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Il Forum è nato dalla giornalista Marilù Mastrogiovanni ed è organizzato da Giulia Giornaliste e dalla cooperativa IdeaDinamica, con l’obiettivo di “creare ponti, abbattere muri: promuovere una riflessione sul giornalismo delle giornaliste investigative, come presidio di Democrazia, dunque di Pace”.

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[fullwidth background_color=”#ffffff” background_image=”” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”20px” padding_bottom=”20px” padding_left=”20px” padding_right=”20px” hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” menu_anchor=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]By Rosario Coluccia*

I am a linguist by trade. And so I often receive phone calls, sometimes letters, from friends, acquaintances, students, asking my opinion on expressions and words they hear on television or read in newspapers. Nothing strange, language changes all the time, it is a living organism, it lives as human beings who use it live. The ancient Greeks already knew it; modern linguists know it. Italian, for example, is constantly being enriched: forms from other languages (nowadays especially from English) enter it, from dialects, new words are created to meet society’s needs. And, at the same time, some word or expression falls into disuse and disappears, as is natural in the perennial cycle of life.

An intelligent colleague, who is not in the same profession as me but is interested in the issues of our language, asked my opinion on a word that is used a lot today. It is “feminicide” which means the murder of a woman, often perpetrated by her husband, boyfriend, partner, sometimes by an unknown person. “But why invent a new word,” my colleague asks, “wouldn’t murder be enough?” Homicide according to the vocabularies of Italian (there are five or six very good ones, others less good) means the killing of one or more people. And so, my colleague further notes, the word “murder” can refer to both the murder of women and the murder of men. Why create a new word, isn’t it useless? The doubt is legitimate: as proof, not all vocabularies record the term “femicide.”
And the colleague is smart, I have already said that. Today the word is widely used, just a simple search on the Web. Here are some examples from newspapers: “Femicide, the massacre of women, five in two days” (Il Messaggero); “One hundred and twenty-seven femicides in 2012, 25 since the beginning of the year. It is unacceptable, we need to intervene more forcefully”: this was said by Equal Opportunities Minister Iosefa Idem (Il Secolo XIX); and again, “Femicide. I want you mine, so I’ll kill you. The slaughter of women” (Dazebao); “Femicide emergency. The change is cultural” (The Daily Fact); etc. A book entitled: Femicide. From social denunciation to international legal recognition (Milan, Franco Angeli, 2009), opens up very interesting legal scenarios (including international ones) on the issue we are dealing with.
Back to my linguistic seedbed, I don’t want to invade other people’s fields. And I return to the question posed by my colleague, “If Italian already has the word murder, which means the murder of man and woman, why create a new word? Isn’t it unnecessary?” The answer, as is often the case, is given to us by vocabularies. The entry “female” is explained thus: ‘a human being of the female sex, often with derogatory value.’ Mind the adjective “derogatory,” the solution is there. “Femicide” means the murder related to a repulsive cultural attitude of those who consider the wife, the partner, the ‘friend, the randomly encountered woman, not a human being of equal dignity and equal rights, but an object that one owns; if ownership is denied, if another male approaches the object that one considers to be one’s own, blind violence is triggered.
I do not know whether this attitude is generated by some habits of the society in which we live: a society that together brazenly exhibits the female body seen as a commodity and prefers to listen to those who shout and offend instead of reflecting on the reasonableness of arguments. Those who know me know that I am not a demure big wig; I am repulsed by arbitrariness, disrespect, and offense. Back to the language. If a society generates monstrous forms of overpowering and violence, a term must be invented to express that violence and overpowering. And so it is right to use “feminicide,” to denounce the brutality of the act and to indicate that one is against violence and oppression. Good for the Italian language to put the word “feminicide” into circulation; the generic “murder” would be too bland.

 

*Academic of the Crusca

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