American Girl in Italy (Ruth Orkin 1951)
“As a result of the economic downturn, Italian men can no longer afford to have a mistress. The article explained that it is the role of the man to ‘woo’ a woman on a date but now many men can no longer afford that for just one woman, not to mention multiple. For the younger boys this is not so much of an issue because they can adapt and learn how to use their charm and looks to ‘woo’ women. Whereas, older men are struggling to afford the luxury of women. Hotel staff members have said there has been a noticeably less number of “hotel lunch breaks” and in Milan (the cheating capital of Italy) divorce rates have gone down 38% because divorce is just too expensive. This article was very interesting to me because it openly discussed infidelity as being something normal and made it seem acceptable. This differs greatly from America in that infidelity is very taboo and monogamy is highly regarded. I cannot imagine an article like this ever being printed in America. Furthermore, this article confirmed some of my stereotypes about Italian men in that they are romantic in the form of grand gestures and gifts. However, being a woman and reading this article I would be very untrusting of an Italian man as far as romantic relationships go. For Italian men that do not fall into the “Casanova” category this article really gives them a bad name” (Cheylsea Federle).
Italian Gianluca Mezzofiore (IBTimes UK foreign correspondent) reacted to the article: BBC's Tacky, Tired Take on Italy's Casanovas Ignores the Truth.
“Regurgitating a series of tired clichés about Italian Casanovas may seem an innocuous exercise to many British readers. But the flawed connection between it and the real impact of the economic crisis makes it not only silly, but enraging”, writes Mezzofiore, adding: “These cries of despair require and deserve serious insight, investigation, data, reports, interviews and a journalistic style that doesn't fall on clichés like the "Latin lover has had to rein in his appetite" or "Casanova has dispensed with the flowery niceties of wining and dining and is cutting far more quickly to the chase".This is the standard everyone expects from the BBC - not a jumble of hackneyed sentences wheeled out to convey a "humorous" vision of Italy.”
Dany Mitzman (a British freelance journalist who has been based in the north Italian town of Bologna since 1998) disagrees too with the BBC light-hearted story: Lotharios no more: In defence of Italian men. “I admit that I am writing this from a personal perspective, having moved to Italy at the end of 1998 and met my partner in 1999. He is honest, faithful, considerate and not remotely sexist. In terms of the Italian male stereotype, he is very ‘un-Italian’. Some women worldwide may add that, in terms of the general male stereotype, he is very ‘un-male’". Mitzman adds: “So, if this country's men continue to have a reputation as Europe's most ardent seducers, I wonder if maybe it is because the language of Italy is still romantic and idealistic and - at least for some of its men - sincere? Italians use the word ‘corteggiare’, meaning ‘to court’, and the men still do it! My partner ‘courted’ me by leaving me little hand-written notes under my bicycle saddle and bringing me flowers every single time he came to see me. And I mean every single time. At a certain point, being a cynical Brit, I asked him to stop as my apartment was starting to look like a funeral parlour”.
None of the three articles offers any form of scientific support, or in-depth interpretation of the economic, social and cultural phenomena. Anyhow, I believe BBC Emma Jane Kirby was able to point out an interesting theme that deserves our attention. The reader shall be patient and wait for the final research paper of a 20 years old student. At that point an accurate account that starts from personal experiences but is capable to transcend them – with some reliable scientific data and concepts, or (why not?) reading Giacomo Casanova’s biography and trying to interpret it with a social and psychological (and historical of course) perspective – will be available in the web.
Here’s the link to The Complete Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt 1725-1798.