Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My friend Jasmina Tesanovic attended the recent massive pro-choice march in Milan. She sends along this powerful chronicle:

The Knights of the Fetuses

"Exit the Silence," the 14 January feminist pro-abortion rally in Milan. It was huge, it was Italian, "La donna e bello."

The march started at the central railway station and ended at the Piazza Duomo, which was packed. It takes well over a hundred thousand people to pack the Duomo's massive plaza, but there they were: mostly women, of all ages. And quite a few men.

A seventy year old beauty holds a banner -- Menopausa (less pausa) / piu Azione (more action). A loud line of painted young girls drives a caterpillar street-puppet, saying: Out of our panties and skirts, priests and fascists. Procreation clerically assisted! Vatican out of homes. We all bear our own crosses!

A woman in a fancy fur coat, with a handsome furred white dog on the leash, stands at the edge of the flowing crowd. A photographer says: I've never seen a faster march. Are women faster than men? The woman in the fur coat stands at the edge of an edgy question: she is a little bit pregnant today...

Abortion is a dangerous issue in Catholic Italy. A peril for your soul to go to hell, while your body would be flung into jail or into a secret clinic. Only yesterday, the new Pope pronounced that RU-486, the pill which kills the fetus without clinical intervention, is even a bigger sin for women, because it is so painless. An actress on the third channel, RAI, the only national television channel uncontrolled by Berlusconi, has a comedy show -- she is asking the new Pope if she is allowed to cook spaghetti tonight, or better yet, maybe some rice.

Anarchist groups, trade union groups, feminist groups, and just women, from all over Italy , arriving in buses, in trains from Verona, Venice, Ravenna, Sienna... The loudest are from Venice, they are chanting and dancing and whistling, they are angry, and they have a lot of followers...

I am joining my Women in Black, the Donne in Nero from Ravenna: they have our international signs shaped like black hands; we kiss and exchange information quickly.

Luisa Morgantini just stormed in and kissed all. They tell me this is a networking turnout, it's grass-roots, pass-the-word organization. Not a word about this in the media, which is deaf, or killed by Berlusconi. There is a parallel demo happening in Rome, named PAX, for the civil unions, between two people, free of churches and dogmas.

A month ago, in the Milan trade union meeting, a woman said; we must do this, our rights are attacked. Two aspects of Italian private life are being reclaimed by the Church: reproductive freedom and civil unions.

A Woman in Black is telling me: the law 194 is endangered, the law that is protecting us women. Now we have so-called social workers who try to persuade pregnant women not to use their rights. This country has gone really bad -- even though the abortion has dropped 40 percent since abortion was legalized.

We are marching in the strict, wealthy downtown of Milan, the luxury shopping district. Oh, says a marcher, look at those gorgeous shoes. How cheap... this is the New Year sales...

Oh shut up, her mother tells her, then glances sideways and exclaims, Oh my god...you are right...

At the stage in the Piazza Duomo, a piece by Franca Rame is read to the massive crowd. She is the wife and coauthor of the Nobel prize winner Dario Fo. She tells how she once had an abortion, and how she could not ask her mother for help, because they were both ashamed to admit the sin.

When I got pregnant as a teen, my mother told me: that is not possible, you are not married. She was a pediatrician, a medical doctor. Now this Italian mother and daughter are walking hand in hand quarreling about Italian shoes. At least mother-daughter relationships have grown better, if not the world and its laws.

Men are here too, quite a few; men of all ages, looking rather happy, straights, hippies, punks, and carrying slogans: Stop the Division...The Movement of Househusbands.

A young man in suit is carrying a baby which has written on its scarf: Freedom for Moms. Nowadays the fetus has been made our biggest enemy...

A woman poet on the podium in Piazza Duomo is reciting her poem:

I am a dangerous woman, I don’t carry bombs or babies,
and I don’t
to fight a war for you, I will never forgive, but I
will never sell
your life as you sold mine...

Fetuses, wars, and abortions and babies are all interconnected; fighting against women is no way to grow a nation stricken by wars and poverty.

The women in this crowd look beautiful, 'la donna e bello,' the feminist motto from the Italians Seventies is obvious today. But this crowd of gorgeous women in the center of Milan is invisible to media or to mainstream Italy; because it is an underground smart mob.

As soon as Janis Joplin ends the rally with her screams, these beautiful Cinderellas vanish like bubbles into a no-woman's land. Italy, the US, Serbia, and all the world are repressed by the new fundamentalists. The land of the beautiful has yet to be freed from Popes, Bushes, Berlusconis and other knights of fetuses.


Rachel said...

Thank you for this post, Gayle...

I hate it when social workers use their own biases to make life-altering decisions for their clients. This happened to me back in the Red State of Arizona in 2001, when a Catholic Latino social worker decreed that I shall no longer be Rachel, and that I must move in with my parents against my will.

With the Real ID Act, correcting these wrongs will be more difficult than ever.

The more I look at Benedict, Bush, Berlusconi, Howard, Koizumi, etc., the more disgusted I am at their utter disregard for the well-being of women. (In fact, when BMW gave Benedict a new X5 for free - reflecting the conservative Catholic spirit of Bavaria, Germany - I almost terminated the lease on my car. Right now I'm looking at BMWs only because I don't like the competition much.)

My disdain for traditional patriarchal organized religions - and their power organizations - grow stronger with reports like this.

gayle said...

Oh, Rachel, I'm so sorry you had that experience in Arizona. I hadn't known about that. I hope that one day soon you will be able to live as Rachel full time.

It breaks my heart to think of all the people who are being kept from their truest selves, their truest paths, by those in power who claim to wield the word of God. I think marches like the one in Milan will help wake people up, and hopefully begin to bring about some much-needed change...