Giorgia Meloni, who won national elections in Italy on Sunday and will become the country’s first female prime minister next month, has established herself as a feminist for years. She said in 2016 that she ran for mayor of Rome, when she was heavily pregnant, because former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it was not a job for mothers (ironically, Berlusconi is now a key member of his winning coalition).
Although some have defended Meloni’s victory as she prepares to join the few ranks of the world’s leading women in history, her election is anything but a victory for feminism. On the contrary, Meloni is an example of how some white women weaponize gender and use it to oppress other women and minorities.
Meloni is an example of how some white women weaponize gender and use it to oppress other women and minorities.
White feminism has become an integral part of the crypto-fascist and white nationalist movements here in the United States as well. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is a prime example, positioning herself as an advocate for women’s rights while terrorizing minorities. She constantly attacks the LGBTQ community (Greene mocked a congressional colleague who has a trans daughter by hanging a sign outside their office that read “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust to science'”) and minorities (“They really should go back to the Middle East,” she said of her other colleagues, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich ., who she says are barred from serving in government because they are Muslims), while espousing Christian nationalism, the same ideology that underpins the Ku Klux Klan.
“For nearly two hundred years, a broad and vibrant coalition of white women has defined gender equality as meaning access to positions historically reserved for middle-class and wealthy white men,” Kyla Schuller explains in her book “ The Trouble with White Women: A Counter-History of Feminism “The goal, for these feminists, is to empower women to assume positions of influence within a fundamentally unequal system. Many of these feminists argue, implicitly or explicitly, that their whiteness empowers their rights.They weave feminism, racism, and wealth hoarding as necessary partners, a phenomenon with a pretty name: white feminism.
Part of Meloni’s schtick comes in the form of a working wife and active, working mother. After delivering a victory speech on Monday, she reportedly left the media frenzy to some of her subordinates so she could pick up her child from school. But time and time again, Meloni has played that role in an effort to reduce women to their reproductive value and paint them as bastions of a regressive social order. She is anti-abortion and strongly against LGBTQ rights, such as same-sex marriage and gay adoption. “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby…yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death,” she said during her campaign in June.
Meloni has perversely spent part of her campaign swearing to “protect” women as she pursues a virulently anti-feminist agenda. Perhaps the most gruesome of the many horrible things she said and did was when she reposted a video on Twitter in August that appeared to show a Ukrainian woman (who has lived in Italy for years) being raped by a Guinean asylum seeker. (The video was allegedly recorded by someone in a nearby apartment and the man was later arrested.) By tweeting the video, Meloni helped make it a national viral spectacle, causing the woman to be re-traumatized after the assault as the video was shared on social media. media. “I’m desperate, they recognized me on the video,” she told investigators, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
Meloni has weaponized sexual assault to bolster her anti-immigration stance.
In this ultimate violation of the video’s release, Meloni weaponized sexual assault to bolster his anti-immigration stance. “We cannot remain silent in the face of this atrocious episode of sexual violence against a Ukrainian woman perpetrated in broad daylight in Plaisance by an asylum seeker”, she wrote in her Twitter post, adding “a hug to this woman”. (It should be noted that the majority of gender-based violence in Italy is either committed or condoned by Italians, not immigrants or foreigners in the country – a recent survey found that 40% of Italian men believe it is acceptable to rape a partner.)
“No to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders; no to mass immigration, yes to work for our people,” she also said during her campaign, in another attempt to stoke anti-immigration fear and support.
Meloni is as much a feminist as a wolf in sheep’s clothing is a sheep. By co-opting an identity and cause that it then weaponizes to attack the same people the cause is meant to protect, figures like Meloni pose a far greater threat to feminism than cisgender men. Of course, feminism is not a monolith – it’s a complicated umbrella ideology with multiple and sometimes competing factions. But at its core, it’s a movement designed to advance and protect women’s rights. People like Meloni besmirch what he stands for.
Figures like Meloni and Greene, white women – and right-wing extremists – who rise to positions of power in a system designed to oppress minorities, then use that system to simultaneously advance their own careers and reactionary, exclusive politics are not only a disgrace to feminism: they are dangerous. They promote ideologies that covertly and openly embrace violence.
A wolf is easier to identify. You know the dangers, you know what you’re dealing with. A wolf in sheep’s clothing has the capacity for something more sinister and pernicious. And the political advancement of women like these will literally cost lives.