The world is going through a very peculiar moment: what happened in Tunisia and Egypt seems to have sparked protests in North Africa and Middle East. Much has been written on the role of social networks in these revolutions, and it couldn’t have been different, since Internet has become a staple in our lives. These countries are fighting against unemployment, corruption and an increasing cost of living, and it looks like they’re actually taking their future in their hands. I don’t know if this brings to a democratic turn (hope so), but in any case it shows how people should stand up for their rights. Protesting is not easy, the fear of being misunderstood or exploited is always around the corner, but no one but ourselves can do it. This also refers to the feminist manifestation which has recently taken place in Italy. I’ve read lots of comments by women who were just annoyed by it , which demonstrates how long is the road leading to sex equality. I cannot help but thinking the world is changing but in my country everybody (most of women, too) is pretending everything is okay. I am afraid we will have a rude awakening. As for me, I won’t stop speaking my mind, no matter what, and trying to give voice to women who – I’m sure – can provide a self-conscious, empowering and positive model for other women and for younger generations, despite those who willingly embrace a lack of commitment as a lifestyle.
This week’s guest blogger is Chiara, an Italian girl living in London.
* What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I imagine it would be finding myself in a situation where I lack freedom (of whichever kind), or if my life was dominated by fear. And also if I had lost the drive to live, to be curious, to discover new things and learn.
* What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I could say being at peace with oneself, if that can ever be achieved. More prosaically, sometimes earthly happiness is just a song that you love unexpectedly being played on the radio; running your fingers through silk or velvet; enjoying the silence; seeing, or reading, something that is beautiful; a glass of water when you’re thirsty, sitting in an empty cinema. I will stop before becoming even cheesier.
* Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
It’s hard to say, somehow I can only think of fictional heroes (one of them is Cosimo from Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees). When I was 13, I remember reading a book by Andrea de Carlo and wanting to be like the main female character. She was called Misia Mistrani. I recently picked up that book and whilst I still liked that character, I found the book unreadable! She had a lot of influence on me though – that’s how I started becoming interested in the late Sixties/ Seventies style, washed out jeans and mostly velvet jackets. A more recent addition is perhaps Sabina, one of Tomas’s mistresses in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I haven’t finished reading it, but could identify in this woman who is constantly moving, but can’t get away from herself. And, of course, Margot Tenenbaum. We have so many things in common.
* Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
She has been my favourite for many years – Frida Kahlo. In the last couple of years, I have also come to call Pina Bausch as, if not a hero, an example to follow – I love the fact that their work reflects and is imbued with their courage, passion and determination as well as their fragility. In general, though, there are many women that are my “heroines” in daily life, for example the portatrici carniche, women that during WW1 climbed the mountains every day to bring food and munitions to the men at the front.
* What is your most vivid memory of the 90s (from music, fashion, politics, culture)?
My answers might sound slightly strange, probably a bit disconnected, considering that I turned three in 1990. But these are some of the things I remember: Berlusconi’s electoral message on TV in 1994, TV programs such as Tunnel and Pippo Chennedy (I can recall my school friends and I repeating the jokes and punchlines without understanding the satirical aspect of them), the France ’98 World Cup, the Spice Girls and the outrageously ugly shoes they brought into fashion, black nail polish, torn jeans, or jeans that had been cut in the most absurd ways, black jeans, flannel check shirts (I had one!), big logos (especially Nike Air), colourful hair, Prozac+ and the song Acido/Acida, Oasis…..
* What does “feminism” mean to you?
It is hard to talk about feminism at this specific time, especially seeing what is going on in Italy. I would say feminism means both acknowledging that man and women function in different ways but are equal and demanding that this equality is respected, even if it means being “difficult” or “boring” instead of shrugging off sexist or vulgar comments (see the episode at Premio Campiello). I think nowadays feminism is more about this than burning bras or screaming “chauvinist!” if a man holds the door open for you .
* Have you ever given an active contribution to the feminist cause?
Perhaps not in an organised way, I have never taken part in marches or protests, but on an individual level I believe I do, for example when I try to explain that “It’s the girls’ choice to be there, they’re not being forced to” is not really a valid statement when talking about sexism in Italian TV.
* Have you ever experienced sexism?
I’m not sure if it can be called sexism, but to me it is. For three years, I was constantly teased for just about everything I did, but mostly about my looks and weight. This was because most boys in the class couldn’t stand the fact that I was getting better marks than them. The saddest thing is that I’m not sure how much this behaviour was influenced, or even encouraged, by their families (“Are you going to let a girl be better than you?”); they were, after all, quite young. I am still trying to overcome some of the things that were said to me.
* The quality you most admire in a man?
Respect, both for himself and for others, kindness, willingness to learn, and the ability to put up with a woman who might be more intelligent or better paid than him.
* The quality you most admire in a woman?
As above, but I would also add independence and determination.
* What is your motto?
It used to be “whatever it is, do it with class”. It still is, but I would add “Whatever it is, do it the best way you can” – you shouldn’t get away with being mediocre.
* What is the object that represents you most?
I feel it’s my specs, my black kohl and my handwriting.
* Who would you have liked to be?
I don’t know. Maybe Yoko Ono. I think she is an incredible artist!
* Could you put your identity into a few key words?
Difficult one. I think my most identifiable trait is that I’m unpredictable. In a random order: a traveller, an observer, a weird Friulian/European/Argentinian mix with a passion for Asia, a tea drinker, a lover -and- supporter of all art forms, a blend of idealism and cynicism.
* How do you imagine your identity changing in ten years? Or twenty?
This question comes at a moment in which I’m not very happy with myself, because it’s a moment of stasis. I hope in ten years’ time I will be less insecure, a bit more focused and not always feeling as if my body is in one place and my brain is somewhere else. I know that this constant looking out for new things, wanting to move, wishing I was somewhere else is part of me – I am after all an Aquarius – but I hope it develops in a slightly more positive feeling, rather than the almost suffering that it is now. Something like learning to cope with the constant fear of being stuck in situations and not being able to find the way out.
I’d like to thank Chiara so much! I’ve known her for many years (virtually speaking) and she’s always been one of my biggest supporters. She’s much younger than me, but I think she constantly shows me how much passion, commitment, intelligence and wit a woman can brilliantly handle.
 I’m not saying they simply didn’t agree with the reasons of the protest (anyone should make her own mind up, when it comes to such an important subject). They were annoyed, like “I have to go to the centre of the city to meet friends and I probably won’t make it because of the manifestation”. This makes me wonder if they ever have a reason to protest in their lives. So shallow.