Il corpo delle donne (Serie bianca) (Italian Edition)

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Jungle Fever

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Playing and Reality. Dacia Maraini has created a body of work that questions the mechanisms of oppression and manipulation at play within the economy of a heterosexual regime. Following this line of enquiry, in this article I will be looking at the question of female sexuality as tackled in three works by Dacia Maraini: Donna in Guerra , Storia di Piera and Lettere a Marina I shall posit that, although at odds with the gender roles patriarchal society would expect them to fulfil, the female characters portrayed in these texts do not seem willing to embrace an exclusive sexuality either.

An acute observer of and an active participant in Italian reality, Dacia Maraini has created a body of work that gives an insightful account of the plight of women through different epochs. Namely, they are gender scripts which, being passed down from generation to generation, women are called to constantly re-enact. Ever since the publication, in , of her influential Gender Trouble , issues of gender, sexuality and performance have always been central in the work of Butler, whose main goal is the destabilisation of the traditional notion of the subject, aimed at exposing its performative nature.

Following this line of enquiry, in this article I will be looking at the question of female sexuality in three works by Dacia Maraini written between the mids and the beginning of the following decade: Donna in guerra , Storia di Piera and Lettere a Marina My analysis will highlight the subversion of the socially prescribed gender roles allotted to women within a male-defined perspective. Wittig starts from the assumption that lesbians are not women. In order to be a woman, in her view, one ought to have a relationship of dependence with men. Thus, the category of women as we understand it is but a product of the straight heterosexual mind Wittig, In this sentence, the ontological roots of gender identity are called into question.

Similarly, in the works which constitute the object of the present study, normative gendered codes are subverted and disrupted; after all, the deconstruction of heterosexual hegemony is for Maraini first and foremost a political strategy, a tool to which she resorts in order to extricate her female characters from a rigid patriarchal frame.

Current criticism on the novels under consideration has focussed primarily on the theme of female identity, most notably in the analysis of Donna in guerra, Tamburry, ; Cavallaro, , or the mother-daughter bond Dagnino, , a bond that has also been read as transcending biological motherhood thus proving to be instrumental in the carving out of a space, for women, within patriarchy Picchietti, Not a great deal of criticism has been produced that scrutinises the treatment of gender relations in Maraini.

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I shall do so by engaging in an exploration of the sexualities as depicted in her texts in order to assess their potential for subverting the heterosexual norms of patriarchy. In her relationship with Giacinto, the two characters re-enact, emblematically, the archetypal wife-husband hierarchy.

Drawing on Derrida, Butler advocates deconstruction as a tool for recognising the mechanisms of exclusion of the phallocentric system that lead to how the female subject is constructed as such. Vannina is what the system expects her to be. Ho lavato i piatti. Ho sgrassato le pentole. It is only thanks to the bond that she develops with emblematic female figures, that the protagonist can reconnect to a female experience and find the strength to embark on the road towards self-awareness.

With the island laundress Giottina and her friend Tota, Vannina replays the mother-daughter bond. With a taste for gossip and scabrous stories, the two matrons return Vannina back to the pre-symbolic semiotic sphere. And indeed, the erotically charged language that Tota and Giottina create, at times seems to be a non-language. Dense with symbolism, it both attracts and repels Vannina who, through these symbolic mothers, is nevertheless initiated into female complicity.

For Wittig there is no such thing as being a woman, or a man, as the category of sex has been created as a consequence of patriarchal oppression and has then become an alibi for social, economic, psychological differences between two artificially constituted sexes. Eventually, the two women will find themselves in love with each other. It may be hard to resist the temptation of seeing in Suna the image of the advocate feminist. She is an active member of a Marxist movement, on whose behalf she conducts a survey of the exploitation of female workers in the South of Italy and it is she who awakens Vannina from her state of passivity and subservience to her husband.

And yet, upon closer examination, some inconsistencies in her character will soon come to the fore. The reader will discover that she is no less dependent on her father than Vannina is on Giacinto, although for different reasons. This is a position with which Butler herself concurs, at least inasmuch as the performative character of the same is concerned Kirby, , p. Not only does Vannina disentangle herself from a patriarchal net of expectations and impositions, but also, on more than one occasion, she herself displays a sexuality that goes against sexual norms.

Undoubtedly the most emblematic character in the novel, the latter epitomises non-conformity to the Law of the Symbolic order, the primordial forces of nature against culture, against patriarchal society and the influence it exerts upon women. As the Greek myth goes, when her daughter Persephone is abducted and taken to the underworld, Demeter, upon whom the fruitfulness of the earth depends, renounces her divine functions to look for her, thus bringing about winter. Even more relevant to our analysis is the revision of the myth by Italian philosopher of sexual difference Adriana Cavarero in her ground-breaking work In Spite of Plato Marginalisation and electroshock therapy is the exacted price for subverting the norm.

At times verging on incestuous drives towards both parents by her own admission she shares with the mother the same sexual partners out of a wish to possess her through their bodies , she is obsessed with the male organ and fantasizes having it. Lacking female support, her subversive nature cannot lead her beyond a mere critique deconstruction of patriarchal ideology. Her cry against non-conformity will thus remain unheard and she will spend her last days in the seclusion of a mental hospital—her punishment for defying the Symbolic order.

And it is perhaps no coincidence that both characters who subvert patriarchal sexual norms are made to die by Maraini. However, I would like to advance an interpretation of the novels that refutes a negative reading of the same, as if, to borrow Itala T. It will thus serve the function of introducing the last of the three novels under discussion. If the universal is masculine, and heterosexual, then it follows that Bianca as woman, and a lesbian, is marked off by the system twice over.

Indeed, it might be seen as a device used by women to free themselves from the constraints of a society modelled on a master father, husband, son? Bianca is constantly reminded of the need to escape a binary system and the imposition of rigid sexual categories. Non capisco bene cosa vuol dire sola senza figli sola senza marito sola senza madri padre sorelle? She is not—as Butler would have it—socially intelligible. Bodies generate and, if we agree with Foucault, are generated by power relations, which, in turn, translate into incarnated binary constructs.

Interestingly though and in line with the above, not only is the protagonist of the novel at odds with the gender roles patriarchal society would expect her to fulfil, but she seems equally unwilling to embrace a monolithic homosexuality. On the other hand, it is also true that the coexistence of lesbianism and bisexuality in the text remains far from unproblematic.

The implications of such a predicament are not difficult to foresee. Indeed, one is here faced with the paradox that the rejection of compulsory heterosexuality is carried out through the perpetuation of the very same binary structure which lies at its foundations. But this does not mean privileging the feminine side of the debate either, as it would be but a repetition of the hierarchy—however reversed.

In other words, the point is not displacing a dominant discourse which we have said is recognised as marked as masculine with its feminine counterpart.

Essays on Gender, Culture and History

Indeed, to say that women love men, and cannot love women, is the same as to say that women love women, and cannot love men. It is only the terms of the equation that change, not the effect. This also raises a point on the ambiguity which lies in the use of language and the limitations intrinsic to language itself—namely, its undecidability. And is it not perhaps significant that, at odds as he is with the logocentrism of the Western world, Derrida has chosen dance—that it to say, a non-verbal form of art—for his metaphor?

Following on from this premise, it would be too tempting to deduce that the novel ends in a reaffirmation of heterosexuality, a view taken by Beverly Ballaro , p. If it is true that Bianca, having given up on Marina, starts a relationship with the barman Damiano, it is also true that, towards the end of the novel, she feels an impulse to kiss his stepmother who is also his lover.

This reading finds further endorsement in a dream scene. Bianca is lying in bed and falls asleep; she starts dreaming about Damiano but soon after, between their bodies, an unidentified female figure makes an appearance, and Bianca finds herself fantasising about this unexpected presence. By renouncing an arbitrary resolution of the sexuality of her female protagonist, then, Maraini seems to be warning the readers against the relativity of culturally determined gender roles, reminding them instead of the infinite spectrum of permutations gender might take.

The very last scene would reinforce this interpretation. I would now like to briefly call for a comparison between the three works on the theme of female solidarity. From Julia Kristeva to Luce Irigaray to Luisa Muraro not to forget American poet and essayist Adrienne Rich , feminists have focussed on revising the role of the maternal and the recuperation of a maternal symbolic order. Bianca finds in Basilia that tenderness that Marina seems incapable to provide her, being obsessed as she is with the wish to possess her lover.

And through this nurturing lovingness Bianca has also re discovered a bond with the figure of her mother. Because motherhood, as we perceive it in the text, not only transcends biological constraints, it also reaches out to women across generations. Bianca, seen as a more mature, self-conscious version of Vannina, shows us that patriarchal libidinal economy has to be challenged from within the system. Indeed, Donna in guerra recounts the process of the consciousness-raising of the protagonist and concludes with her embarking on a journey towards self-awareness of whose outcome, however, we are given no account.

In the same way as Vannina with the female figures she encounters along her path, Bianca proves to be receptive to the offer of allegiance from her mentor Basilia, an allegiance which she uses as a Trojan horse to oppose a phallocentric system that wants to silence her, her condition being represented, on a metaphorical level, by her inability to finish the novel she is working on as a professional writer. Thus, unlike the mother in Storia di Piera , silenced by a phallocratic system which does not recognise her, she is able to find her own voice again, metaphorically, resuming her own story.

As such, the suggestive formulation of the choreography of gender which opened this article becomes the key to the reading of the sexual identities portrayed in the three novels. Gender—seen as a dance—is reminiscent of a Derridean process which reminds us of the infinite spectrum of permutations it might take. This might not provide feminism with a final answer on how to move from resistance into action, it is just the first step of the political programme which is called into question, but is a step nonetheless.

It exposes a logic of exclusion and calls for the construction of alternative spaces. It suggests that neither biology nor social constructs can define such a thing as the female sexed body. In Bodies that Matter , Butler questions the mutual exclusivity of heterosexuality and homosexuality Butler, By staging non-normative sexualities, Maraini provides, through her characters, a call for the understanding of gender roles as a product of rigid mechanisms of power which result in patterns of behaviour that, consolidated through time, translate into the political, social and cultural supremacy of the male over the female gender.

Ballaro, B. In: L. Benedetti, J.

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Hairston and S. Ross, eds. New York: Peter Lang. Bellezza, D. Questo libro sulla memoria di una donna, Paese Sera , April 22 nd [online]. Bonanate, M. Se la donna ama una donna, Gazzetta del Popolo , April 18 th [online]. Bongarzoni, O. Theatre Journal , 40 4 , pp. Bodies that Matter. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. Cavallaro, D. Cavarero, A. Cavarero trans. Cambridge UK: Polity Press.

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Towards a Theory of Sexual Difference. In: The Lonely Mirror. Kemp and P. Bono, eds. London and New York, Routledge. Dagnino, P. Cicioni, N. Prunster, eds. Providence: Berg. Revolution in the Laundry. In: R. Diaconescu-Blumenfeld, A. Testaferri, eds. Derrida, J. Diacritics , 12 2 , pp. The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman Young-Bruel, ed. Freud on Women. London: Vintage. Mi piace lavorare Mobbing deals with the challenge women face in reconciling their roles as mothers and members of the workforce.

Anna is a single mother living in the Roman district of Esquilino. Her life is limited to oice and home, to which she arrives exhausted every night. Despite continuous vexations that weaken her psychologically and strain her relationship with her daughter, Anna inds the strength to oppose her oppressors and seek justice by suing her company.

Mi piace lavorare denounces a speciic form of social exploitation perpetrated by a society that places proit above all. Produced on a low budget, cast mostly with non-professional actors with the exception of Nicoletta Braschi, who plays Anna , shot in real locations using a small crew and documentary ilming style, it can be considered, both for ethical intent and stylistic modalities, a neorealist ilm. Mi piace lavorare takes place mostly indoors. Rome is let of-screen for most of the ilm. However, despite its general invisibility, the city plays a signiicant role: its visual absence conveys the idea that Anna is trapped between enclosed spaces — the oice where she works and her home.

Her mobility essentially, her freedom is restricted to pre-ordered and repeti- tive daily itineraries. Ater sending her daughter to school, Anna walks under the por- tico, and descends underground towards the subway. Ater her daily subway ride, she walks through a white tunnel lead- ing to her oice.

Although the city can be glimpsed though her oice windows, the white tunnel suggests that the character is entering a microcosm separate from the rest of Rome, regulated by its own time and logic. While Anna is entrapped in claustrophobic spaces the oice, its restrooms, its corridors, and her apartment her twelve-year-old daughter Morgana actively explores the city. Surprisingly, she gathers her strength and refuses to sign. But then she realises that, having been kept in the oice beyond her work hours, she has missed an appointment with her daughter.

However, the scene ends positively when Anna inds Morgana safe in the house of an immigrant family. Maria Margherita Buy is a single woman in her forties.

il corpo delle donne

She teaches Italian to adult students, while enjoying an active social life in Naples. Unexpectedly, she becomes pregnant ater a brief relationship and realises she will be a single mother. When the baby is born prematurely, Maria spends ity days in the hospital to assist her incubated daughter. With its white walls and cur- tains, it appears as an abstract space, shared by a group of mothers living in limbo, waiting for their babies to live or die.

While looking through the windows of the streetcar that takes her to the hospital, Maria observes streams of women appearing through their apartment windows, contained within their domestic space.

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She confesses to Maria that she put her children in the care of others to pursue her career. With the Neapolitan urban landscape in the background, the scene reiterates the idea of a society that does not allow women to rec- oncile motherhood with a public role, therefore banning them from the city as the place of power and politics. Appropriate for a ilm about money and its circulation, Comencini locates her ilm in Milan, the city of inancial markets and the centre of Italian industry, using its image as the symbol of a rotten Italy.

A reckless banker, Ugo Luca Zingaretti , conducts an illicit inance scheme with a group of Milanese businessmen and a corrupt magistrate. Rita Valeria Golino , the head of the inance police, investigates him, wiretapping conversations to indict him. As in Mi piace lavorare, and more explicitly in Lo spazio bianco, Comencini establishes a correspondence between the characters and the 3 C. Cantini, ed. Immediately following the open- ing sequence, for instance, when the group of inanciers appears in a luxuri- ous restaurant, a series of pan shots of iconic images of Milan are shown, creating a semantic link between the city and their illegal trading.

As the story progresses, from the fancy restaurants and prestigious buildings of wealthy Milan seen in the begin- ning, there is a signiicant shit to the margins of the city. In one suggestive scene, Ugo and his partner Bottini Bebo Storti , forced to meet in peripheral areas to avoid police surveillance, are framed in a very long take, walking through the ruins of a factory, the abandoned steel factories of Sesto San Giovanni.

Poignantly, a discussion about illegally earned money is staged in a place where people worked to rebuild the Italian economy ater the war. Another form of illegal trade is visible on the margins of the city, one at the expense of women: prostitution. Bianca is seen shivering in the street, performing oral sex for thirty euros, and returning home at dawn. One night she is found on the street, beaten into a coma. Bianca is also discovered to be pregnant, and her body is artiicially sustained through a life-support system in order to complete her pregnancy.

At its birth, Ugo claims paternity. But Rita, exposing his plan, thwarts his attempt to take the child. Elodie, likened to a high-class escort, embodies another widespread and debated form of economic transaction, that of the showgirl who ofers sexual favors in exchange for wealth, success, and social visibil- ity.