The Crisis-Woman

The Crisis-Woman: Body Politics and the Modern Woman in Fascist Italy

NATASHA V. CHANG
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt13x1qzn
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  • Book Info
    The Crisis-Woman
    Book Description:

    Using a rich assortment of scientific, medical, and popular literature, Natasha V. Chang'sThe Crisis-Womanexamines thedonna-crisi's position within the gendered body politics of fascist Italy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2119-0
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: Who Is the Crisis-Woman?
    (pp. 3-21)

    Consider the following cartoon printed in a satirical newspaper in Italy approximately a decade after the establishment of the fascist regime: a man relaxes in an easy chair at home and is interrupted by a maid announcing a caller (Figure 1). “Who wants me, a gentleman?” he asks. “No,” the maid replies. “A lady?” he inquires again. “No,” she replies once more. “Well, then, who is it?” he insists. “It’s a crisis-woman,” the maid answers smugly.¹ Readers unfamiliar with Italian fascist culture might well wonder who – or what – a crisis-woman is, and in doing so they would inadvertently...

  6. 1 The Donna-crisi and the Fashion World: From Revolution to Regulatory Ideal
    (pp. 22-43)

    As we saw above, there emerged in the 1920s in Italy and Europe “not only a new fashion but also a new physical ideal” which envisioned the female body in a manner that radically broke with the past.¹ Fashion trends began to shift away from the long-established maternal archetype as the once-popular curvaceous Edwardian figure was replaced by an idealized “slender and sinuous body type with smaller breasts, slimmer hips, and long legs.”² Women were cutting their hair, wearing pants, and smoking in public. In short, women were becoming “modern,” that is to say, representative of a new century and...

  7. 2 Scientific Discourse and the Making of the Donna-crisi
    (pp. 44-67)

    Among the various popular trends of the 1930s described by Irene Brin – the lively writer and journalist whom we encountered at the start of chapter 1 – was the so-called hygiene trend. In her distinctive, witty idiom, Brin writes of the transnational craze for fresh air, body treatments, exercise, and dieting: “Incredible words came out of the mouths of senators who were, at one time, epicureans andbon vivants: ‘My cold shower, my push-ups, my fruit-day.’ Vigorously pounding their chests, everyone confirmed that they felt more youthful” [Parole incredibili uscivano dalle labbra di senatori un tempo buongustai e ben...

  8. 3 Esci fuori, mattacchiona!: Satirical Representations of the Donna-crisi
    (pp. 68-101)

    In 1933, as the campaign against the crisis-woman reached its peak, citizens walking along the streets of Italy’s capital city might well have heard someone whistling Romolo Balzani’s catchy new tune “Donna crisi.”¹ This song, sung by the popular singer in his native earthy Roman dialect, shows him trying to convince his sweetheart to abandon her “Hollywood” dieting regime: “You seemed so beautiful to me/when you were a bit chubby!/But when we go out, with the waist that you’ve got now/I feel like I’m carrying around a bamboo cane!” [A me parevi invece tanto bella/ quann’eri un pochettino grassottella!/E quanno...

  9. 4 Ideologies and Economies of Crisis
    (pp. 102-120)

    Thus far I have presented thedonna-crisiprimarily as a figure that is symptomatic of a variety of historical shifts and of fascism’s response to them. For example, aversion to the crisis-woman’s lack of feminine attributes can be read as a displaced fear of changing gender roles that accompanied Italy’s interwar process of modernization. Criticism of her indecorous use of makeup and fashionable clothing might reflect the manner in which the rise of consumer culture provoked anxieties about the erasure of traditional class markers. Unease about her exotic taste could show concern about foreign influence upon Italy, particularly the influence...

  10. Conclusion: The Decline of the Donna-crisi
    (pp. 121-122)

    By the mid 1930s, as the economic crisis began to abate so too did verbal and pictorial attacks on the crisis-woman, eventually dying out. In the end, the regime’s campaign against the dreaded, deadlydonna-crisilasted only three short years: from 1931 to 1934. Crisis as a fascist mode of political discourse, however, continued. Its racial inflections and preoccupation with the health of the national body were buoyed by events such as the invasion of Ethiopia and the impending world war – a rich topic for further study.

    Although the life of the crisis-woman may have been brief, her memory...

  11. A. Lyrics to “Mah, cos’è questa crisi?” (1933) by Rodolfo De Angelis
    (pp. 123-125)
  12. B. Lyrics to “Donna crisi” (1933) by Romolo Balzani
    (pp. 126-128)
  13. C. Captions for “Donna crisi utilitaria” by Mameli Barbara, published in Marc’Aurelio (1933)
    (pp. 128-130)
  14. D. Captions for “Donna crisi inutilitaria” by Mameli Barbara, published in Marc’Aurelio (1933)
    (pp. 130-132)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 133-152)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 153-162)
  17. Index
    (pp. 163-166)