“Women are the true richness of Sicily”. Yes, my dear visitor, in Sicily, women are one the most beautiful things of my loved island. Both the women of yesterday and the ones of today. Not by chance, Sicily is a female name and the flag, Trinacria, always is a female name. But why Sicily women are so special, unique and great? Follow the subsequent paragraphs and you’ll find the answers and something else about the Sicilian women.
Women in Sicily tradition
I always say that Sicily women are the true richness of my loved island because they are really strong. They have an inner strength, an endless courage which comes from the depths of their soul. In Sicily, the women endured many plagues. Especially, in the past centuries. However, I want to focus my discussion on the latest two centuries, the XIX and the XX century, because the Sicilian tradition became more relevant during these periods.
In the ancient tradition of Sicily, women were forced to be only wives, mothers and sometimes ugly and with a mustache.
Fortunately, today, they are free to live their life, are beautiful and charming, but in the past, the things were different.
In the past centuries, Sicily women were kept in a submissive role, in their origin family and in the marital one.
They had no rights, they had only to do houseworks and be the eternal servants of their husband and their children.
The most of the times, Sicilian husbands raped their wives, who remained pregnant. Indeed, due to these frequent marital rapes, Sicily women had over 10 children during their fertile life.
Getting a job was forbidden to women in Sicily, such as to talk to another man. However, if the husband had the suspect that the wife was unfaithful, he was authorized by the Italian law to kill her. That was the so called “honor crime”.
Unfortunately, this wicked mindset also influenced many women, in Sicily, so that, in turn, they taught their sons to treat their women without respect, giving rise to an endless chain of abuse and violence ( always against women).
The prejudice against women lasted for a long time in Sicily and it is still alive in some ancient small villages, mostly inhabited by older generations of Sicilian women.
However, still today , freedom and rights are forbidden to many Sicilian women. Sure, today Sicilian women are graduated, but the great problem is that if they remain in Sicily, they remain unemployed. When they get a job, they always earn less than Sicilian men. When women want to be free to live their life, such as, for example, to be childfree, they are regarded as freaks by other Sicilian women who have had children. It is like women are unable to feel compassion each other. The most of times, the women of Sicily who make different life choices, are forced to go away from Sicily.
Hence, still today, Sicily women have difficulty to live a free and independent life, but above all, they are prevented from being themselves.
Fortunately, Sicily women took big steps forward in their social emancipation. They are free to hang out their friends, go to parties , get a degree and a job. Furthermore, they are free to have sex before marrying. You must know that in the past, Sicilian women who gave up their virginity before getting married were regarded as prostitutes (doomed to remain spinster), while men who gave up their virginity before getting married were regarded as true symbols of masculinity and authorized to betray their wife for the entire duration of the marriage. I think that virginity and marital fidelity are ethical values for both men and women, but in Sicily (always in the past) human rights were forbidden to Sicilian women.
However, the matter of the rights of women in Sicily deserves another paragraph.
Women’s rights in Sicily
The rights are still unknown for the most of Sicilian women, especially the ones who live in the small villages. Many of these women are still trapped in the traditional role of housewife and home servant. Many fundamental human rights have been denied to Sicilian women over time. Just think that Rape has been considered a crime against morality and not against women until 1996. As of this date, the Italian law has finally provided that sexual violence is a crime against a person and not only against morality.
Furthermore, in the past decades, when Sicilian women were raped, they were forced to marry their rapist. Another violence in the violence called “reparative marriage”. But, we Sicilian women can also be very strong when worst vicissitudes occur. One of the brightest examples of strong and courage in Sicily is the one of Franca Viola (see the image), a Sicilian woman born in Alcamo, in the province of Trapani, who refused to marry her rapist.
On December, 26, 1965, the day after Christmas, Franca was kidnapped, imprisoned for eight days in a secluded cottage and raped. She was 17 years.
The first day of the new year, the father of Franca was contacted by the parents of the rapist for the so called “pacification”, “paciata” in Sicilian. That was a meeting aimed to put the two families in front of the fact accomplished to push Franca and the rapist to marry. The parents of Franca Viola (with the help of the Sicilian police) pretended to accept the reparative marriage, but the next day, the cops arrested the rapist and his accomplices, instead, making Franca free from the duty to marry a man who raped her. This duty came from a twisted, old Italian law. According to this law, the crime expires if the rapist and the victim get married, because at that time, rape was a crime against morality and not against women. According to this twisted morality, a girl raped had to necessarily marry her rapist to save her honor and the one of her family. Otherwise , she would have been regarded as a shameless woman and would have remained a spinster.
That was not an act of courage. I only did what I felt to do, as any girl would do nowadays. I listened to my heart. The rest came by itself… It was not a courageous act.Franca Viola
I could also mention endless examples of courage of Sicilian women, but I believe the latter is enough.
Feminism arrived in Italy between 1968 and 1971, but Sicily was not involved. At that time, Sicily women continued to be only the ones imposed by Sicilian tradition, namely : slaves of Sicilian men ( fathers, brothers and husbands). And always at that time, when a daughter was born, the thoughts of the Sicilian relatives were expressed through these words: but that is only a little girl! Note the word “ that” , as she was not a baby, a human being, but an object.
Well, this is another example about a denied right. What the tradition denied to Sicily women is Equalitarism, the right to have the same rights of men, namely the dignity to be persons.
Sicily women yesterday and today
There is a large difference between the Sicilian women of yesterday and today. The ones of yesterday were our mothers or grandmothers, they were patient and humble women who were also capable to cook stunning Sicilian dishes. The mesmerizing scent and the flavors of food you breath when you are in Sicily are just the ones invented by the women of yesterday. I remember my grandmother while she was preparing the traditional Sicilian bread and the Sicilian schiacciata or delicious Sicilian pastry such as cannoli. During their spare time, they spent the remaining day to crochet and knit. They created wonderful scarfs and shawl that are nearly impossible to find nowadays.
These women are not longer in Sicily. Many of them are passed away, but their memory will always live in the heart of the Sicilian women of today. The look of the old Sicilian women was also very picturesque. They wore a black handkerchief on their head, especially when they went to the Church and a traditional wool shawl on their shoulders. When they prepared meals, they always wore bandana and apron. When an unknown person strolled the streets, these women looked at him/her like an alien. You can still observe this gaze in older women in small Sicilian villages.
This happened because the old women of Sicily weren’t accustomed to have confidence with new people, except their close relatives. The ancient customs of the Sicilian women of yesterday make us laugh nowadays and many comedians disguise like them to represent their behavior during typical Sicilian scenes, such as funeral. During this sad event, the women dressed in black cried and repeated Sicilian words, such as “Beddamatri santissima and Sciammuzza”. To organize the mourning, the relatives of the deceased were even capable to hire the so called “professional mourners” who had to cry and say the above mentioned Sicilian words.
These words are unknown for me, as well. I suppose that beddamatri santissima is the holy mother of God, the beautiful mother, but Sciammuzza? What is it? I think it means poor fellow. Black dressed Sicilian women can also be seen during Easter time. Typically black dressed old women, with a black handkerchief and a shawl, follow the traditional procession of Christ dead. The event is very poignant and is held every year in the most of the Sicilian villages I wrote about in the past months.
Yesterday, Sicily, women were much committed in the Catholic Church. They are so even today, especially the older ones and in the usual small villages. They clean the churches, they help priests organize Mass and religious parades and for this commitment I think these women are the true Angels of Church. The Sicilian women of today are largely busy. Today, Sicily women are not only wives and mothers, but also entrepreneurs, caregivers and multitasking.
Sometimes, men help them with their daily tasks, often they don’t and for this, I wonder if today, Sicilian women gained the true freedom or a sort of self enslavement. Multiple tasks often rouse stress, depression and anxiety and I hope the new generations of Sicilian girls learn to choose a better lifestyle, not like the past one, without rights, but a more sustainable one and founded on true human principles.
Sicily women’s clothing
Talented Sicilian women can create stunning products in Sicily. Moreover, the Sicilian style is recognized worldwide, so that there is also a Sicilian fashion style, not only the one Dolce and Gabbana , but also the one of Sicilian artisan women. I met many of them, who create jewels, bags and traditional clothing. Because, Sicily women are not only housewives, but much more. The economy of Sicily is today supported by them. Their talent is really great and deserves the attention of the world…
The fashion of Sicily dates back to the liberty style, born between the eighteenth and the nineteenth century . At that time, Sicilian women wore refined clothing made of sweet plots and colored interlaces recalling the nuances of Sicily.
The clothing of Sicilian women also include Sicilian embroidered lace and the traditional Sicilian shawl. This cloth is usually in wool, cotton and crocheted. The Sicilian shawl is regarded as a vintage product, but I think that is a precious fashion item . Still today, I wear a wool shawl in the winter, to wrap it on my skirt. Instead, I found many printed silk scarfs disguised as true Sicilian products, but the true traditional Sicily clothing for women is made through the lost art of crocheting.
After a hard search, I found skilled Sicilian woman who still creates crocheted clothes. She is Rossella Alaimo Pepe, another talented Sicily woman who lives in Palermo. Her products are all handmade. In her own website she says that her creations are exclusively the result of her fantasy and entirely realized with her hands, so every piece is unique and exclusive, not reproducible ….” If you want to see the Sicilian clothing for women by Rossella, visit her website or her shop on Amazon.
I hope you read this post entirely. I wish I told more about Sicilian women, but I believe I told the most meaningful things these women endured in their life. Maybe, among them , you’ll remember your Sicilian ancestors. If so, I invite you to send a comment about them . Sicily women deserve your opinion and support, that, obviously , will be greatly appreciated.
Dolce & Gabbana on Jetsetfashionmagazines.com