"Public admiration ... shouldn't fluster you. Ogling the ladies is a popular, harmless and flattering pastime you'll run into in many foreign countries. The gentlemen are usually louder and more demonstrative than American men, but they mean no harm."
It’s in stark contrast to what much of womankind would say today…or is it? The Facebook post itself received a ton of comments that seemed to land on either side of the spectrum with some women claiming they love the attention and others considering it harassment.
While I tried to stay diplomatic in my responses, I couldn’t help but ask myself how I felt about the issue. I started reading what was already out there including this article by Tess Conciatori for ELITE entitled “Living with Italian Street Harassment” where she takes a firm stance, writing:
“Street harassment is not flattering or complimentary.“Ciao bella” by a man walking nearby does not make me feel beautiful or valued. I feel harassed and uncomfortable, like I can't wear sleeveless shirts on a warm day, get blonde highlights in my hair or walk freely from my apartment to class in the morning.”
To this, I found myself nodding in agreement. No woman should be made to feel harassed or uncomfortable. But then I think back to some of my readers’ comments saying they love coming to Italy specifically for the “ciao bellas” and the male attention. I can only assume that they feel the opposite of uncomfortable in this case. Veronica, also known as The Sicilian Housewife, wrote a humorous, tongue-in-cheek commentary a few years back that addressed some of these common issues in her blog post “Single Woman in Italy? The Sicilian Housewife’s Guide to Italian Men”. One section that struck me was what she had to say about compliments from men:
“Italian culture is very beauty-oriented. Children get art appreciation lessons at school from the age of six. While courting you, Italian men are likely to tell you your eyes look like two stars that just fell from heaven, and that your beauty is so uplifting it has actually increased their IQ.
They are not saying these things because they think it will get you into bed. Italians will never say you’re beautiful if they don’t really think it: they can be brutally honest. They expect you to take compliments with self-confident poise, like an Italian woman.”
And it's not just me with this perspective. Here are some interesting, REAL comments in favor of the way things are in Italy, taken from The Sicilian Housewife’s post:
You actually make this sound pretty alluring. I am so tempted to fly to Italy (again; last time I was with a boyfriend) and experience some of that, um…hospitality… for myself.
I wish American men would realize the tremendous appeal of being called “Cara”.
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, because foreign women (including me) come to a lot of conclusions about Italian men which are wrong, just because the culture and rules are different. If they understand how it works here I think they can relax and enjoy the sweetness of Italian men!
Hilarious! And sounds like nearly every Italian I know – though I still love them for it. Cheeky chappies that they are.
I’ve always loved Italian men and their compliments. Never understood why many women were soooo offended. Course the older I get the less it happens so don’t have to worry about it. LOL Fun read. I’ve always said, need a bit of attention? Go to Italy! I can’t wait to visit again – this year! whoopee!
If Italian men looking like Alessandro Dellisola (left) or Mariano Di Vaio (right) followed you on the streets of Florence, would most of us feel scared or would we feel flattered? I know how I would feel but I'm curious about you, if you're reading this. Furthermore, if this is acceptable to some of us, the question becomes where to draw the line. It doesn't seem logical to smile when Alessandro says “ciao bella” but complain when Bob the construction worker says “hey baby”. This has an interesting tie-in to the fact that I'm currently curating love stories, many which are between non-Italian women and Italian men. With so much rampant sexism in Italy, femincide, and objectification of women, and claims that, in general, Italian men come on too strong, isn't it interesting to ponder why so many foreigners like me fell for them in the first place? Head-scratching.
Again, as I often do, I’ve really made no precise conclusion in this post. More so, I’m looking for your opinions, experience, and feedback. Let me know your thoughts.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to "dare un'occhiata" at these ones:
Can Men and Women Be Friends? Here's How My Italian Colleagues Responded
Dating Diversity: Italy vs. Canada (and North America)
Cross-Cultural Dating: My First Jaw-Drop Moment with an Italian
Italian Men: The Unofficial Guide for Wives and Girlfriends
How to Snag (and Keep) an Italian Man
Asians and Italians…The Perfect Cross-Cultural Cocktail?
How to Date an Italian Man or Woman (From The Iceberg Project)
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