VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN FICTION

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by Sabrina Grementieri

On Saturday December 3rd there an important discussion was held among storytellers, writers and other experts in a prestigious setting at the Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana in Rome.

0-1The conference was co-organized by EWWA (European Writing Women Association) and WGI (Writers Guild of Italy) with collaboration from the Municipality of Rome— which was fundamental to the realization of the event—as represented by Cinzia Guido, the Councillor for Culture. Ms. Guido’s introduction immediately brought the audience’s attention to the heart of the problem: we always talk about violence against women through stereotypes, clichés, and we refer to them—always and only—as  victims. Instead they are people with dreams, plans, and character who did not want to submit. Male discrimination has deep and ancient roots, and it is through culture that we must start to change the state of things.

The first panel saw, first-hand, three true stories of violence and discrimination.

Journalist Francesca Romana Massaro spoke of her book L’età dell’oro – Il Caso Veronique based on a real case from the 1980s. A collective of women made a television broadcast that was so raw and real they were obstructed and ended up in court, where even the cultural world is exhibited in full view.

It was then Federica D’Ascani’s turn with her autobiographical Cristallo, in which she reports the danger and insidiousness of psychological violence, often the first sign of a future escalation of violence and abuse.

Luciana Capretti, writer and journalist, in her novel Tevere, tells the true story of a missing woman in the 1970s. The research she did on the woman’s life brought to light a history of lies, violence and silence that condemned her future.

The morning ended with a telephone interview with Linda Laura Sabbadini, ISTAT (National Institute of Statistics) Manager, who briefed us with some data and their meaning. As a high number of women still do not report violence, often because they do not even recognize it as such, the survey shows that in recent years, violence against women has decreased but increased in severity. This is because women, especially young women, are able to prevent it, to recognize it in advance, or to end the relationship before escalation. This growth of female awareness, however, increases the severity of the reaction, especially in the more traditional male sectors.

2The second panel, moderated again by journalist Giovanna Reanda, also included some prominent speakers. Marina Salamon, entrepreneur, writer and President of Doxa, a market research and analysis firm, reported some data on the evolution of  Italian society in the last sixty years. The first real progress on the status of women was in the ‘70s with the spread of affluence. It is clear that economic and cultural growth allows progress in the social status of women. Unfortunately the current crisis, with it’s depth and lack of apparent solutions, is leading to a regression and, although self-awareness of women is evident, the conflict between the sexes is still very strong.

Milly Buonanno, sociologist and founder of the Osservatorio della Fiction Italiana, described the female figure of women in fiction. There are two approaches to the representation of women, asserts Buonanno. One is characterized by a dimension of excess that we are often unaware of, in which it is almost always women who are the victims of violence. The intent is not problematization: it is only the way in which the collective imagination confirms the fact that women are victims. The second approach is characterized by voids and gaps. There are very few more substantial narrative representations, which directly address the issue of violence.

Screenwriter Vinicio Canton presented the findings from a survey among members of WGI and members of EWWA which shows that far too many women still do not report violence and have difficulty not only to recognize it but to seek help from institutions: from anti-violence centres to the police.

The picture that emerged from the morning discussions suggests that, despite obvious progress, there is still a world submerged in violence, harassment, and abuses that are not recognized and reported.

The afternoon workshop, with the participation of Alfonso Cometti, Head of Fiction Production for Mediaset, was an open discussion on fiction and reality. Screenwriters Giovanna Koch and Fosca Gallesio, and writer Adele Castellano Vieri brought attention to three different cases of violence and abuse. Giovanna Petrocca (Director of the State Police), Marina Marino (attorney), Maria Koch (social worker) and Anna Segre (psychotherapist) tried to clarify the present legal methods of reporting a crime and the resolution of individual cases, insisting upon the importance of contacting the appropriate institutions where there are people who are always prepared to listen, welcome, and protect.

The day ended with the presentation of two anthologies of short stories of violence – Eva non è sola and 4 Petals Rossi – by EWWA members Roberta Andres and Loriana Lucciarini. The objective was to raise money for three anti-violence centres and bring to light the world of oppression and violence that affects many women who are just like us.

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