And for all M5S’s spirit of change and cleansing Italian politics, the movement’s manifesto fails to make any specific reference to improving women’s lives.
The fundamental battle seems to be challenging a culture of sexism that permeates from the office to Parliament, from television screens to the street. “I don’t want to renounce to being a mother or a lover; I want to be everything.” For many, improving Italian education is also a priority for combating female discrimination and sexism.
On the surface, the success of ex-comedian Beppe Grillo’s blog-based Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement, M5S) --- which tapped into widespread discontent to garner a quarter of votes - might appear as a cry against the austerity Italy has been forced to endure. “It’s a complete rejection of this country’s political class and what’s been happening here for 20 years, that both centre-left and centre-right parties have never done what they promised to do,” says Duncan Mc Donnell, a fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. This is a rejection of that.” The election also resulted in Italy’s parliament having the highest number of women in its history, with 32pc in the lower chamber of deputies and 30pc in the senate.
“What worries me the most, as a woman of 57, is to find myself from one moment to the next unemployed and the impossibility of finding a new job,” says Emma, an administrator from the northern city of Varese.
Italy’s mass media has played no small role in normalising this: private television channels owned by the country’s former colourful prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and state-owned broadcasters both routinely cast women as showgirls, allowing misogynistic attitudes to become more passively accepted over the past two decades.
For Francesca, 29, who works for a cultural events firm in Milan, Italy’s deep-rooted sexism has “slowed down and gradually eaten up the energy and desire for change of the 1970s”.
“Nowadays people in Italy are aware that women are underrepresented in politics and, if you want to look fair, modern and meritocratic, you’ve got to have women candidates,” bloggers from the Struggles in Italy collective posited.
Given the ongoing political vacuum, it’s hard to predict what the future will bring for Italian women.