D5.2 Country Report | March 2023

Author: Katharina Crepaz – EURAC
Scientific Coordinator: Roberta Medda-Windischer

This report contributes to Work Package 5 “Mainstreaming, Media Literacy and Patterns of Mass Media Communication”, focusing on “Mainstreaming, Gender and Communication”. It looks at radicalizing collective agents engaging in anti-gendered communication targeting women and LGBTQIA+ persons, at de-radicalizing collectives offering counter-narratives, and at citizen communication also exerting a de-radicalizing power through a critical discourse analysis of posts made on social media platforms. 

The report begins with an introduction to the chosen collectives, actors and items, outlining their characteristics as well as reasons for case selection. Second, the methodology used (desk-research of social media posts by radicalizing and de-radicalizing agents as well as citizen communication, critical discourse analysis of the narratives covered, focusing also on visualization) is provided. Third, the report discusses mediated hegemonic gender representation in Italy and its impact on radicalization. The developments of mediated hegemonic gender representation are discussed, stemming from private TV becoming popular in the years of the Berlusconi government to how these topics have also made their way into the new social media. Two very characteristic elements for the Italian case are identified: First, a misogynist portrayal of women as silent ornaments, which leads to increasingly vicious attacks on women who go against this stereotype and speak their minds, in particular female politicians. Second, Catholicism is very strong and very politicized in Italy, with the Vatican even increasing its influence on national politics over the last years. This solidifies hegemonic gender roles, where women are either completely sexualized and valued only for their bodies, or viewed as the nurturing, caring mothers proposed by religious bodies – both frames share a very limiting influence on women and their possibilities to live their own lives freely. Hegemonic masculinities, with models of the male breadwinner and protector of the family, are also prominently featured by the media and public figures. LGBTQIA+ persons are also impacted by these discourses, both in their not fitting into hegemonic gender roles, as well as by Catholic framing of their lives as sinful.

The radicalizing agents identified also moving within these discourses. The first item is Jürgen Wirth Anderlan’s song “Die Königin” (the queen), in which he attacks feminists, portrays stereotypical tropes about women, and uses racist narratives, furthering perceived injustices and alienation. The Lega constitutes the second example for two discourses fostering alienation and polarization, namely its more aggressive-populist wing with Matteo Salvini (sexist representation of women) and its Catholic wing with Simone Pillon (against LGBTQIA+ rights). Third, Giorgia Meloni is analyzed as an example of “femonationalism”: using women’s rights narratives to further racist othering of minorities. Both the posts made by the politicians and the comment sections below show their radicalizing character, with discourse including wishes for rape and physical harm.

For de-radicalizing agents, the collectives of Arcigay, Non una di meno (“not one less”) and Odiare ti costa (“hate will cost you”) are looked at. Their de-radicalizing strategies are fact-based, and do not use personalized attacks. Instead, they aim to rally their followers for peaceful demonstrations, to provide information, and to educate. They do so in an increasingly visually based way, as shown in the case of Non una di meno’s Instagram video, which is used to raise awareness, mobilize and inform about offline events all at once. Adversarial framing is used to further collective identification, but there are no violent discourses, focusing on peaceful ways of expressing dissent instead.

Citizen communication helping de-radicalization processes is analyzed as the third set of items. Fedez, a well-known Italian rapper and his reading of the Lega’s homophobic statements constitutes the first example. Second, two famous Italian TikTokers, the Lapresa twins and Luciano Spinelli, are used as examples. The Lapresa twins usually post comedy clips but have also spoken out in support of free gender expression by posing in skirts and make-up. Similarly, Luciano Spinelli came out as gay in 2021, and has since openly talked about his struggles to accept his sexual orientation. Contrary to the other posts, there are no hateful comments to the TikTok creators’ posts, allowing for the assumption that younger Italians and especially Gen Z are more open to non-hegemonic gender representation. While it is stronger in the younger generation, the divide between society and politics is also slowly becoming visible across the Italian population: More progressive societal developments are not yet reflected by the discourse of the political system, leading to an alienation from traditional politics especially in the younger electorate.