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Long live mom, but only if she behaves the way we want her to

Fabio Volo is only a symptom of a larger problem: the control we want to impose on mothers

Long live mom, but only if she behaves the way we want her to  Fabio Volo is only a symptom of a larger problem: the control we want to impose on mothers

A woman who has chosen a public life path—whether as an influencer, actress, singer, government official, senator, scientist, researcher, or astronaut—always faces a unique form of judgment that is inevitably tied to her being a woman. Women are judged for their life choices, the fit of their clothes, hairstyle, intrinsic femininity, and consequently, for their decision to be mothers or not. We've seen photos of female senators and deputies at the beach, comments on their bodies, questions directed at Samantha Cristoforetti about managing her two children while on a mission, labeling scientists as "mom x" and researchers as "miss y." These are questions rarely posed to their male colleagues who are simply doing their duty, being fascinating and authoritative, bringing home the bread, and if they don't even remember their children's school, it's because they are too busy.

Judgment on Mothers

To this underlying, constant judgment, an additional layer is added when it comes to women who are not only famous (for any reason) but have also chosen to be mothers. Mothers, as women who have reproduced and are thus primarily responsible for their family's life - from folding socks to the social, emotional, and educational upbringing of small human beings - are held to an even higher, ridiculously high, standard. If young and single women who have a bit too much fun are judged as superficial, promiscuous, subject to subtle or not-so-subtle slut-shaming, can you imagine the judgment when a woman who has fun is also a mother?

Fabio Volo's Interview

There is no need to make any effort of imagination; just refer to interviews, headlines, bar conversations. Consider the comments received by Chiara Ferragni every time she takes a sensual photo, or the italian characters who built an entire career on the alleged ignorance and simplicity of "mamme pancine" making fun of real difficulties in the worst cases, inventing them from scratch to the detriment of a category in the best. Another recent example? Fabio Volo's interview in Corriere della Sera coinciding with the release of his latest book and his separation from his partner Johanna Hauksdottir. While chatting with the journalist, the 51-year-old couldn't help but fall into the old discourse of "in my time." First, he joked about the possibility of dating a 20-year-old girl, adding that: "Today, 25-year-olds are more mature, evolved and struggle to relate to somewhat lost men. While their parents are on Instagram..." then, on this last point, he doubled down: "When I was young, there were no social media, after school, we met in the square on the bench: we smoked in secret, made out. Having a 55-year-old mom, dressed sexy, dancing on TikTok is like if back then you found her on the bench, smoking. These kids no longer have the reference of an adult who knows their place."

Are Mothers Forbidden to Have Fun?

A 55-year-old woman, therefore, is judged for a variety of reasons, all summarized in Volo's unfortunate statement. Because she's 55 and dressed sexy, something a woman who has surpassed an age set by men and society shouldn't even dream of, risking public ridicule. Because if she's a mom dancing on TikTok and her children see her the image of the hearth angel, sacrificed and neglected for the sake of her cubs, will be broken forever. Then, because if she dares to use social media and dress as she pleases (these two things combined are the path to perdition) and everyone knows it she loses her educational role and the respect of people around her. Why do mothers bear the responsibility of being authoritative, respectable, and in their place? Are fathers' social activities and clothing choices monitored in the same way?

Moving Beyond the Mother Hen Figure

The author and actor might not know it, but in this last point lies the essence of the public discourse on this theme. If the mother hen figure had not been so marked and carved in stone, perhaps now, seeing a woman having innocent fun would not be so absurd. Considering a person's life as finished after 35—just because they are no longer considered attractive according to misogynistic and patriarchal standards—is limiting, overbearing, and a source of unhappiness for more than one person. The spontaneous question we ask is: what must these mothers do to be respected? Stay silent and iron, it seems. If mothers were seen more as individuals and less as incubators, cardboard cutouts onto which to project all our fears, modesty, and conservatism, perhaps a woman doing exactly what she wants wouldn't need defending, and Fabio Volo could go back to hosting a completely naked program as he did around 2006 in the promo for his talk show "Lo Spaccanoci," even if he's a dad.