ROME—For the past few weeks I’ve been in Italy, covering the elections last Sunday which produced the biggest political change here in decades. It was my first reporting trip back here in a while. I lived in Rome for many years but moved away in 2013. Maybe I’ve changed since then, maybe it’s the #MeToo moment, but coming back to Italy this time, what struck me most wasn’t the political chaos, the populism, the dysfunction, or even the beauty, since a person can get used to all that. It was the fact that there were barely any women playing leading roles in the election coverage.
As the returns came in, the main talk shows had all-male panels of experts. Some of the reporters in the field were women, and some of the interviewers, too. But men dominated the debate. As far as I could tell, the only strong, independent woman featured on Italian television as a protagonist, not an interviewer, during the most intense days of election coverage was hiking a mountain, alone—in an ad for muesli. Is it really possible that the only taking heads these channels could find were men, mostly over the age of 50?
Is it really possible that in a country of 60 million people, there were barely any women weighing in on the results on the front pages of the country’s most prominent newspapers, and barely any woman there with regular political columns? There are some exceptions. Milena Gabanelli, an investigative journalist, sometimes writes for Corriere della Sera and Nadia Urbinati for La Repubblica. There are also some important women on television hosting interview or current affairs programs: Lucia Annunziata, Bianca Berlinguer, Lilli Gruber. But they are exceptions.