Don’t be distracted by neo-fascist Giorgia Meloni’s ‘feminism’

Giorgia Meloni, who won Italy’s national elections Sunday and will become the country’s first female prime minister next month, has branded herself as a feminist for years. She said in 2016 that she ran for mayor in Rome, while she was heavily pregnant, because former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it wasn’t a job for mothers (ironically, Berlusconi is now a key member of her winning coalition).

Although some have championed Meloni’s win as she prepares to join the rare ranks of female world leaders in history, her election is absolutely anything but a win for feminism. Rather, Meloni is an exemplar of how some white women weaponize gender and use it to oppress other women and minorities.

Meloni is an exemplar of how some white women weaponize gender and use it to oppress other women and minorities.

White feminism has become an integral component of crypto-fascistic and white nationalist movements here in the U.S. as well. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is a prime example of this, positioning herself as a defender of women’s rights while terrorizing minorities. She consistently attacks the LGBTQ community (Greene mocked a congressional colleague who has a trans daughter by hanging a sign outside their office which said “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust The Science’”) and minorities (“They really should go back to the Middle East,” she said of her other colleagues, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who she also argues are not entitled to serve in government because they are Muslim), while espousing Christian nationalism, the same ideology that undergirds the Ku Klux Klan.

“For nearly two hundred years, a large and vibrant coalition of white women has framed sex equality to mean gaining access to the positions historically reserved for white middle-class and wealthy men,” Kyla Schuller explains in her book “The Trouble with White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism.” “The goal, for these feminists, is to empower women to assume positions of influence within a fundamentally unequal system. Many of these feminists argue, either implicitly or explicitly, that their whiteness authorizes their rights. They weave feminism, racism, and wealth accumulation together as necessary partners, a phenomenon that has a tidy name: white feminism.”

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Part of Meloni’s schtick comes in the form of being a working woman and an active, hands-on mother. After delivering a victory speech Monday, she reportedly left the media frenzy to some of her subordinates so she could go pick up her kid from school. But time and again, Meloni has played this part in an initiative to reduce women to their reproductive value and paint them as bastions of a regressive social order. She is anti-abortion and staunchly against LGBTQ rights, such as same-sex marriage and allowing queer people to adopt. “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby … yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death,” she said while campaigning in June.

Meloni perversely spent some of her campaign vowing to “protect” women as she pursues a violently anti-feminist agenda. Perhaps most horrifying, among the many horrifying things she has said and done, was when she reposted a video on Twitter in August that appeared to show a Ukrainian woman (who has lived in Italy for years) being raped by a Guinean asylum seeker. (The video was reportedly recorded by someone in a nearby apartment and the man was later arrested.) In tweeting the video, Meloni helped make it a national, viral spectacle causing the woman to be retraumatized after the assault as the video was reshared on social media. “I’m desperate, they recognized me from the video,” she told investigators, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Meloni weaponized sexual assault to further her anti-immigration stance.

In this ultimate violation of posting the video, Meloni weaponized sexual assault to further her anti-immigration stance. “One cannot remain silent in the face of this atrocious episode of sexual violence against a Ukrainian woman carried out in daytime in Piacenza by an asylum seeker,” she wrote in her Twitter post, adding “a hug to this woman.” (It is worth noting that the majority of gender-based violence in Italy is either committed or condoned by Italians, not by immigrants or foreigners in the country — a recent survey found that 40% of Italian men believe it is OK to rape a partner.)

“No to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders; no to mass immigration, yes to work for our people,” she also said while campaigning, in another attempt to whip up anti-immigration fear and support.

Meloni is as much a feminist as a wolf in sheep’s clothing is a sheep. In co-opting an identity and cause that she then weaponizes to attack the very same people the cause is intended to protect, figures like Meloni present a much greater threat to feminism than cisgender men. Of course feminism is not a monolith — it is a complicated umbrella ideology with multiple and sometimes competing factions. But at its core, it is a movement designed to advance and protect women’s rights. People like Meloni defile what it stands for.

Figures like Meloni and Greene, white women — and right-wing extremist at that — who access positions of power in a system designed to oppress minorities, and then use that system to simultaneously advance their own careers and reactionary, exclusionary politics are not just a disgrace to feminism: They are dangerous. They promote ideologies that covertly and overtly embrace violence.

A wolf is easier to identify. You know the dangers, you know what you’re dealing with. A wolf in sheep’s clothing has the capacity for something more sinister and pernicious. And the political advancement of women like these will literally cost lives.