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The Giambruno case and sexual harassment at work

The contextualization error of Italian public opinion

The Giambruno case and sexual harassment at work The contextualization error of Italian public opinion

Andrea Giambruno is many things, perhaps too many. For example, he's a TV journalist and presenter born in 1981, hosting "Diario del giorno," a news program on Rete 4. Additionally, up until virtually yesterday, October 19, 2023, Andrea Giambruno was known to the public as the partner of the Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the father of their daughter Ginevra, born in 2016. Lastly, Andrea Giambruno has engaged in inappropriate behavior, so he is a molester.

Giambruno's behaviour

There should be no doubts about this last point. In off-air footage from the show discovered by "Striscia la Notizia", we hear the host making inappropriate comments to his colleague Viviana Guglielmini, such as "Will you join our work group? Would you like to? You have to give us something in return. You have to engage in foursomes with us. Translated: it involves sex", "Do you know that *** and I have an affair? But we're looking for a third participant because we have threesomes" and also: "Can I touch myself while talking to you?" Additionally, there are images of him touching her shoulders and hair. Following these images, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced via social media the end of her relationship with him, thanking him for "the wonderful years we spent together" and emphasizing that she would defend "our friendship".

A Framing Issue

"Striscia la Notizia", the Prime Minister herself, and much of the public discourse on this case - treated as particularly juicy gossip to report before others - make the mistake of not properly contextualizing the incidents. What we see is not isolated or rare cases, nor are they playful pranks of a somewhat conceited individual; they are actual examples of workplace harassment, and should be discussed as such. While the fact that Giambruno, as a more or less direct consequence, has been publicly separated from his partner and has (at least according to Dagospia) lost his role as a presenter on Rete 4 is good and a starting point, it is not the main issue. If this is what happens off-camera but in front of a camera, can you imagine what usually occurs and what young female or female presenting professionals in the television industry and other fields are subjected to?

Women and Work: Sex as a Weapon

Whatever may or may not be behind this - and social media users have, as always, shown themselves to be masters of conspiracy, speculating on a vendetta by the Berlusconi family against the Prime Minister, a sympathy operation to assist her during a crisis, and everything in between - the truth is that sex has always been used to discomfort and undermine women in the workplace, as a threat or a means to put them in their place and belittle them, as insinuation or gossip to tarnish their reputation. Women, compared to this image of sex almost as punishment imposed by men, are expected to remain silent, preferably graceful and smiling. If they were to "joke" in the same way, they would immediately be harmed. There is no escape, in any field or at any level. It's a sort of implicit compromise, something that happens regardless and when it comes out, it's treated like a whim, an exaggeration. They're just boys, what can you do? The flesh is weak. No one even thought to ask Viviana Guglielmini how she felt and what she had to endure.

Private is Private?

Furthermore, those who claim that the private lives of politicians shouldn't concern us are wrong again. There's no avoiding it: Giorgia Meloni and her party made a significant part of their electoral campaign a manifesto in favor of the traditional family, of true women who marry real men and have children, and the more, the better, just like in the good old days. Private matters are always political, but they are especially so when they are strumentalized in this way by their very protagonists to promote messages of exclusion and restoration, of open opposition to rainbow families, to the LGBT+ community, and to women's right to choose.

A Strong and Clear Message

In this perspective, the case and the surrounding communication should not be downplayed in any way; on the contrary, they are even more significant. The political leadership, embodied by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her cronies, is telling us loud and clear: we are friends with harassers, we distance them for the sake of image and income, not because we condemn their actions, which we treat as isolated cases and not as systemic issues of harassment and gender. We appeal to a sensitivity for private matters that we ourselves don't possess, since we have no qualms about using it against our enemies and to advance our battles. Closing our ears might not be enough.