Italy politics: Sex, thighs and 'videocracy'

Italy politics: Sex, thighs and 'videocracy'


The result is sex, thighs and “videocracy” — a documentary that takes a harsh look at a system perfected through Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi’s TV empire, in which sexy women become a symbol and instrument of power.

The undress-for-success formula is rarely challenged in Italy, where flaunting sex appeal is a way of life. But a rebellion of sorts has begun to challenge this Berlusconi-championed mix of sex, political influence and TV.

Cleavage and barely clad behind are the signature feature of the lowbrow entertainment that is the mainstay of the Mediaset TV empire that made Berlusconi one of the world’s wealthiest men and launched him into politics in the early 1990s.

For some women seeking to catch Berlusconi’s eye, critics say, a lot of exposed skin has even been a way to break into politics; his minister for equal opportunity is a former beauty queen and host on Mediaset and state TV, and women whose most obvious attribute is sexiness have been recruited as candidates under the Berlusconi party banner.

‘Spicy’ parties
Now comes an Italian businessman claiming to investigators that he procured some 30 women, many of them TV starlets or wannabes, as well as a high-end prostitute, to spice up the evenings dinner and parties at Berlusconi’s Sardinian villa and Rome palazzo.
The businessman has since been arrested in a cocaine probe. Berlusconi, who denies ever paying for sex, isn’t being investigated.

One politician who is decidedly not aiming for a shot on Berlusconi’s TV shows is Rosy Bindi, an opposition centrist who, as vice president of the Chamber of Deputies is one of Italy’s highest ranking female political figures.

She was on a state TV network in October, rebuking Berlusconi for the sex scandal when the 73-year-old premier phoned in and zinged her on the air, saying: “You are always more beautiful than intelligent.”
The graying, primly dressed 58-year-old shot back with: “I am not one of the women at your disposal,” and a backlash was born.

La Repubblica, the left-leaning Rome newspaper that Berlusconi detests, invited women to express their anger, and some 100,000 responded in less than a month.
Besides posting irate comments on the paper’s website, many sent in photos of themselves, fully clothed and in such poses as stirring pots on the stove, working in office cubicles or holding babies. Many scrawled across their photos: “Mr Premier, I’m not at your disposal.”

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