si uniscono, in Eowyn, interventi sul ruolo della donna nella tragedia greca, sul cinema e sulla letteratura, ma i temi portanti restano quelli che corrispondono a un preciso discorso politico. In questo caso, l’intento di Eowyn è condurre una serrata e continua critica all’aborto, difendere la famiglia e il ruolo di donna come madre, oltre che esaltare i progressi in materia di diritti delle donne durante il fascismo, cos. da dipingere quest’ultimo in una luce positiva e priva di quelle “strumentalizzazioni” proposte da sinistra. La parola d’ordine è “Tradizione”, complementarità al posto di parità (con l’appropriazione dello Ying-Yang e della cultura orientale a sottolineare questo messaggio). Le poesie contro l’aborto rispecchiano quelle che in ambiente femminista si scrivono a favore, le inchieste su donne e lavoro non chiedono un salario per il lavoro domestico, o più diritti nelle fabbriche e in altri spazi dove il lavoro delle donne è sfruttato, ma difendono l’angelo del focolare come autenticamente femminile, contro la “imitazione” del maschio. Di particolare interesse, volendo marcare la differenza tra l’esperienza di Eowyn e i movimenti femministi, è inoltre la comune ricerca di madri culturali, oltre che la riflessione intorno alla propria genealogia: le redattrici della rivista missina attaccano figure come Simone de Beauvoir e Simone Weil, mentre mostrano una forte fascinazione per donne-icona della Germania nazista, come la cantante e attrice Zarah Leander e la regista Leni Riefenstahl. L’analisi delle figure della tragedia greca è tesa a sottolineare quanto finemente autori come Eschilo ed Euripide abbiano caratterizzato “l’identità femminile”, contro la critica della cancellazione della donna dalla storia del pensiero occidentale portata, per esempio, da Luce Irigaray in Speculum (pubblicato in Italia nel 1975), con frequenti esempi dalle figure del mito.

Bibliografia essenziale

Lucio Del Corso, Paolo Pecere, Tolkien e la destra: una storia tutta italiana, minima&moralia, https://www.minimaetmoralia.it/wp/estratti/tolkien-e-ladestra-una-storia-italiana/.

Gianpiero De Vero, Ombra e mito in Tolkien, Napoli, Tempi Moderni Edizioni, 1980.

Nicola Guerra, La rivista Eowyn (1976–1982) e il femminismo personalizzante delle donne neofasciste, Seria Ştiinţe Filologice Lingvistică., a. XLIV, n. 1-2, Analele Universităţiidin Craiova, 2022, pp. 296-326.

Anna Nozzoli, Fascismo e letteratura femminile, Salvo Imprevisti. Donne Mito Linguaggio, a. V, n. 14-15, maggio-dicembre 1978, pp. 11-16

Cinquant’anni di stampa e propaganda della destra italiana (1945-1995), Senato della Repubblica, Convegno 11 febbraio 2022 - https://www.senato.it/application/xmanager/projects/leg18/file/repository/