Bronze statue of woman dressed scantily triggers sexism row in Italy, female politicians want it demolished
A bronze statue of a woman from a 19th-century poem which appeared to be dressed scantily has triggered a sexism row in Italy.
The sculpture, which portrays the woman in a transparent dress, was unveiled in the southern town of Sapri on Saturday during an event attended by prominent politicians, including Italy’s former prime minister Giuseppe Conte.
The statue, which portrays a woman in a transparent dress with one arm over her breasts, was established as a tribute to La Spigolatrice di Sapri (The Gleaner of Sapri), written by Luigi Mercantini in 1857.
Many women politicians criticised the statue for depicting “women as a sexual body.”
“How can even institutions accept the representation of women as a sexualised body? Male chauvinism is one of the evils of Italy,” Laura Boldrini, a member of the Chamber of Deputies from the centre-left Democratic Party, said on Twitter, adding that the statue “was an offence to women and to the history it should celebrate.”
A group of female politicians from the Democratic Party's Palermo unit called for the statue to be demolished.
“Once again, we have to suffer the humiliation of seeing ourselves represented in the form of a sexualised body, devoid of soul and without any connection with the social and political issues of the story,” they said in a statement.
A senator from the party, Monica Cirinnà, called the sculpture a “slap in the face to history and to women who are still only sexualised bodies”.
“This statue of the Gleaner says nothing about the self-determination of the woman who chose not to go to work in order to stand up against the Bourbon oppressor,” she said on Twitter.
Unfazed by the criticism, the mayor of Sapri, Antonio Gentile, staunchly defended the statue on Facebook saying it was “made with skill and impeccable interpretation” by the artist Emanuele Stifano, and that his city was “not willing to question its values, principles and traditions”.
Gentile added that the artist “took advantage of the sea breeze to highlight the body” and that the statute was intended to “represent an ideal of a woman, evoke her pride, the awakening of a consciousness”.
The design, he added, had been approved by the authorities.
The poem is based on the story of a failed expedition against the Kingdom of Naples by Carlo Pisacane, one of the first Italian socialist thinkers.
It is written from the point of view of a female gleaner —someone who collected grain left in fields by harvesters.
The gleaner leaves the job for the expedition against the Kingdom of Naples, which led to 300 deaths.