Dacia Maraini is an esteemed Italian author, journalist and activist for equality. On Feb. 26, Maraini attended an event celebrating her lifetime of activism, while marking the start of the National Women’s Month and International Women’s Day on March 8.

Maraini, 81, lived through and wrote about her experiences in the Second World War, Cold War and the Feminist Movement of the 1960s. As both a journalist and novelist, Maraini has written over two dozen novels, plays and poems on the empowerment of women. Maraini explained her work to advocate for gender equality, as a devotion to ethics and her deep beliefs.

In an interview with The Good Five Cent Cigar, Maraini said that her fundamental ideal was that “men and women, all people, are similar, there is no superiority or inferiority. We are all the same. We are all human beings.”

Her extensive career as  playwright has allowed her to use theatre to talk about what she describes as “life and its realities.” Maraini not only used her plays to discuss issues of equality and the empowerment of women, she also used her beliefs to start a theatre company in Italy. The theatre helped give women the opportunity to write and direct plays, at a time where it was unheard of for women to hold theatrical roles outside of acting.

The University and academic department co-sponsors held Monday’s event to celebrate Maraini’s formidable career and the causes that she continues to advocate for.

Michelangelo La Luna, a professor of Italian, moderated the event. Professors from the University and other colleges in the region were invited to discuss the impact and significance of Maraini’s works, and then to ask Maraini questions. This event was also an opportunity to, according to La Luna, discuss Maraini’s work to advocate for women’s rights and also to address the gender inequalities that persist today.

Ombretta Frau, professor of Italian at Mount Holyoke College and a guest speaker, discussed Maraini’s novel Isolina, a book depicting the life of Isolina Cantuni. Catuni, often referred to as Isolina, was a nineteen-year-old Italian girl in the early 1900s and a victim of femicide, sex-based murders of women. Isolina was not only murdered, but she was dismembered into six pieces after she refused to terminate her pregnancy with an Army official, who she had a relationship with. Isolina’s murder was covered up by the Army, because they did not want, what Maraini calls, the “macchia” or the stain of this murder to ruin their reputation. Until Maraini’s 1993 book, Isolina’s story was almost lost in history.

Frau connected Isolina’s murder to the recent death of Pamela Mastropietro, a young Italian girl who was similarly murdered and dismembered. She also asked Maraini why she believed that femicide continues to be an issue.

“A fragile man enters a crisis because of a sense of possession, which turns him into a murderer,” Maraini said.   

During this event, Maraini also touched upon the recent developments in the #MeToo movement, an international women’s movement that has exposed the sexual misconduct of men in power.

Maraini discussed how today’s rigid societal norms of masculinity, especially of the past, ultimately allow men to  justify that this system of blackmail and harassment. Even within Italian politics, Maraini underscores this same societal biases makes it harder for women to rise to positions of power.

Maraini referenced the Italian center-left politician and President of the Chamber of Deputies, the American equivalent to the Speaker of the House, Laura Boldrini’s obstacles and the sexism she has faced in during her political career. Maraini discussed Boldrini’s obstacles in depth, ranging from death threats to fake news conspiracies about her late sister embezzling money from the government.

Maraini said that some, not only in Italy but all over the world, simply “reject women in important positions of power.”