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Carla Lonzi and Italian feminism





In 2010 the Barni family, which since 1882 creates and cultivates roses, generated Rosa Revolucion, a new type of rose, dedicated to Carla Lonzi. Its colours are reminiscent of a flame: intense orange, vivid red, bright yellow and pure white are the colours of Rosa Revolucion, the colours that describe Carla Lonzi: feminist, and art critic. Between the two identities - art critic and feminist, the second one is the one Carla Lonzi felt and chose as dominant.




Carla Lonzi can be described as one of the mothers of Italian feminism. In Italy the feminist movement and the development of equal opportunities policies have been strongly delayed, if compared to other countries, for historical and sociocultural reasons. Yet, the Italian feminist movement of the 70s was strong and pervasive for the entire society. In 1970 Carla Lonzi, Elvira Banotti, and Carla Accardi distributed and displayed in Rome the Manifesto di una Rivolta femminile: Manifest of a Women’s Revolt, a programmatic document of the homonymous Italian Feminist Movement.


On March 8th, 1972, A Women’s Revolt and other three Feminist Groups (the Union of Italian Women, the Italian Feminine Centre, and the Feminist Fight) gathered and organized a Manifestation. On that day, history was made: for the first time in Italy women were marching for their rights. Day and location were not randomly chosen March 8thwas declared “International Women Workers Day” in the Soviet Union, and Campo de’ Fiori is the sole square in Rome without a church.

Carla Lonzi was born in Florence in 1931. Her strong desire and need for independence emerge early in her life. At 9, she leaves her family home for Badia di Rivoli College. She studies with passion and dedication and becomes a successful art critic. It is interesting to note how she recognizes herself in some specific catholic icons and paintings: the ones representing women martyrs. Specifically, she sees her true self in St. Therese of Lisieux. She wrote:


“It was the exact image of my self-portrait”.

Her interest in the life of St. Therese does not collide with her strong and immersive feminism. On the contrary, Carla Lonzi’s considerations of the lives of women Saints – lives dedicated to deep introspection and a search for self-understanding – help us understand how such introspection revealed to be essential for one’s self-consciousness, a trait so enormously important that feminist pioneers were trying to launch and celebrate.

Despite her career as an art critic being successful, she stops her practice as she considers the work of an art critic “a bogus occupation,” based on outdated and anachronistic criteria and parameters (I think today we would also add “stereotypes”). Her vocation lies instead in the search for the true identity of an artist, her/his singularity, her/his truth.


So, Carla Lonzi begins her journey in search of a feminine authenticity. In these years, Carla Lonzi detaches herself and her vision from the superficial culture and dives into another manner of seeing and analyzing things. She defines superficial culture as the male, systematic method of investigating reality, which was (is) taken as the norm, erasing the female gaze and way of exploring reality and its components. It is precisely in those years that Carla adheres to the Feminist Movement, and becomes a vanguard example. Carla Lonzi precedes almost the entire European Feminist Movement in terms of technical results and practical policies.

“Feminism has been for me the meeting point between the two symbolic alternatives of the female condition: prostitution and cloister. Living without seeing my body, but without having to give up on it.”

Carla Lonzi states:

There is neither freedom, nor chance of independent thinking for a woman, without a true awareness of differences between her and the man.
"The woman has not be defined in relation to the man. The man is not the standard model to which the woman shall start to discover her own self. The woman is something else than the man. The man is something else then the woman.”

(If for a second you thought you were reading De Beauvoir, no worries, so did I! Great minds think alike, they say).

Who met Carla Lonzi talks about her as a sort of magnet.




In 1973 she writes Taci anzi parla. Diario di una femminista (Be quiet, no, talk. A Feminist Diary), a personal book she struggled to publish, “Yet one has to start somewhere to demolish false identities attached to women.” The book is the result of her consciousness: an extraordinary exercise of self-awareness, which will become one of Feminism’s most important practices. Finally, women speak for themselves, they describe their lives, and their own identities.

The feminist power of sharing one’s own story creates the necessary solidarity that allows both the reconstruction of one’s identity and the fertile ground on which other women can do the same. The feminist power of sharing finally becomes political power and real potential for a tangible and lasting change.

 

What do you think about the feminist power of sharing? Does listening or reading about other women’s stories inspire and encourage you?

I deeply believe in the power of sharing (sharing is indeed caring!): feeling a sense of belonging is an authentic human need and can play a pivotal role in one’s life. Sharing with other women advice and experiences, but also doubt and fears has always helped me overcome what I saw as obstacles in my life. Exchanging views with female friends, mentors, and colleagues have always been crucial in shaping my way of seeing and facing things.

We would love to read about your stories in the comments! Let’s inspire and encourage each other! Stronger together.


With love and light,

Giulia - Femme Lead

 

SOURCES

Dandini S. Il catalogo delle donne valorose, May 2019, Oscar Mondadori

Guerra J., 8 marzo 1972. Quando durante la “festa della donna” si prendevano manganellate dalla polizia, The Vision, March 8th, 2019, https://thevision.com/cultura/8-marzo-1972/

Lonzi C. Taci, anzi parla. Diario di una femminista, January 1978, Scritti di Rivolta femminile


PHOTO CREDITS

Fondazione Magnani-Rocca; La rosa del borghetto


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