The letter denounces “a cultural system which discriminates against, penalizes, and abuses women” in many ways, from unequal pay to sexual assault.
“It’s time to change. We’re here,” states the manifesto, signed by 125 women in journalism and published on Sunday in La Stampa daily — just days after women in the Italian film industry launched a similar call for action.
The journalists go on to say that the assault accusations made in recent months are only “the brutal tip of the iceberg” in a system where sexism is deeply entrenched.
Hundreds of Italian women participated in the '#MeToo' social media movement' and allegations surfaced against prominent Italian men. Former Italian football president Carlo Tavecchio was accused of harassment and Italian filmmaker Fausto Brizzi, one of Italy's most prolific contemporary writers and directors, has been accused by at least ten women of unwanted sexual advances.
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The women who signed the letter published on Sunday include TV journalists Maria Luisa Busi, and Ida Colucci, as well as Barbara Scaramucci, who was the first woman to work as director of journalism at public broadcaster, and dozens of names from Italy’s major newspapers. They said that their work was “an essential tool for the cultural transformation”.
“We Italian journalists want to be with all women in this battle,” they wrote, pledging to “investigate and bring to light cases of abuse of power and sexual assaults, exactly like in the USA where journalists for the main titles have been protagonists in the battle against assault.
“Because if it’s true that the problem isn’t a single attacker, it’s also true that identifying those who behave disrespectfully to women takes the lid off this system,” the manifesto continued.
As well as setting out their commitment to support women through their journalistic work, the letter's signatories also said they had personally suffered from a patriarchal system.
The journalists are adding their voices to the 'Dissenso comune' (common dissent) letter, published on Thursday and signed by 124 women from the film and theatre industries.
The letter comes days after figures from the world of cinema put their names to a similar petition.
That letter also called for change to the systems which put women at a disadvantage, not just in their own industry but across society. However, while saying they supported those who had come forward with accusations, the signatories said they were not interested in “media pillory” and “are not just pointing the finger at one single molester”.
There were some very notable absences from that letter, with Asia Argento — a prominent Italian actress and one of the first accusers of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein — criticizing the initiative and saying she preferred “concrete gestures”.
The organizers of Rome's Women's March wrote on Twitter that “#MeToo s not a signature, it is a story that makes you vulnerable and puts your career on the line. #MeToo takes a lot of courage.”
After accusing Weinstein of rape, Argento has said she received little support in Italy and felt unable to return there due to “victim-blaming”. 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.
The two recent letters could signify that the tide is beginning to turn in Italy, albeit several months after Argento and others came forward.
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 including journalism, politics, and social care — with over 70,000 women putting their names to more than 60 written petitions.