The Role of Women in a Fascist Society Essay
The political system known as fascism was exceptionally harmful to the objective interests of individuals as well as the collective interests of women, specifically in Italy. Fascist regimes such as Italy in the early twentieth century introduced policies that would wind back the progress of women in society in addition to damaging the welfare of the country itself. Under the rule of the fascist, Benito Mussolini, Italian women were directly subjected to discrimination in their professional and private lives. Ideologically, fascism is difficult to classify.
It is too often considered to be the absolute opposite of communism, and that assumption is misleading. In a communist society, the state owns all means of production and property whereas fascism allows individuals to rent property from the state. In both forms of government, the state centrally controls business in one way or another. Therefore, a more accurate spectrum of political thought lies between libertarianism and authoritarianism. Communism and fascism are both forms of authoritarianism but there are several political characteristics that are unique to fascism.
Within a fascist society, the government attempts to indoctrinate people with a strong sense of nationalism. Mussolini founded the Fascist party as a militaristic and populist alternative to both left and right wing political movements. Under Mussolini, ideologues taught people that national identity was the basis of individual identity and could not be corrupted by foreign influences. Fascist Italy championed various mottos and symbols in order to foster national pride of country such as “Mussolini ha sempre ragione” which simply means “Mussolini is always right”.
Another example is “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” which is Italian for “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”. The objective of Italian nationalism was to expand and strengthen the empire of Italy by all measures possible. As a result of this mentality, the state found it crucially necessary to establish gender roles and restrict women to working only in their homes and producing children.
In a fascist society, the state is the ultimate guardian of the “family” institution because women are only valuable to the nation’s strength in the sense that they raise families and serve their husbands. Mussolini believed that the most important tactic he could employ to strengthen Italy was to bolster the population. In 1927, Mussolini introduced an initiative to increase the rates of reproduction and eventually the population. Loans were offered to married couples, and part of the loan was cancelled for each new child in the family. Any married man who possessed more than six children was exempt from taxation.
On the other hand, those who produced less posterity were punished. Bachelors were taxed extensively more and women who attempted to remain in the workplace were increasingly forced out. For example, the government owned railway blatantly fired all women who were hired since 1915. Also, the majority of companies reserved promotions for men who were married. Basically, Mussolini fostered a social mentality that valued family in the ultimate interest of the state. This mentality was strengthened in Italy by the support of the Roman Catholic Church who shared the fascist regime’s policy concerning family.
Mussolini himself had a hostile attitude toward women in general. Amidst economic crisis in 1930, he ordered women to leave their places of work and called them “thieves who reach out to steal men’s bread, and responsible for men’s unproductiveness. ” When a German journalist asked Mussolini about women’s suffrage he replied: “Women must obey. My notion of woman’s role in the state is utterly opposed to feminism. Of course, I do not want women to be slaves, but if I were to give women the vote, people would laugh me to scorn. Mussolini also initiated policy that aggressively restricted the rights of women in education. A decree issued in 1927 forbade women in high school from taking classes in literature and philosophy. A decree the following year resulted in the firing of female school directors. Lastly, a decree in 1933 pressured state bodies to impose limits against a rise in female workers in public offices. Another pillar of fascist Italy was their fierce pursuit of eugenics. Through cooperation with leaders of the Catholic Church, Mussolini championed the “incalculable eugenic value” of practicing Catholic sexual morals.
Chastity was the advocated form of birth control and the risk of illegitimate births were considered avoidable with the sacrament of marriage. The Church did not condemn eugenic aims. In fact, Catholic morals themselves were thought to be eugenic if properly adhered to. Sexually liberal culture was believed to be dangerous to the family structure. Propaganda was spread in order to stifle the growth of sexual freedom. Impressionable citizens were brainwashed into thinking poorly of those who chose to be sexually unrestrained rather than abstinent.
The military received an incredibly disproportionate amount of funding even in dire domestic situations. Furthermore, positions in the military were always glamorized. In addition to strong the strong military, citizens held virtually no civil liberties. They were willing to overlook clear police abuse because they were of the interpretation that the problems were in the name of patriotism. Fascist governments are quick to identify enemies of the state and typically do scapegoat a group of people if there is a domestic problem.
Mussolini banned opposition parties and relentlessly fought for censorship of unfriendly press. He understood that ideas were dangerous to his authority and had to be silenced. An ultimate goal of Mussolini was to deny women a role in shaping their own lives. He believed that the independence of women was detrimental to the progress of the nation because the traditional family structure is the most important aspect of a moral and prosperous nation. Mussolini failed to understand that when individuals are free to make their own decisions regarding societal structure is when there is the highest potential for a success.
1. Koonz, Claudia. “The “Woman Question” in Authoritarian Regimes. ” In Becoming Visible: Women in European History, ed. Renate Bridenthal, Susan Mosher Stuard, and Merry E. Wiesner, 464-484. 3rd edition. Boston and New York, 1998 2. Halsall, Paul, “Modern History Sourcebook: Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932,” http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism. asp Accessed April 19,2012 3. Boyanowski, Brett, “Fascism,” http://departments. kings. edu/history/20c/fascism. html Accessed April 19,2012