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The Italian "love" and "fear"

   Divorce is sometimes not such a bad thing. We will meet and we will separate, but separation doesn't mean our lives are a failure. What is considered a failure? Is it when you manipulate your partner or are manipulated by your partner to continue living a gray life, when you stop believing in love, when you pretend to love or pray for love from people who don't love us, when you barely maintain a false self for fear of being alone or for fear of judgement.

  To mitigate the social impact of the divorce wave, China established a "divorce cooling-off period" in 2020, which requires couples to rethink their marriage within 30 days of registering their divorce application, and either party can withdraw the divorce application. As a generation that grew up listening to traditional Chinese love stories and has been exposed to Western romance novels and movies as an adult, we can see that when Chinese people talk about love, we talk about how to achieve eternity through sacrifice; when Westerners talk about love, they talk about how to achieve fulfillment through sacrifice. Chinese love is the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden who only meet once a year on the Magpie Bridge. Ancestral teachings generally reveal that the spark that erupts when a man and woman fall in love at first sight requires you to put in a lifetime of relentless effort to maintain its sparkle. Thus, the question of divorce is particularly tricky in the traditional Chinese cultural concept: are you sure, certain, certain that you really don't love each other anymore?

  Italy, on the other hand, is a country surrounded by romantic stories, where love comes on strong: the story of Romeo and Juliet comes from Italy, and even Valentine's Day originates from Italy. Love and food are an inseparable part of Italian life: whether it is between colleagues or friends, they are used to calling each other "darling" or "sweetheart" as a way to bring each other closer. to bring them closer to each other. While Chinese love stories often start with tentativeness, Italians are used to crossing the threshold of tentativeness and communicating their love with enthusiasm. Love comes so fast in Italy that they are not afraid to express it: at the departure gate of the train station in Bologna, there is a special "kissing point" for lovers, which allows them to have good memories even when they are parting. In a country where love bursts forth, the marriage rate is the lowest in the European Union, because the same problem plagues them: it is easy to fall in love, but difficult to divorce.

Divorce Italian style


  In November 1945, the liberal Catholic historian Arturo Carlo Yermolo described the Italian family system as a tightly interlocking "steel capsule" that was unique in the fragile social structure - from the end of the 19th century onwards. These family or clan-based collectives resisted the corrosive influence of other Western social values and stood firm to preserve the family's honor and conservative ideals. The Italian family system can be traced back to the Middle Ages, and none is more famous than the Medici family from Florence. Based on the founding of banks and the development of financial business, they laid a rich economic foundation for the whole family. With the mutual support of family members, more and more Medici family members were among the ranks of politics, religion and royalty, and played a considerable role in the development of Italian Renaissance art, sponsoring such masters as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. As wars and times changed, many large families split into smaller family units, still continuing the idea and ideology of the family system. For the Italian conservative and Catholic hierarchy, the tightly-knit family structure provided a stable foundation for the reconstruction of post-war Italy, which could maintain social balance and was worthy of being preserved in such an order by all possible means.

  One form of family protection was naturally "monogamy," which used emotional commitment and responsibility to create an indissoluble bond between husband and wife and was enshrined in the new republican constitution. This constitution recognized the family as a "natural society" - a strategy that gave the institution of the family a special ethical meaning in post-war Italy.

  In the mid-1940s, Italy was still in a chaotic political situation, and the religious community had a significant voice in Italian lawmaking. In order to promote economic prosperity after the war, Italy absorbed immigrants, changed traditional industrial patterns, and encouraged women to leave the home and participate in social work, which led to considerable changes in the social structure of Italy. Each of these changes impacted the traditional norms of marriage and family, as well as the religiously determined social concepts of the past. However, the Holy See remained convinced that the institution of marriage and family could not be changed as secular concepts developed and that those moral issues that undermined marriage would trigger social divisions.

  The Catholic Church believes that marriage was instituted by God and that marriage is defined as a "sacrament" and therefore the marriage relationship is "indissoluble" and implies "an indissoluble union between Christ and the Church ". Before the 20th century, if a couple had thoughts of divorce, the only way was to separate, and "legal separation" was then called "divorce a mensa et thoro", which meant "separation from table and bed". Separation from the table and bed", that is, eating at separate tables and sleeping in separate beds, but the marriage did not officially end. In the 20th century, in order to emphasize the importance of moral issues in marriage, the Holy See stipulated that if one of the spouses abandoned or abused the other or committed "adultery", the other spouse could only request a divorce. On top of the crime of adultery, the law also introduced the crime of honor killing, which means that when one spouse finds out that his or her spouse is committing adultery, if the betrayed spouse kills his or her spouse for the sake of his or her family's honor, then The judge is able to reduce the sentence of the murderer to three to seven years in prison for "honor killing" because he or she is "saving the honor of his or her family". In other words, even if both spouses are consensual, they cannot end their marriage, and there is only one way to ease the pain and not bring disgrace to their family: by killing their partner. The value of family honor far outweighs the value of life.



Photo from the movie "Italian Divorce".


  In 1961, Italian director Piatto Germi made a film about divorce based on this absurd legal and social culture in Italy - "Italian Divorce". The film shows how Fefe (short for Fernando, a term of endearment given to him by his wife), a nobleman in a small Sicilian town in southern Italy, tries to kill his wife in order to escape the shackles of marriage. The family of Fefe consisted of traditional noble marriages, and he was married to his wife Rosalie for 12 years, but behind the scenes he secretly loved the young and beautiful Angela. As the eldest son of a nobleman known in the small town, he could not openly carry out an ambiguous relationship with Angela, because the affair would bring shame to his family. So, he was thinking every day how to "reasonably and legally" kill his wife, but never put into action, until a woman named Marlena in town brutally killed her cheating husband.


  The small town held a public trial for Marlena's crimes. All the women of the town, unanimously regarded Marignana as a heroine - she, as a woman, did not sit idly by like other cowardly and tragic wives to her husband's infidelity, but chose to bravely stand up and end the marriage herself with a pistol. The name "Marignana" in Italian means "Little Mary", the name of the Virgin Mary.


The Medici family from Florence had great financial power and played an important role in the development of Italian Renaissance art.


  The women crowded the courtroom, warmly encouraging Marignana, who looked resolute and solemn, without a trace of regret - just like the actresses who now resolutely choose to divorce in the face of Internet opinion, guarding their families does not make more people sympathize with them, cutting off their love and living their own lives to gain respect. When women finally stand up and decide to take control of their lives, it takes a lot to leave behind everything they were attached to in the past, but it also makes the road ahead easier for them. Marlena's lawyer defended Marlena like a hero: she was a humble, pathetic Southern woman who had to endure great childbirth pain, and her husband's infidelity sent her into a prolonged nightmare of shame that she needed to break with the sound of a gun. In the end, the judge found the dead husband guilty as charged, while Marlena was sentenced to three years in prison for "honor killing.

  Religion, law, and public opinion became the iron chains that bound ordinary Italians to the freedom of marriage and divorce. Inspired by the case of Marignana's murder, Feiffer, like a sick husband, tried to make his wife fall in love with someone else so that she would commit "adultery" and he could kill her as a matter of course. He bought fancy clothes for his wife so that other men could lust after her beauty; according to his knowledge of his wife, he secretly found a qualified cheating partner for her; snooping through his wife's old letters to find her first love; writing letters to himself to report his wife's adultery, but pretending to be kept in the dark ...... when a When a marriage that exists in name only is on the verge of death can never be successfully drawn to a close, he could not help but instinctively struggle to make a crazy act of losing his mind.


The difficulty of divorce forces Italians to reflect deeply before they resolve to start a marriage, and the responsibility of getting married becomes more difficult.


Catholic weddings believe that marriage is instituted by God, and that the wedding is defined as a "sacrament" and therefore the marriage relationship is "indissoluble".


  Eventually Fefe succeeded - his wife could not resist the temptation to cheat on him with her first love. But to his surprise, before he could find the opportunity to kill her with his own hands, she jumped on a train with her first love and left him forever. He couldn't contain his excitement, but in the eyes of the public, Fei Fei became a true "cuckold's fool", people's brief sympathy for him turned into a long-lasting mockery, that although he was the head of the family, but he was unable to take charge of his wife, let his family disgrace. His friends laughed at him, his family turned away from him, and his wife, who had eloped with her lover, became a role model for women in the pursuit of happiness and freedom in the eyes of a significant portion of the population.

  Fyfe walks down the street lost, once a respected and respected local nobleman, now a fool who is mocked by everyone. People write to remind him that the only way to save his family's reputation is to kill his wife who betrayed him.

  The families of Fyfe and Marinella, also as victims of divorce problems, when they faced the same moral problems, 20th century public opinion stood for them at two extremes - the murderer of the husband could be considered a heroine, the murderer of the wife could only be considered to save the last face; the husband who eloped with his lover deserved to die, and the wife who eloped with her lover was at the end of her life. The husband who eloped with his lover deserves to die, but the wife who eloped with her lover is in pursuit of self. This contradictory concept reflects the questioning of men's natural authority in the family and the germination of women's emancipation at the beginning of social and cultural reform, while religion has built a stubborn iron wall to ignore the change of social values in this gender-dominated melee.

Freedom of Divorce and Women's Liberation


  On December 1, 1970, a turning point finally came in Italy - the Divorce Law was ratified for the first time in Italy. It was an important moment that changed society, and the relevant headline on the front page of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that day read "Italy is a modern country - freedom has won the day". It was a legislative measure that guaranteed fundamental rights in society, especially for women, who finally saw a state-recognized right and an outlet to escape marital violence and oppression.

  Four years later, the Church pushed hard for a referendum to repeal the Divorce Act, which many Catholics and Christian Democrats strongly opposed and which, for the Church, was "an unbreakable bond between husband and wife. An astonishing 60 percent of Italians voted against repealing the law, clearly saying "no" to the Church - for many couples, divorce is a win-win right and there is no turning back. The law has gradually changed the way Italians think about the family, as more and more women have the opportunity to develop a greater awareness of their rights and values, and have begun to desire their own financial and decision-making independence. They were able to justifiably reject marital relationships, especially those that were unpleasant for them, and no longer had to live with people whose lifestyles were incompatible with their own. In the past, marriage was the only option in life for Italian women.

  In 1981, "honor killings" also disappeared from the criminal code. Several scholars have analyzed the complex political story behind the writing of the Divorce Law and the referendum against it a few years later, arguing that the introduction of the Divorce Law represented a belated effort by the Italian political class to confront the Papacy and conservative culture, and that it was the government's response to an advanced social concept. The Divorce Law was the result of the slow development of Italian social consciousness, turning a new page in the historical process of social development by signaling that traditional ideas were finally beginning to encourage people to focus their goals on the path of personal freedom - especially for women.

  The changes in marriage and divorce are closely linked to feminism, but the indifference of Italian feminist historians to this topic is particularly puzzling. This is perhaps because, despite the fact that the Divorce Act was in the private sphere, it was still actively promoted by male government officials-it can hardly be seen as driven by feminist thinking. This also explains why the debate over women's abortion laws that took place in Italy after the referendum on the Divorce Law did not play much of a role in the course of the women's liberation movement.


  The introduction of the Divorce Law, however, played a key role in paving the way for the Italian women's liberation movement. When the anti-Divorce Law referendum was held in 1974, women voters outnumbered male voters by 1.7 million, and the pro-divorce lobby feared that women might support the repeal of the Divorce Law because, at that time, Italian families relied primarily on men for their income, and most married women were left without financial resources when they left their husbands, and divorce would have a disproportionate impact on women's living conditions. Surprisingly, after a survey by lobbying groups, Italian women's views on marriage and family have long since changed dramatically over the past few decades, and women's strong desire for marriage and childbearing is in fact a secular prejudice.

  The study found that the shift in Italian women's attitudes toward marriage stems primarily from popular culture and the media, including music, novels, movies, magazines and, in particular, a women's magazine called We the Women. We Women is like a matrix that looks at society and culture through a female lens, reshaping readers' attitudes toward marriage, family, fertility and divorce issues. Through the power of words, it continues to break down the "steel capsules" of the church's mouth and works tirelessly to bring new ideas to women. We the Women made a unique contribution to breaking the Catholic Church's monopoly on family discourse by grassroots women and laid the groundwork for the progress made by Italian women in the referendum against the Divorce Act.

  We the Women was founded by the Italian Women's League after the war. In Italy, the end of World War II marked not only the much-awaited arrival of peace, but also the opportunity for Italians to finally rebuild a democratic society after 20 years of fascist rule. After the war Italian women were given the right to vote and they looked forward to participating in the social reconstruction of post-war Italy, especially for marriage and family - the traditional concept of gender order needed to be re-established after the war, and it was with this vision that We the Women was created. The cover of the first issue shows a woman clutching a rifle, expressing tenacious determination; another woman sits in the rubble with a baby lying in her arms - reminiscent of the Virgin Mary. The title on the cover reads, "We left our rifles and will rebuild our families. Women occupy a central position in the post-war reconstruction, and an opportunity to escape the traditional gender hierarchy is thus presented to Italian women. We Women's focus on women transcended the political and religious rifts in Italian society and succeeded in attracting a large readership, with a circulation of 500,000 copies by 1954, making it unique among Italian women's magazines.

  We the Women sought to teach Italian women one thing: that pretending to ignore the family institution as influenced by the shaping forces of history could do more harm than good. It helped familiarize women with the political landscape by publishing regular articles examining women, the family and social change in post-war Italy. Given the delicate situation of saber-rattling between democratic forces and conservative ideas in postwar Italy, We the Women's articles always avoided being too radical, wandering around the edges of the bottom line of the conservative camp. In January 1949, for example, it posed a question to its female readers: How do you think about marriage? Although the question seems commonplace today, in Italy back then, to invite public opinion on a subject considered immutable was to subtly pry open the possibility of a popular rethinking of the inherent life. In post-war Italy, discussing divorce was still a taboo, but just a few months after this article on marriage was published, We the Women again addressed the issue of divorce in Italian society with an article on the phenomenon of divorce in the United States, while gently suggesting that Americans take divorce to court "rather easily" and that, in their eyes Divorce has nothing to do with "moral nature" and "opposition to divorce is in itself absurd". Although this article did not cause much of a stir in Italy at the time, in that historical context, We the Women openly threw a grain of sand on the issue of marriage in Italy, hitting the "steel capsule", and even if there was no trace of it at first, the sand would eventually wear away with time. The hard conservative shell of the "steel capsule" - from the late 1950s onwards, the idea that "divorce could be a measure of legal improvement rather than an American indulgence brought into marriage" began to gain ground. The idea that divorce could be a legal improvement rather than an American indulgence brought into marriage" began to gain support in Italy until the dust settled on the Divorce Act.


The introduction of the Divorce Law played a key role in paving the way for the women's liberation movement in Italy.

After divorce, we still love each other


  Twenty years after the Divorce Law came into force, divorce had become an almost universal phenomenon in Italian society, and it took time for people to see any consequences of divorce and to gather the courage to consider whether they could afford it. Since then, the Divorce Law has been amended several times in Italy as society and the economy continued to develop. Nowadays, there are two types of divorce in Italy: one is voluntary divorce, in which couples can divorce as long as they reach a consensus on a court-approved agreement; the other is judicial divorce, in which a hearing is held before the couple reaches an agreement and a judge decides who will be responsible for the failed marriage. As in China, couples in Italy cannot divorce immediately after filing a petition for divorce and need to live apart for at least 6 months before the marriage can be officially terminated.

  In Italy, divorce procedures are both cumbersome and expensive, and from 2009 to 2012, the divorce rate suddenly plummeted because the sudden financial crisis forced Italians to think twice about divorce - a voluntary divorce costs 3,300 euros, while a judicial divorce can cost up to 23,000 euros. Unable to tolerate the Italian divorce rules, some Italian couples even choose to divorce abroad in order to get themselves divorced as soon as possible.


In fact, it is not the parents' divorce itself that affects the children, but the way the parents behave towards each other and their children, whether they live together or not.


  Surveys show that the average marriage lasts 16 years in Italy, and the average age of divorce is 47 years for men and 44 years for women. Although "love" is an integral part of Italian life, statistically speaking, they have not found the secret to living together for a long time.

  One of the reasons why "Divorce Italian Style" is able to deal with the difficult topic of divorce in a comedic way, keeping the tone of the film relatively light: Fefe and Rosalie, who have been married for 12 years, do not have children. Today 65% of all divorces in Italy involve families with children, a third of whom are minors. Are the children of divorced families necessarily the victims of divorce? There are two main views in Italy: those who advocate an "American divorce" believe that the well-being of the self should come first, not to mention that children can easily adapt to a new family environment; conservatives believe that the breakdown of the marriage will leave the children in an unhappy life and that the family should guard the inseparable relationship at all costs.

  Of course, there is no simple answer to this question, and the main difference between the two views is whether the divorce of a couple is a "punishment" for the offspring. In fact, it is not the divorce itself that affects children, but the way parents behave toward each other and their children, whether they live together or not. When spouses become disgusted with each other, it does not bring harmony to the family, and children who live under the same roof as them will have more anxiety than those who "respect the separation" of their parents. What is truly inseparable is the relationship between parents and children, and the quality of this relationship is not guaranteed by the parents' reluctance to stay together, and sometimes the parents' pressure can be more damaging to the children.


Marriage implies the creation of a bond in front of society, laws, rights and obligations, a project that requires a commitment from the very beginning.


  Both in China and in Italy, those who oppose divorce always use the issue of children as a moral kidnapping technique. It is undeniable that children of divorced families tend to have a more objective relationship with their parents, because parents who are separated from the marital relationship are left to raise each other alone, and the further away from the traditional family system, the better the children have the opportunity to see its mechanisms.

  Many conservative Italians still have a prejudice against divorce, especially in small towns where neighbors and family members are very close, and where public opinion among acquaintances can add to the guilt of divorce. The difficulty of divorce has forced Italians to reflect deeply before deciding to start a marriage, and the responsibility of getting married has become more difficult - as a direct result, fewer people are now marrying and more are living together, choosing this way to get to know their partners better. In a culture centered on personal happiness, marriage as an obligation to be responsible for others frightens young people because it places one's existence and happiness in the midst of an uncertain future. Marriage means creating a bond in front of society, laws, rights and obligations, a project that requires a commitment at the outset, and divorce means having to bear all the consequences of betraying that commitment. In view of this, in a society that seeks the present, change and new things, fewer and fewer people are getting married and the age of marriage is constantly being postponed.


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