Violence against women on primetime television

A "prank" on Italian national television showed the long road ahead when it comes to eliminating violence against women.

Cinzia Sciuto
Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
Violence against women on primetime television - NewsMavens
Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli bites the captain's belt Napoli 17-2-2019 Stadio San Paolo Football Serie A 2018/2019 SSC Napoli - Torino FC Foto Cesare Purini / Insidefoto/Sipa USA

Why this story matters:

A minor but emblematic incident has shown how much Italy still has to do in eliminating violence against women. During a popular television program, a famously jealous football player was pranked by his wife and the producers of the show. (On the website of the show, the wife was described as "a woman so beautiful that her husband made her quit all social media out of jealousy".)

The prank was staged to provoke the footballer's jealousy. Throughout the show, we witness escalating degrees of domestic violence: controlling the victim's cell phone, restricting her movements, insulting and humiliating her, slapping her and attacking her alleged suitor. The icing on this questionable cake is that, when the prank is over, the wife hugs her husband and laughs. As if to say, nothing happened, my love.

But when will we realize that physical violence against women is only the top of a pyramid at whose base lie precisely these behaviors?

As long we justify acts like these with phrases like "come on, he's just a bit 'too jealous!'" or "ok, yes, he exaggerated, but she provoked him," no new laws or policies will help. We don't need repression to combat violence against women, we need education -- education about equality, respect for others' autonomy, and anger management.

When faced with such publicity for violent scenes of jealousy one can only bitterly wonder how its possible that so little has changed in the last decades.

Details from the story:

  • On February 12, during the popular Le Iene television show, Italia 1 aired a "prank" played on football player Lorenzo Insigne, striker for Naples and number 10 in the Italian national team. The joke was that his wife, Jenny Danarone, had to make him believe that she was being pursued by a director who wanted to have her kiss an actor during an audition to play Madame Bovary.
  • Insigne's reactions are filmed over several days. First, when Danarone tries to talk to him about the script, he says he does not want to hear about it and orders her not to answer the director's calls. Then he slaps her in the face, saying, "I don't want to hear from you," "don't break my balls," and he calls her "stupid" several times. When Danarone receives flowers and various messages from the director, Insigne calls the housekeeper, throws the flowers in the trash, takes his wife's phone and answers the director's calls. He then tells his wife to sleep on the couch. When she tries to tell that she might want to accept the role, he replies: "I decide. You do nothing. Period." Finally, when Insigne discovers that his wife went to the audition despite his threats, he goes there and kicks the actor in the shins -- all of it on national television.
  • This happened in a country where, according to ISTAT data, 31.5% of women between 16-70 (6 million 788 thousand) have suffered some form of physical or sexual violence, not to mention those who suffer daily psychological and/or economic violence, which victims themselves often struggle to identify.
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