Alessandro Barbero, the only thing women lack to be successful is the power of men

This morning, like many and many of you, I woke up with a broken heart. Like so many people, I am a great admirer of Professor Alessandro Barbero despite having discovered its dissemination activity with unforgivable delay. It was during the first lockdown, that of 2020, that confined to the house alone, I started listening to her history lessons which were for me an effective palliative to loneliness as well as an interesting, compelling and engaging way to learn new things. In short, those lessons for me and for many others are a source of real personal enrichment, and that is why when I read Alessandro Barbero’s statements made to the newspaper La Stampa, my heart sank.

Barbero was interviewed by Silvia Francia on the occasion of the presentation of the new series of lectures that the professor will hold at the Intesa Sanpaolo skyscraper. During these meetings, Barbero will talk about three women who have made history such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Catherine the Great and Nilde Iotti and it is precisely because of the theme of these lessons that Francia asked Barbero for a comment on the lack of women at the top of decision-making processes: “Given that I am a historian and therefore my task is to investigate the past and not the present and the future – Barbero began – in the face of the enormous change in customs of the last fifty years, one wonders why we have not progressed further in this direction […] I risk saying something unpopular, I know, but it is hard to wonder if there are structural differences between men and women that make it more difficult for the latter to be successful in certain fields “.

Barbero’s statements have aroused many indignant reactions and as many reactions in defense of his statements against the “dictatorship of single thought”. To tell the truth, it is not the first time that his releases on issues concerning gender equality have given us to think that the professor was not exactly in line with contemporary feminist thought. In an interview with Muschioselvaggio, the podcast by Fedez and Luis Sal, Barbero said about Margaret Thatcher: “The first woman to become prime minister in a European country… and look at the results”. Giggles from bystanders follow, obviously all men. Responding to Fatto Quotidiano on whether or not to remove the statues of controversial people or people accused of aberrant crimes, Barbero replied that according to him that of the movements of blacks and women is “an empty, absurd battle. A form of racism ”.

In short, that Barbero did not agree with many of the demands put forward by the so-called movements woke it was an established fact and no one with common sense and who has at heart the founding values ​​of any democracy would like to prevent him from expressing his ideas on this or other issues. The point raised in his words today is another. B.arbero spoke of “structural differences between women and men”, which suggests, if we want to stick to when La Stampa reports, biological and, if we like, ontological differences that do not allow women to hold positions of decision and power. It is precisely because of these intrinsic differences between women and men that Barbero asks himself later in the interview: “Could it be that on average women lack the aggression, swagger and self-confidence that help establish themselves?”

Barbero is not a bar patron, she is a historian, so he is right when he says his job is not to study the present but the past. And it is precisely for this reason that he should know that the structural differences he speaks of are not a given of nature, but are the result of historical processes long and complex that have shaped a society that is the enemy of women from any point of view.

For centuries women have been denied the possibility of self-determination, that is to have the possibility to choose who to be, what to do, where to live and with whom. These legacies, albeit in different forms and shades, still persist today in every sector of our society: women find it harder than men to establish themselves because those characteristics – which Barbero lists as indispensable for success – are viewed very badly in a woman. These evidences are documented in many studies that Professor Barbero certainly had the opportunity to cross over the course of his long and brilliant academic career: for this reason, today, more than pointing the finger at him, we should ask ourselves why even a man of culture and great intelligence and sensitivity, even in the face of objective evidence, refuses to see what is there for everyone to see?

It comes to think that sexism and machismo are more difficult to eradicate than you think, that culture and books are not enough to free us from centuries of oppression and inequality, that there is something inside the men of a certain generation that just struggles to go away. And the controversy of the day would be greeted with a cheerful shrug if it weren’t for the fact that we are talking about the intellectual elite of this country, the one that influences those who make the decisions and decide our lives and those of the next generations. After all, those who make decisions in this country have the same characteristics as Barbero: a heterosexual white man in his sixties and from the north-central. So, rather than shrugging your shoulders, you have to roll up your sleeves and get busy writing a different story.

Maria Cafagna was born in Argentina and grew up in Puglia. She was a TvTalk analyst and now works as a political and television consultant. Lives and works in Rome.

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