Women against Women: How internalised misogyny shapes the best patriarchy’s allies

Italian fashion designer Elisabetta Franchi sued for gender discrimination, facing a 5,000 euro fine. Franchi defended her preference for women over 40, highlighting state responsibility.

Women against Women: How internalised misogyny shapes the best patriarchy’s allies
Photo Source: By Markus Spiske, May 1st, 2021, via Unsplash

26-06-2024

Benedetta De Rosa

Women’s Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

More and more women are the architects of their careers and masters of themselves in a system that often and frequently discriminates against them. Yet there, too, patriarchy makes its entrance, when misogyny is internalised to the point that women themselves replicate its dynamics, passing off as lawful and unproblematic that whole series of statements and behaviours that all in all discriminate against women. This is the case of the well-known Italian fashion designer Elisabetta Franchi, who on June 6th, 2024, was sued for discrimination against women and ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 euros.

During a public event in 2022, the fashion designer indulged in remarks about her staff selection criteria in complete nonchalance. It is true that most of her employees are women, but the businesswoman herself confessed that she prefers to invest in women only if they are over childbearing age, if they are over 40. These would not leave the position uncovered to take time off work for personal life commitments, be it parental leave or whatever else. In a few seconds, she zeroed in on decades of women’s empowerment, declaring “I put women in because they are passed the ‘big four-oh’, if they had to get married they have already done it, if they had to have children they have already done it, if they had to divorce they have already done that too. So I take them who have done all the turning points, they are there nice and quiet with me, by my side, and working h24” (Vorcelli, 2024). Basically, Elisabetta Franchi not only admitted that she prefers men because they would be more productive, but she also implied that men bring more profit to the company because in the couple they are the ones who bring home the daily bread, while women are relegated to care work.

Fortunately, these statements did not go unnoticed, and in June 2024 the Busto Arsizio Labor Court sentenced Franchi’s company to pay a fine of 5,000 euros, recognising the discriminatory nature of those words uttered. On the conviction, Franchi expressed herself by reiterating that hers was a denunciation of the current condition of women, who in the world of work are often forced to choose between career and family life, also recalling the responsibility of the state in this. However, one may wonder whether in the face of such a picture, the best solution is really to exclude women under 40 from the labour market and consequently take that choice between work and family for them. Of course, this should not be even an option. In addition, a woman in Elisabetta Franchi’s (privileged) position would have all the power to create better conditions and facilitate their entry into the workforce without sacrificing family life, if they wanted one let’s be clear. Finally, the entrepreneur made her latest move during an interview published in the Italian newspaper Il Corriere di Bologna, saying “I may have been misunderstood [and] there is a fury toward my figure as an entrepreneur” (Melchioni, 2024).

How much longer will the excuse of misunderstanding hold up to hide the true nature of those who discriminate in order to defend their profits? Those who hide behind this excuse know full well what the implications of their decisions are, but still hesitate to reveal them, probably out of fear of the consequences for their social status. Because to date, almost no one will openly say “women are inferior”, putting their face and name to it. To say it they would have to use a fake account on some social media, but in the real world the repercussions and condemnations would be too heavy, as (at least on the surface) the world we inhabit supports gender equality and condemns all forms of discrimination. So opting for sarcasm, Goliardery of half-affirmations seems the best option to climb the ladder of power, and when someone catches it, the misunderstanding card is ready to come to the rescue. This situation becomes even more tangled if the main actor is a woman. If a woman brings forward the same instances of patriarchy, then those instances must not be wrong; after all, it is a woman who says so. There is no worse enemy of women than the woman who has convinced herself that the role men have imposed on her is okay.

Sources and further readings

Bologna Today (2022, 21 December). Elisabetta Franchi. Dopo le parole sulle donne ‘over’, azienda sotto la lente di ingrandimento, Bologna Today. Retrieved on June 26th, 2024, from

https://www.bolognatoday.it/economia/elisabetta-franchi-donne-azienda-lavoro-ispettorato.html#:~:text=Nell'occasione%20la%20stilista%20bolognese,Parole%20che%20scatenarono%20un%20putiferio.

Martino G. (2024, 6 June). Elisabetta Franchi dopo la condanna: “La mia era una denuncia. In azienda il 79% sono donne”, Fanpage. Retrieved on June 26th, 2024, from

https://www.fanpage.it/spettacolo/personaggi/elisabetta-franchi-dopo-la-condanna-la-mia-era-una-denuncia-in-azienda-il-78-sono-donne/

Melchioni V. (2024, 7 June). Elisabetta Franchi: “Stanca di essere fraintesa: una donna di successo dà fastidio”, Il Corriere di Bologna. Retrieved on June 26th, 2024, from

https://corrieredibologna.corriere.it/notizie/cronaca/24_giugno_07/elisabetta-franchi-stanca-di-essere-fraintesa-una-donna-di-successo-da-fastidio-f1a9484d-a5a9-4a14-b546-d4a6f4ed7xlk.shtml

Seclì D. (2022, 7 May). Elisabetta Franchi assume solo donne sopra i 40 anni: “Hanno già fatto figli e lavorano h24”, Fanpage. Retrieved on June 26th, 2024, from

https://www.fanpage.it/spettacolo/interviste/elisabetta-franchi-assume-solo-donne-sopra-i-40-hanno-gia-fatto-figli-e-lavorano-h24/

Vorcelli V. (2024, 5 June). “Assumo solo donne ‘anta’”, per la stilista Elisabetta Franchi arriva la condanna, DiRE. Retrieved on June 26th, 2024, from

https://www.dire.it/05-06-2024/1049529-assumo-solo-donne-anta-per-la-stilista-elisabetta-franchi-arriva-la-condanna/