Women in Italy's film industry call for an end to harassment in joint manifesto

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Women in Italy's film industry call for an end to harassment in joint manifesto
A poster from the Women's March in Rome on January 20th. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Over 120 women working in the Italian film industry have signed an open letter calling for action to be taken against sexism, saying "we have stopped being afraid".


The letter, a manifesto titled ‘Dissenso comune’ (roughly translating to ‘shared dissent’), is a call for a change to the power balance not only in Italy's film industry, but in workplaces at all levels of society.

In total, 124 women have signed the letter published by the Repubblica daily, including actresses, directors, producers, and those in other roles. The letter comes after two months of meetings and its aim to ensure that the #MeToo movement in Italy does not start and end with a few isolated testimonies.

The motive of the manifesto is summed up in the subtitle, “united for a rewriting of work spaces, and for a society that reflects a new balance between women and men”. The women behind the document said it was both an "act of solidarity" for those who had already made public accusations, explaining that they were grateful to these women and believed their stories, "because it has happened to all of us in many ways".

However, Italian actress Asia Argento, who was one of the strongest voices in the global #MeToo movement, took to Twitter to share her dissatisfaction with the manifesto, which she has refused to sign.

Asia Argento (2nd left) at a Women's March in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

"I'm waiting for concrete gestures, the things we did first: denouncing, helping each other, sharing the trauma, taking to the streets, shouting a true dissent against the patriarchy. Then we can finally unite and really fight together," she wrote, going on to add that she received little support in Italy after her declarations other than from a small number of feminists and women's rights organizations.

Miriana Trevisan, a former showgirl, TV and theatre actress, and writer, also criticized the initiative. "It would be more honest to say: 'We are forced not to expose anyone because the system is so deeply ingrained that we would lose our jobs'," said Trevisan, who has publicly accused Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore of groping and kissing her 20 years ago.

The writers of 'Dissenso comune' explained their choice not to make specific accusations by saying this risked creating "scapegoats" rather than addressing the wider problem of sexist power structures. They also wrote that harassment was totally separate from "the game of seduction",  and that they hoped to use their visibility "to battle for all women who have the same conditions in their work, but whose voices don't have the same strength".

Plenty of ordinary Italian women joined the original social media campaign that began in the wake of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Using the hashtag '#quellavoltache' (that time when), they described experiences of assault and harassment, and that slogan as well as 'Me Too' appeared on banners during January's Women's Marches across the country.

But on the whole, the movement has not yet gained the same momentum it has seen in other countries. That's despite several allegations against prominent Italian men, including Giuseppe Tornatore, former Italian football president Carlo Tavecchio, and Italian filmmaker Fausto Brizzi, one of Italy's most prolific contemporary writers and directors, accused by at least ten women of unwanted sexual advances.

Argento, who was one of the first actresses to publicly accuse Weinstein, has previously said she feels unable to return to her home country "until women can fight together".

She has also threatened to sue at least two male Italian journalists for their comments on her case: right-wing columnist Renato Farina, who compared her situation to prostitution, or using sex to advance her career, and radio commentator Vittorio Felti, who speculated as to whether she enjoyed the oral sex that she says Weinstein forced on her.

When four-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi commented on the campaign, it was to back French actress Catherine Deneuve who had said that men should be "free to hit on" women. 

Though Deneuve was widely criticized for her mischaracterization of the Me Too movement and later apologized to victims of harassment, Berlusconi claimed on TV: "It is natural women are happy that a man courts them." 

It's possible though that the 'Dissenso comunale' manifesto will be the catalyst for a larger movement in Italy.

In early November, hundreds of Swedish women working in film and theatre published a joint article describing some of the abuse they had experienced and calling for an end to sexual harassment in their field.

In the Scandinavian country, this manifesto prompted dozens of similar calls from women in other industries from social care to media. The movement in Sweden has led to a government debate on the issue, multiple investigations into accused men, and a review into 40 large companies from the country's equality watchdog.

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