It is a truth universally acknowledged (by all but the French) that Italians are never not fashionable. And it’s a truth so universal, in fact, that it seems they’re even on trend when it comes to their politics.
Following last week’s election, there’s a new female world leader on the block in the form of Italy’s Giorgia Meloni. Tipped to lead one of Europe’s farthest right governments, and to also become Italy’s first female prime minister in the process, Meloni follows a large trend of European female politicians drawn to the far-right. From France’s Marine le Pen, to Norway’s anti-immigration finance minister Siv Jensen, the past decade has seen the emergence of right wing populists, more specifically: the emergence of right wing, female populists.
Whilst women have made significant progress in representation on all sides of the political spectrum, far-right female politicians have begun to play a vocal part in European politics in a way that those from the centre or on the left haven’t. Perhaps it’s because shouting provocative and aggressive policies down a microphone garners you more media attention than the traditional, old-fashioned way of respectful debates and using logic and reason to win over supporters, rather than fear and scaremongering.
There’s an argument to be made that brandishing far-right policies is more strategy than ideology. On our own turf, Liz Truss has tried to portray herself as Thatcher’s heir in a bid to win over her party’s membership (yet looking at her economic policy, I doubt she can even spell Thatcherism – but I digress). Clearly, as populism has become more prominent, being so provocative and almost outlandish is a play for power. But what happens next, what happens when these women come to power?
As a female politics student, I take particular interest in the plight and success of female politicians. But being invested in the position of women in politics, over the past decade, has also meant being disappointed. And frustrated. And quite a bit angry.
I want to be supportive of women on the world stage – a stage that has historically been male-dominated and that has muted the voices of the marginalised. But what should I think when so many of the women who are breaking down barriers and smashing the ever-talked-about “glass ceiling” not only oppose principles I believe in, but seem to drag the reputation of female leaders through the mud?
After being excluded from the debate for so long, these women have the opportunity to set a powerful precedent, so it’s more than just a frustrating disappointment when Meloni is ruthless on immigration and against vaccine mandates, or when Le Pen sides with Russia. I feel hurt and betrayed. Women have finally got the opportunity to be taken seriously within the political establishment, but the opportunity isn’t being taken seriously by the women elected.
But, I realise, focusing on their gender is missing the point (not least because no one would even mention their gender if they were men). Politicians are meant to serve (hard as that might be to believe, after the past few years). We need to be careful to not focus so much on who they are, but on what they do. Politicians, whoever they may be, need to do better. And we, the electorate, need to stop falling for the loud one with the megaphone.
“Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French National Front” by theglobalpanorama is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.