First up: the divorce. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's wife Veronica Lario (pictured) asked for a divorce last year, saying, "I cannot condemn myself to be his wetnurse." Now that proceedings have started, The Guardian's Tom Kington says Berlusconi's calling himself "a single man." Ladies, contain yourselves!
Of course, part of the reason Lario wanted a divorce in the first place was because Berlusconi offered up a slate of showgirls for European elections. Now that he's "single," he's back to his showgirl-nominating ways, selecting for a set of regional elections a former Miss Italy contestant, a weathergirl who was one of the controversial candidates last year, and 25-year-old Nicole Minetti, who became famous by wearing a gold bikini on a TV show, and later got training as a dental hygienist. Minetti told reporters, "I have my CV, I am prepared and I am up to fulfilling the role. Can you stop publishing photos from when I worked in TV?"
It's a fair point, but as Margaret Wheeler Johnson pointed out on Double X last week, the issue isn't whether conventionally attractive young TV personalities can be effective politicians — it's whether it's a good idea to make youth and conventional attractiveness prerequisites for political office. Johnson writes about a bill recently sent to the Italian parliament that would ban breast implants for minors. Well-intentioned as it sounds, the bill might put some young women at a disadvantage. Johnson notes that Berlusconi's showgirl-promoting ways offer "convincing evidence that, in Italy, a great rack helps propel a political career, and perhaps give you an advantage in other highly competitive fields." She continues,
What's really scary is that this whole pull-yourself-up-by-your-bra-straps message could be construed as some warped brand of feminism. [...] Finally, a country that allows openly sexual women to legislate! And who's to say that a "showgirl" doesn't have the brains to run a government? Several of those former beauty queens and exotic dancers were successful businesswomen before Team Berlusconi recruited them.
The problem with this argument, of course, is that the success of Berlusconi's elect-a-babe campaign also tells young women that you have to have a certain cup size to even enter the political fray, and that your mind alone won't get you far.
Johnson considers the point of view of the "the young, ambitious, A-cup, Italian woman": "How fair is it that she is banned from having a surgery that, grotesquely enough, is a proven method of getting ahead in Italy, especially when it was available to the female politicians currently in office when they were launching their careers?" Of course, the solution probably isn't breast implants for all (although, as Johnson points out, that appears to be the solution promoted by this NSFW commercial). Instead, the solution is for Italy to field candidates based on, as Minetti says, their resumes, not their ability to rock a gold bikini on television. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen while TV mogul Berlusconi is running the show.
Related: The Italian (Boob) Job [Double X]