MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
Celebrate Italian Women
Today is International Women’s Day, which is a big deal in Italy and for Italian women. The country, including and perhaps especially men, honor Italian women by offering bouquets of yellow mimosa flowers and small gifts. And Italian women celebrate each other with girls’ nights and other get togethers. Recently, I even read about restaurants and shops offering freebies to women today.
Is it Italy’s version of a Hallmark holiday for Italian women? Perhaps, but its origins meant a lot more than that.
Despite Italy’s devotion, the history of International Women’s Day does not trace back to Italian women. Since the early 1900s, March 8 has been a day to celebrate women’s achievements and call for gender equality. The observance actually began in the United States, but Women’s Day hardly registers here anymore.
Back then, industrialization was bringing all sorts of new problems to the surface. The fast-paced changes to the workplace helped birth movements calling for participation of minorities, including women, in all facets of life. Women were beginning to find their way in what had been a white man’s world up to that point. (To read more about International Women’s Day history, click here.) Is it just me or does this all sound quite familiar?
What Makes Italian Women Awesome?
Truly, we should celebrate Italian women and all women regularly and not just one day per year. As regular readers know, I live in two worlds. One foot is firmly planted in the United States, and the other one often wiggles around in Italy. I know Italian women and Italian American women. I see myself as belonging to both groups, even though I’m more an Italian American. Today, though, I want to share what makes Italian women, who are living in Italy, exceptionally awesome:
Italian women are among the hardest workers.
- More Italian women are working part- or full-time and more are seeking employment, according to a 2013 European Commission Report, “The current situation of gender equality in Italy –Country Profile.” I know for a fact that the women in southern Italy are the ones who carry the bulk of the burdens at home, too. They do the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and childcare often without any help from their husband or any other man in the household. If there’s a sick elderly person in the family, they are the ones to take care of him or her, too. (Sometimes, extended families live together or close by.) I have seen it with my own two eyes.
People have long labeled Italian women as super moms.
The Italian mamma or nonna (grandmother) is the stuff of legend. People have long seen her as the ideal matriarch, who knows how to cook like a gourmet chef, clean like she has a magic wand fit for perfection, and pamper everyone in the house. She’s affectionate, nurturing, loving, and every family member’s biggest cheerleader. And she always has fresh pasta and a Caprese cake on the table for Sunday lunch. Nowadays, she’s bringing home the bacon, too. The role of average Italian women, in fact, is remarkable when you think about it. Who else in this world does all that?
Italian women are sexy to boot.
Looks don’t matter. Really, they don’t. But it doesn’t hurt if you have them, especially if they come with all those other skills (see above). And Italian women have a reputation for being friggin’ hot. I mean Sofia Loren, who is in her 80s, still gets attention for her timeless beauty. Looking good is a priority based on the idea of the bella figura, or beautiful figure, which refers to making a good first impression. Indeed, the sexiness of Italian women empowers them in the Homeland.
Italian women love with wild abandon.
Italian women are the heart of their family. They keep up traditions. They nurse wounds. They dote on the suffering, support the smart, and heal the down and out. They embrace you with all their might literally and figuratively. That’s the real reason Italian men can’t live without them.
Italian women have the best mentors.
One of my grandmothers helped raise her family of origin after her mother died and then raised nine children of her own during World War II. Some of her babies died as toddlers, a devastating blow to anyone. She suffered in a patriarchal household that didn’t allow her to reach her full potential and forced her to stifle some of her own desires and needs. And when she was already in her 50s and her youngest son, my father, was 13, she moved to the United States from Italy. She barely knew anyone and could not speak the language. Such courage is unthinkable nowadays. There are many Italian women just like my nonna. They are all around me.
Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10. For more handmade crafts and party gear, visit the Italian Mamma store on Etsy.