After getting passionate about the book “La mia parola contro la sua. Quando il pregiudizio è più importante del giudizio” (HarperCollins Italia, 240p., 2018), I wanted to meet and interview the author, the magistrate Paola Di Nicola, nominated Women Inspiring Europe 2014 from EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality). With her objective gaze, firm and at the same time maternal, the result of a continuous study and careful reflections first of all on herself, Paola was able to grasp those very often invisible nuances, which still move gender prejudices in courtrooms and in society radically influencing an overview that becomes so partial and still immersed in a patriarchal culture. It was an honor to deepen these issues with her and realize how far we still have to go. All together.
Mom, magistrate, writer. How do you manage to reconcile all these commitments?
I’m excited about each of these pieces of my life and no one is external to the other. I consider them all necessary because everyone gets enriched with each other.
In your latest book “My word against his” you mention the fact that women have grown up with the stereotype of the female as a princess to save by making them feel fragile and incompetent. I am reminded of the Disney princesses like Cinderella who meets the Prince during the dance and, without many words, falls in love with him and it is always thanks to him that she acquires a role in society. In recent years, however, cartoons are showing a more emancipated figure of young women: just look at Rebel, Frozen, Oceania. What do you think of these developments? Do you think a change is taking place?
I don’t think there is a great evolution in the education of girls. Because education passes from the models that parents have. Even if there are cartoons that break gender stereotypes, I believe that in the family environment we, fathers and mothers, continue to transmit certain daily and concrete models. Regardless of the films that have this courage to break I see that 80% of TV shows exist in which women are semi-nude and men in tails. There are no women who talk about economics and finance. I believe the structure remains rooted in bringing girls to remain princesses to save. Not to mention school books.
In the second chapter, you address men with heartfelt appeals, such as: “I ask you to teach your sons to cry, to read inside, to accept fragility and the limit. To explain the game of seduction that is not consuming the other person like a beer but, as you yourself have taught me, knowing and recognizing its pleasure, exploring its desires respecting it and stopping in front of its discomfort: because women don’t like violence “. What kind of attitude do you see in today’s kids?
In my experience limited to a very protected context and formed on a certain type of education, I notice that boys have a respect for girls that comes from a mutually recognized dignity. But I don’t feel like saying that it is the ordinariness of the generations. I see that there are their peers who are born, live and grow up believing in their status as free women and that this also allows males to be consistent in respecting their affirmation. I trust the new generations.
You have decided to add your mother’s surname to your father’s surname. How do you think we could change this state rule since surnames would have to be added together from generation to generation, still leading us to make a choice?
A law of the State would be indispensable which, as happens in the countries of Central and South America or in Spain, requires having the mother’s surname, a preliminary condition for a culture of dignity of both parents as recognition of social identity. This is the necessary legislative step. There will, however, be a time when a choice will have to be made and at that point each of us will decide. And this is a choice that requires everyone to think. What is the piece of your identity that you believe to be maintained? Now we don’t have this freedom.
You say that our culture strengthens the thought that violence against women is something natural. If we look at what is happening in Italy and in the world and think about the past, we see that this is a problem well rooted in our history. Will we get out?
Certainly, this will happen at a time when men will also take the word and renounce their income in relation to their positions of power hand and will not let violence against women be a problem for women. We will come out of it when we have brave men who renounce the unconditional power they have had for millennia. Which is not to say that female power replaces that power system. Men and women must accept a system not based on the prevarication of one gender over another. Things will change when we accept shared power. A shared and equal management.
It’s famous your verdict for the case defined as the sex scandal of Rome that saw an adult man and a minor involved. In addition to prison, in fact, you requested compensation in culture instead of money: books and films on women’s thinking. In the book, explain how you came to this decision. Has there been a change over time? Did you inspire your other colleagues to take new paths?
Absolutely not. But I can tell you that from 2 May a theatrical performance began which was presented in Milan and will visit all the schools. It’s a performance inspired by my person and by this verdit which had cultural repercussions. It’s an important step. I have proposed a different symbolic order that for millennia has seen money and therefore power as the only possible compensation instrument. Instead that operation of which I spoke earlier, or break the symbolic order by proposing consciousness and knowledge belonging to the female identity, evidently needs elaboration time in a context such as that of the judiciary which is structurally responsible for the conservation of an established order, even if based on the opening of constitutional principles. It takes time.
How much do you think?
(Answers with a laugh, ed).
In addition to reading your book, what practical daily advice would you give to men and women to start triggering a change in order not to perpetuate stereotypes harmful to our eyes on the issue of women?
To observe oneself and observe around oneself whether the presence of the masculine and the feminine is a presence founded on equal dignity. In the professional roles, in the performances of the shows and also in the education that is given to our children and our daughters, observe it around a table. Observe and then change their behavior following this observation. And that men give up their proprietary mode with respect to their surroundings. The other day I saw a beautiful girl passing by on the train. All the males watched her and she knew it. The men had a grip on her. Imagine yourself. If you were to pass between two wings of males would you experience discomfort? I think so. I think there is always a sense of unease. I don’t think a reverse situation can arise. And this is the masculine internalized predatory attitude that leads to a feeling or a state of awe of the feminine. When we realize this and we will see it in a palpable way in our behavior, understanding how annoying the gaze of a man is when not corresponded to the will of those being observed, it will be an important step. I think it is his right to observe a woman but it is very different from looking continuously and intrusively. I would never allow myself to do it with a man. It is a question of respect for the other. When I walk with my daughter and there are people who look at her insistently I’m going to ask those people why they do it. Not saying anything is like accepting this morbidity, accepting it as if it were a right. It is a question of dignity and respect for others.
Cover photo by Tommaso Mitsuhiro Suzude