‘Challenging the stereotype of the mamma italiana. Second-wave feminist approaches to maternity and childbirth in Italy’


Andrea Hajek
(University of Glasgow)

One of the most common stereotypes about Italy is that of la mamma, the mother. In spite of a steadily declining birth rate, the myth of the mother continues to be strong, due in part to the Fascist idea that maternity was woman’s natural destiny, an idea which was never really challenged until the 1970s, when second-wave feminism redefined gender relations and experimented with new paths of life not determined by matrimony and maternity. To what extent has the 1970s women’s movement managed to change maternal health politics, be this in legislative terms or at a social level? How have these changes subsequently been challenged? Drawing on the outcomes of two oral history projects, I will give a brief historical overview of maternal health politics in Italy, followed by an exploration of the feminist approach to maternity and childbirth issues in the 1970s, developments in maternal health policies since the 1970s before I conclude with a few samples from interviews. The latter will help unearth dominant discourses and individual and collective silences within the public memory of the 1970s women’s movement in Italy today, which is haunted by a stereotype of its own: the incompatibility of motherhood and feminism.

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Wednesday, 26th November 2014 at 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: Jerry Morris B, Tavistock Place