About a year ago I bought an issue of Feminist Review, entitled "Italian Feminisms." It was a really great issue, though, I read and forgot about it for a while. I found it again last weekend, and re-read a piece on Italian feminist organization/network, Sexyshock.
Sexyshock was born in 2001 in Bologna during a large demonstration supporting women's right to abortion. The organization describes themselves as:
a laboratory of communication on gender issues, managed by women but directed towards all genders. It is a public space for discussion and empowerment, a research project based in a public space where one can meet people and find materials. It is an info-point that gives visibility to women's issues as well as being a permanent workshop on sexuality... The challenge of Sexyshock lies in 'playing with' and 'deconstructing' sexual and identity issues through an 'open-border' conception of politics.
Since 2001, Sexyshock and other networks of feminists have been collaborating for Milan's annual MayDay Parade, which "highlights the commonalities between casualization, sex work and new forms of sexual as well as love relationships." Sexyshock creates consumptive products that state their cause. These productions occur in various forms, including: videos, songs, radio, merchandise, journal and magazine articles, live performances, and flash-mob actions.
Hack the Gender (right) is one of many graphic designs created by Sexyshock. This piece was developed for "Hack.it.art--Hactivism in the Context of Art and Media in Italy" These installations attempt to answer, "How is it possible to radically hack concepts like identity, the body, and sexuality and to subvert dichotomies like male/female, gay/straight?"
One of the group's other endeavors was to create "precarious heroines as 'Invincibles' These consisted of different images of a heroine on a stickers. One of which, titled WonderBra (left), is a woman who works in a call center by day and an erotic telephone operator by night. Each heroine has superpowers, and WonderBra's is the ability to "extract pleasure from work.
Sexyshock also developed a campaign titled, "Macho Free Zone," which was intended for the European day against violence (November 25th). One of the campaign images (at the top of this post) asks, "Are you sure you are safe?" In Italian, the words "safe" and "sure" are identical (Sicuro). The text reads (translated from Italian):
Feeling safe in the city should not serve a "special body." Yours should be enough. The best protection? The attention, the sensitivity and solidarity of those around you. Teamwork.
Because we are confident that it concerns all.
Another advert for the November 25th celebration is below right. The text reads: "Against those who only look at you in this way," and shows a naked woman, displayed as breasts and a vaginal hole.
The image is meant to be uncomfortable and shocking, which is, of course, a testament to Sexyshock's name.
Many of Sexyshock's images were developed after Italy passed the egregious Law n. 40, which banned assisted technological reproduction methods, such as artificial insemination. The network's key initiative to empower women's "collective agency in the search for pleasure in politics and in the public discourse on sexuality" has proven to advance Italian women. In the U.S., we don't often here about Italian activist feminism, but it is happening, and it's happening in a big way.