Enraged by the degrading images of the female sex emerging from the 'Rubygate scandal' surrounding Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italian women plan protests on Sunday to "defend their dignity."
"This isn't a political mobilization, it's a spontaneous movement of very different women of all ages, artists and normal people," Elisa Davoglio, a 35-year old poet, told AFP.
The protest follows weeks of intense media coverage of allegations -- strongly denied -- that Berlusconi paid for sex with underage disco dancer Ruby as part of a raucous sex life.
"We are against this wildly-spread culture of taking shortcuts, earning lots of money, enough to make yourself beautiful, going to a party and selling yourself for a night," actress Lunetta Savino said.
A manifesto, "If not now, when?," signed by over 50,000 women in a week, denounces "the indecent, repetitive representation of women as a naked object of sexual exchange" in newspapers, on television and in advertising.
"We are inundated with calls from women who want to participate, it's like an avalanche we didn't expect," actress Francesca Comencini, who is organising the demonstrations along with her thespian sister Cristina, told AFP.
A video on Youtube calls on women to join the demonstrations as well as the flash-mobs and non-stop lectures that will be held on Sunday in Milan, Rome and hundreds of towns across the country.
Although those involved have been asked not to politicise the demonstration, several members of parliament who recently broke away from Berlusconi's centre-right ruling party have said they will be attending.
"Berlusconi has long shown a violent contempt for women with his misogynist remarks," Francesca Comencini said.
"He has now exceeded acceptable limits, he's created a totally archaic image of women," added her sister Christina, who promotes the "Di Nuovo" group, set up to draw attention to problems facing Italian women on http://dinuovodinuovo.blogspot.com/.
Poet Davoglio, who has started a blog for the occasion (http://senonoraquando13febbraio2011.wordpress.com), will be attending the demonstration with her baby and partner. Men who support the cause are welcome.
The issue is no longer about pitting certain types of women against others. "This isn't a mobilization against call-girls," Davoglio said, with a a movement for the defence of prostitutes' rights due at Sunday's protest.
Famous faces in Italy, such as the architect Gae Aulenti or actress Laura Morante, both of whom will attend the protests, will use their own lives as an example to try and show that there are other ways to achieve success.
Even after Sunday's demonstrations, Cristina, Francesca and the others hope the movement will serve as a network to bring together women's associations in Italy, which they say are often fractured and politicised.
"Neither right-wing governments, nor left-wing ones have every done anything," Christina Comencini said, criticising "discrimination in the job market due to a lack of day-nurseries, family helpers and part-time jobs."
In Italy, where the birth rate is one of the lowest in Europe at 1.4 child per family, only one woman in two works -- compared to 59 percent in the European Union -- despite they being, on average, better educated than men.
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