by Roberta Valtorta*
«Maybe due to the heat or to a sudden hormone derangement, but the blameless and good guy achieved the Guinness World Records in a few hours. It would have been the particularly engaging and pleasant appearance of the young girl, the first to be approached, to provoke a real insanity act by that guy who defined the girl as “very cool with the miniskirt”». Il Giornale
This is an example of what you can find out in the newspapers that we read every day. It is becoming more and more common reading an article describing an event, which simply justifies the executioner and makes the victim guilty. This shows through the idea of a primitive man, totally unable to control his instincts in front of a woman, just because she is wearing a miniskirt, as you read above. So in most of the main cases the victim of the crime becomes the instigator and the cause of the violence. Starting from these observations I want to analyze the language used in some newspapers in our country, trying to reveal how a woman is presented in a chronicle fact.
The fact I’ve examined goes back to 2012 and concerns the murder of Anthonia E., a young Nigerian girl forced to prostituion; Daniele-Ughetto-Piampaschet, accused of crime, is described as “the guy who loved her so strongly to be obsessed,his fixed idea was taking her off the streets, for nobleness of soul” (2). (The man was absolved on the 9thApril 2014).
The girl’s corpse was found near a dam on the Po river on the 26th February 2012, but only after a few months the wannabe writer Ughetto-Piampaschet was accused for the murder. The newspapers I used for my examination have dedicated much more space to this news: il Corriere della Sera, La Stampa and Il Foglio. The last one attracted my attention for the fact regarding Camillo Langone, journalist and writer for Il Giornale and Libero, published some days after. Langone writes a section named “Preghiera” about current events on Il Foglio.
The “Preghiera from 23rd August 2012” leaves little room for elaboration:
«PRAYER for Daniele-Ughetto-Piampaschet that maybe killed because of the love for a Nigerian prostitute. I wish he wasn’t, but if he is the murderer I hope he will receive only a slight punishment because he clearly has lost his mind. A prayer for Daniel and for all men that have lost their mind in the dark. Everyone must follow this rule: never spend a night with someone who you feel ashamed to spend the day with. Black women are beautiful and even transsexuals are wonderful after the sunset and so are other sluts and dancers. Anyway, do you really want to wake up near them in the morning? Do you bring them in your local restaurant? Or to meet your mum? The shame and the social control don’t have anything nice but something useful. by Camillo Langone».
In order to have a clear idea of the woman introduced in the newspapers, I’ve focused on the words used by journalists during the examination to refer to the victim (prostitute, Nigerian, woman, first name and surname, obsession, slut) and then I count how many times every single term was used.
On Il Foglio the article analyzed by Alessandro Giuli the 22nd August 2012 was named as “Burn me nigger”, mentioning a text written by the suspected murderer. In the newspaper, I found a large use of the possessive adjective “his” and the not-really-journalistic-expression “slut”. There aren’t references to the girl as “woman” and when she is called with her first name “Anthonia” it’s connected to the possessive adjective. In the article the young woman is presented as the obsession of the man defined as “unlucky” because he couldn’t control his passion: «He searched and found the “black Eros” but he could not dominate it». I think the article appeared on Il Foglio is the most sexist of the three: the not-really-hidden idea of the young woman as property of her client who can make her do whatever he wants because he’s in love with her, appears beyond the expressions used to refer to the woman. In the article it tells of a “client that kill his slut”. (…)
According to a theoretical point of view, in the article from Il Foglio the continuous reference to the concept of appearance due to the use of the possessive adjectives – his slut, his Anthonia, his obsession – is easily connectable with one of the most important dimensions of the objectification, as defined by Martha Nussbaum: the propriety. The idea that rises from the article concerns the woman as an object: she is a prostitute, so an instrument for the others’ needs for fulfilment, in particular for the client who owns it. For the same reason, the feelings and the emotions of the girl are negligible and irrelevant: it’s “the subjectivity denial”, as Nussbaum defines. So the violence is excusable, especially if the woman comes from Nigeria.
* The article above is a synthesis of Roberta Valtorta’s work concerning her Psychology of Social Influences examination she had with me at Milano Bicocca University; where, in the meantime, she brilliantly graduated. She has chosen to search deeply into the Italian journalists’ vocabulary in order to test their sexism rate. And, I say, the amount of their brutishness and vulgarity; in fact I decided to omit another good example she quoted in the preface, that is an article by Massimo Fini published on Il Fatto in March 2012. If someone’s concerned, can easily find it in the web; in this blog we try – as much as possible- not to reiterate obscenity. Thing that’s happening in these days on the social networks for the new and execrable remark from the weekly “Chi” about Minister Marianna Madia.
The quality of information is, anyhow, the gaming table where the civilization of a whole country has been played, amongst a few steps forward and many falls into brutishness.
1) The article, published unsigned on Il Giornale, is dated July 14th 2010
2) “The writer who wanted to be the protagonist of his story”, La Stampa, August 21st 2012
(Questa è la versione inglese del post È una prostituta, dunque di “sua” proprietà: fogli e quotidiani italiani alla deriva, che l’autrice ha tradotto con l’ausilio del “collega” universitario Daniel Bennett. La supervisione del testo inglese è a cura di Luca Bartolommei).