We talk a lot about America being polarized, but it’s not the only country with cultural chasms you need crampons to cross.
Italy and France, despite being glamorised for their food and freedoms, are not homogenous philosophical blocks.
Just because all the cobbled roads in the quaint village you’re visiting are ‘Old World,’ it doesn’t mean everyone who lives there thinks like Voltaire and dresses like Giorgio Armani.
On that note: a new, scantily clad statue in an Italian town recently went viral for all the wrong reasons.
The bronze statue, which depicts a female character from a 19th century poem, has ignited discussion in Italy, with some politicians calling it“an offence to women” and demanding it be removed, and others coming to its defence.
— Francesca Piazzoni (@f_piazzoni) September 26, 2021
The statue portrays a woman from the poem The Gleaner of Sapri by Luigi Mercantini (a gleaner is someone who collects grain left in fields by harvesters). As the story goes, a female gleaner leaves her job to join a doomed expedition of revolutionaries.
The statue depicts the woman wearing a transparent and tight-fitting dress, with her right arm placed over her breasts.
The statue was unveiled in Sapri, a town in southern Italy, on the weekend. Backlash quickly grew. Some called for it to be removed. Others defended it.
Laura Boldrini, a former Speaker of the Italian Senate, said: “The statue… is an offense to women and the history it should celebrate.”
“But how can even institutions accept the representation of women as a sexualized body?”
“Male chauvinism is one of the evils of Italy.”
Ma come possono perfino le istituzioni accettare la rappresentazione della donna come corpo sessualizzato?
Il maschilismo è uno dei mali dell’Italia. pic.twitter.com/2msLhgJvso
— laura boldrini (@lauraboldrini) September 26, 2021
Monica Cirinna, a senator in Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party, called it “a slap on the face of history and of women, who are still (treated as) sexualised bodies.”
Sapri mayor Antonio Gentile defended the statue. He said it was “made with skill and impeccable interpretation” and he hoped it would become a major tourist attraction.
Other Twitter users shared various views on the statue, debating its merits (and flaws).
here in italy this statue is being criticized for being “sexist” and “offensive”. This reminds me of all the times I heard people complaining about Ivy from soulcalibur. We’re (re)entering an age in which beauty is sinful and must be hidden, even in art. Dark times indeed pic.twitter.com/MAPTpjQVaz
— Kaze No Arioch (@Kaze_No_Arioch) September 29, 2021
It’s not about sexy versus not. It’s about continual objectification of the female body. Your tweet makes you sound like you don’t understand the debate.
— Hilary Rowland (@hilaryrowland) September 29, 2021
The debate continued over on TikTok, where, beneath a video of journalist @sophiasmithgaler explaining the story, one user wrote: “Why can you not be a revolutionary fighter and also thicc.”
Another commenter wrote: “If she was covered the feminist comments would still pop out ‘you want us covered and in the kitchen'” to which Sophia responded: “this is just straight up daft. If she was dressed authentically I’m sure many would be happier.”
Watch Sophia go back and forth with commenters in the video below (as well as sharing more details about the statue controversy).
The statue’s creator, artist Emanuele Stifano responded to the controversy on Facebook with the following statement.
“I’m shocked and displeased by what I’m reading. I have been brought charges of all kinds that have nothing to do with my person and history. When I make a sculpture I always tend to cover the human body as little as possible, regardless of gender. In the case of the Editor, since it was placed on the seafront, I ‘took advantage’ of the sea breeze that invests it to move the long skirt, and so highlight the body.”
“This is to highlight an anatomy that should not have been a faithful instant of a 800 farmer, but rather to represent an ideal of a woman, evoke her pride, the awakening of a consciousness, all in a moment of great pathos.”
“I add that the preparatory sketch has been viewed and approved by the contracting authority.
To those who don’t know me personally I say that I continuously question my work, working with humility and always trying to improve myself, far from me to the great Masters of the past that represent a beacon that guides and inspires me.”