Thursday, September 22, 2011

Any publicity is good publicity!

Apologies for the week-long silence! My course, as much as I am loving it, has claimed the already insignifant amount of free time I possessed! My hilarously ambitious idea to post after each class or visit is proving laughably impossible. Perhaps once the course is finished I can come up with some kind of class-by-class summary.

This past Friday, I was surprised and delighted to learn that a journalist for the important Italian daily newspaper, Il Fatto Quotidiano, had not only stumbled upon my blog, but had written about one of my posts on the official blog of the paper. When I read her post thoroughly and discovered she was critisizing me, I was no less delighted. You may remember my post about the article in the Daily Telegraph misleadingly claiming that Italian women are the most unhappy in Europe. Il Fatto Quotidiano's Marika Borrelli wrote a post about the same subject, taking a much different angle. She used the article as a launching pad to discuss the gender issues in this country. Most of what she wrote is very true, and the discussion she is opening is very needed right now. I, as you may have read, treated the subject a bit more lightly, which she didn't like very much.

Here's what she had to say regarding moi:

"In Italia le questioni di genere, nonostante la tragicità del problema che i dati evidenziano, sono trattate con indifferenza se non addirittura con sufficienza. Ho pure letto un post di una non-italiana (Tiffany Parks) che liquidava sbrigativamente la statistica riportata su The Telegraph. Ma la Parks parla da privilegiata, quasi stupendosi: non vive la vita delle precarie o delle donne-mamme-figlie-mogli alle prese con sanità, scuola, soldi-che-non-bastano, lavoro-che-non-c’è."

(Translation: "In Italy gender issues, despite the tragic nature of the problem that the data shows, are treated with indifference if not with disdain. I also read a post by a non-Italian (Tiffany Parks), which summarily dismissed the statistic reported in The Telegraph. But Ms. Parks speaks as a member of the privileged class, almost astonished: she doesn't live a precarious life, the life of the woman/wife/mother/daughter struggling with health, education, not enough money, and a job that doesn't exist.")

--and later--

"...non si parlerà mai abbastanza delle questioni di genere in questa Italia di oggi. Sono convinta che sia necessario un aumento di consapevolezza del problema, a cominciare dalle stesse donne al fine di modificare l’opinione comune generale. Tiffany Parks compresa."

(Translation: "...gender issues are not discussed enough in today's Italy. I am convinced that it is necessary to increase awareness of the problem, starting with the women themselves in order to change the opinion of the whole community. Including Tiffany Parks.")

I appreciated her mentioning my blog, and I must admit how surprised I was to come to the attention of a journalist at an important national daily. But I have to conclude that either she didn’t fully read my post, she didn’t completely understand it, or she intentionally misinterpreted it. I will not hazard a guess as to which, but I will plead my case.

I began my post not by “summarily dismissing” the statistics the Telegraph reported, as she claims, but by expressing my doubt that they were accurate, the quality of the “article” being blatantly shoddy. I acknowledged the difficult position that Italian women find themselves in, but chose not to focus on the larger gender issues, (mine is not a journalistic blog) but instead to address the one I find most perplexing (and the one most harped upon by the article): the unequal division of household chores in Italian homes. I will not reiterate what I previously wrote, but I adamantly deny I “treat with indifference” the problematic political and social position of women in Italy which was not even the subject of my post. My message was, if anything, more positive: that—perhaps—the solution for pampered men is simple: stop pampering them! Perhaps by putting some of the blame on the women for their drudge-like situation at home was offensive to Ms. Borrelli. I can only respond by reiterating that I was only referring to one small part of this large “gender issue” she writes of. I am hardly claiming the sexualization of women in the media (for example) is the fault of women themselves.

I love that she calls me a “non-Italian,” as if that in itself is an insult, barring me from being able to form any opinion about Italians. Even more amusing (and infuriating) is her assumption of my social and economic status. How in the world does she imagine she knows? Does being a foreigner and having a passion for Roman history and art naturally preclude me from having my own financial strife? And even if I had no financial worries, I hardly see how that should hinder me from recognizing the fact that Italian women tend to insist upon waiting on their men hand and foot, and perhaps that is why the said men don’t offer to do their share of the work.

Here is the response I left on her blog:

“Innanzitutto ti ringrazio per aver ritenuto di utilizzare anche un mio post (che tu non condividi, ma, come dici tu, siamo qui per “proporre e discutere, non scannarci”) come apripista di un importante dibattito in merito alla “questione di genere” che ci è tanto a cuore: la condizione generale delle donne in Italia. Ma, ci tengo a definire un paio di questioni, che a mio avviso si evincono chiaramente dal mio post, che credo tu abbia letto nella sua interezza. Innanzitutto ribadisco il mio generale scetticismo in merito alle cosiddette statistiche, fatte su un campione di donne non del tutto definito (l’articolo del Telegraph prima parla solo di casalinghe e poi di donne in generale) e condotte su un campione esiguo (4000 donne dovrebbero rappresentare l’intera Europa!) e poi dai…. credi davvero che il 70% degli uomini italiani non abbia mai usato il forno? E che il 95% non abbia mai svuotato la lavatrice!? Tu stessa da giornalista potrai convenire con me della poca affidabilità di fonti di questo tipo. Anche alcuni tuoi lettori, tra l’altro, nei commenti propongono la mia perplessità. Posso comunque dirti che anche io come te, come ho scritto nel mio post, nella sua seconda parte, sono ben al corrente delle problematiche che devono affrontare molte donne in questo “nostro” paese (si lo so, sono una NON-ITALIANA, ma amo così tanto l’Italia da definirla nostro paese, dal momento che ci vivo, ci lavoro, ci pago le tasse e mi ci sono sposata). Conosco bene la difficoltà delle mamme single, di chi ha perso lavoro dopo una gravidanza, di chi fatica ad arrivare a fine mese.

"Ma in conclusione, trattando il mio blog di aspetti prevalentemente leggeri, ho affrontato una parte in particolare del pezzo del Telegraph quella trattata nello stesso pezzo ai paragrafi 4 e 5, ovvero la collaborazione degli uomini nelle faccende di casa! Un po’ anche con ironia, come avrai letto. Quindi, Marika, io non tratto con indifferenza se non addirittura con sufficienza le questioni di genere, e se “liquido sbrigativamente” la statistica del Telegraph, come tu dici, è per i motivi sopra esposti. Non credo quindi io debba modificare la mia opinione, certamente ampliarla, rifletterla, ma non per mancanza di consapevolezza. Ti invito a rileggere il mio post con un po’ piu’ di ironia, e magari potremmo lanciare un messaggio positivo e di fiducia, come io tento di fare: sveglia ragazze, nelle nostre mani sono le redini della nostra vita! Scrolliamoci di dosso questo senso di fatalismo… all’italiana?

“P.S. non credo di essere così privilegiata, si, sono felice e positiva e propositiva.. anche se ho un contratto a tempo determinato!

(Translation: “First of all thank you for using my post (even if you don’t agree with it, but as you say, we are here “to propose and discuss, not be at each other’s throats”) as an opening of an important debate on the "gender issue" that is very near to both our hearts: the general condition of women in Italy. But I would like to define a couple of questions that are clear from my post, which I imagine you have read in its entirety. First, I reiterate my general skepticism about the so-called statistics, made on a sample of women not fully defined (the Telegraph article first mentions only “housewives” and then women in general) and conducted on a small sample (4000 women should represent the whole of Europe?) and then, come on, do you really believe that 70% of Italian men has never used an oven? And that 95% have never emptied the washing machine!? As a journalist you must agree with me about the unreliability of such sources. Even some of your readers in their comments echo my perplexity. However, I can tell you, as I wrote in the second part of my post, that like you, I am well aware of the problems that many women face in "our" country (yes, I know, I am a NON-ITALIAN, but I love Italy enough to call it “our country”, since I live here, I work here, I pay taxes here and I got married here). I am aware of the difficulties of single mothers, of those who lost their jobs after a pregnancy, and those who struggle to make ends meet.

“But in the end, using my blog for prevalently light discussions, I focused on a particular part of the piece in the Telegraph, specifically paragraphs 4 and 5, which discuss the collaboration of men in household chores, and with a bit of irony, as you will have read. So, Marika, I do not “treat with indifference if not with disdain” gender issues, and if I "brushed aside" the statistics of the Telegraph, as you say, is for the above reasons. I do not believe I need to change my opinion, although certainly expand and reflect upon it, but not for a lack of awareness. I invite you to reread my post with a little more irony, and maybe we could send a positive, hopeful message, as I try to do: Wake up, girls, let’s take the reins of life in our hands! Let’s throw off this sense of (Italian?) fatalism!

“P.S. I do not consider myself a member of the privileged class: I’m happy and positive and proactive… even though I have a fixed-term contract!”)

Whew. I promise never to write such a long post again. Goodnight, bloglings.
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  1. I wish that I could say that writers and journalists never misinterpret or take in information only through the prisms of their own views, but I can't. She was trying to make the larger point and should have left it at that. Instead, she decided to drag you along. She wrote, you responded, now you can take deep breaths and let it go, moving on with your own writing and blogging wiser for the experience. And yes, it was cool that she was reading your blog in the first place!

  2. Thank you for this posting, Tiffany. I had read the first one on Italian women and enjoyed this interaction with the newspaper columnist regarding the subject. Way to go!

  3. Hi Tiffany, I was searching for "floods in Rome" and I ended up in your blog. Then I read the one about unhappy Italian women and here I am...Well it's not important but I just want to tell you that, despite my fondness for il fatto quotidiano, I am pretty sure that she was wrong on saying that you have known many good Italian husbands because you're a privileged outsider.

    Being a Chinese here in Italy is anything but "privileged". And if I have found someone great and caring and is an Italian, that is absolutely not for my social status or what the society and TV say us Chinese to be. I would stick with "open-minded" and "modern" like you said before.


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