A few weeks ago, on March 8, women all over the world celebrated the “International Women’s Day“. In my hometown – Florence, Italy – groups of women were strolling around the historic district, enjoying the sunny day whilst celebrating their day.
But what were we celebrating? Indubitably, if we take a glance at the role of women inside the Italian society, reasons for celebrating are more than hard to find.
As opposed to the celebrating women, the more “committed” women, old and new feminist (obviously a minority in our society), were exposing theirselves on the national media. Quite ritualistically and with a known snivelling they addressed two types of chauvinism characterizing the Italian society.
An example for the first and older form of chauvinism consists in the fact that in 2009 still only a few women in Italy occupy deceisve positions exercising “power”. On the other hand a new type of chauvinism transpires if we, for example, consider the revisionist, prohibitive approach toward abortion laws.
Now, what are we women supposed to do? Let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves and counting on men’s goodness in exercising power. Let us get our act together, unite and attack issues concerning our rights in a constructive manner!
Let the example of a strong and proud female force in American history, an model of a fighter, inspire us! I’m talking about Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth a.k.a. Isabella Baumfree
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883) was born a slave in the State of New York, but she never got intimidated or scared by prejudices concerning black women. On the contrary, after the abolition of slavery in NY, she travelled across the United States, becoming one of the most lively and inspiring speakers of the abolitionist cause, and not only. Sojourner Truth was also a woman who believed that the abolition of slavery – if it wasn’t accompanied by the women’s right to vote – would not have brought any real change in black women’s lives (“There is a great deal of stir about coloured men getting their rights but not a word about the coloured women’s theirs. You see, the coloured men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before”).
Thus, Truth became a promoter of a third type of struggle for a more civilized American society. Thanks to her, besides the struggle for equality of black people and the struggle for more women’s rights (promoted mainly by white women of the American middle-class) Sojourner Truth put the struggle of black women on the map. Think about it. Who suffered more prejudices than black women having to deal with a dual discrimination: a discrimination based on the color of their skin as well as on their sex?
The more discriminated the stronger she was! Accused of being a man, during a public speech, Sojourner Truth gave a undisputable proof of her “femininity” showing her breasts which had suckled her children. Strong women are not “true” women, are they?
That’s what “man” is about: if he has the power, he uses it, he won’t abdicate it. On the contrary, he will do whatever is necessary to keep it; if he suffers discrimation and prejudice, he becomes indignant for his own condition, but remains indifferent toward prejucides faced by other beings.
Therefore, Italian women, we shall read carefully Sojourner Truth’s most famous speech “Ain’t I a woman?“. We shall think about the force of this woman and take her as an example. Let us stand for our rights instead of whining and without begging men for more power and consideration.
“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say”
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Roberta Danti, a graduate of the University of Florence’s Law School. Even though she majored in Fiscal Law writing a thesis on “The Abuse of EU VAT Law” she personally follows the most various issues touching the fields of law. This post was originally written in italian, once published in its orginal language I will provide my readers with the link.
Posted in Black Activists