Why this story matters:
The past eight months have witnessed meaningful anti-harassment movements sweeping western Europe, including neighboring France, yet Italy has so far failed to generate a major shift in gender politics. One theory as to why: “It’s a Mafia country,” said Dino Giarrusso, a former TV journalist who, along with several other prominent Italian journalists, believes Mafia culture is to blame for Italy’s lack of progress.
Thanks to omertà, the unwritten code of silence associated with criminal activity (that also extends to any type of bad behavior) women and even men who speak out are shamed for saying anything at all -- even if they’re believed.
Women are further disincentivized to speak out because of cronyism. The professional risks of naming names are even greater in Italy than in other countries. In a state where hiring is often based on personal relationships rather than professional merit, the harasser is likely to be a relative or close friend of the person hearing the abuse claims.
This is a stark example of how omertà, cronyism and nepotism are incompatible with women’s rights. And as Italy has learned the hard way: what’s bad for feminism is also bad for business.
Details from the story:
- In theory, Italy has all the right ingredients for a meaningful anti-harassment movement: a famous actress who went on the record about producer Harvey Weinstein, a high-profile director who wound up being investigated for abusing young actresses, and a catchy hash tag campaign created by women in media.
- In practice, however, the people speaking out against abuse have received more criticism from the press than the people actually committing it.
- Journalists such as Giarrusso, Tiziana Ferrario and Flavia Perina believe one major reason is the pervasive Mafia culture of looking the other way when faced with wrong doing.
- Women who do break the code of silence and name names also suffer even greater professional retaliation because nepotism and cronyism are so rampant in both the public and private sectors.
- Nepotism and cronyism have been called “the Italian disease” and are blamed for the country’s low business productivity compared to other developed economies.