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Relationships in Italy versus America | Maymester in Sicily | Vanderbilt University
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There are still many Sicilian men who prefer a wife who does not present a great social or intellectual challenge, and marriage to a younger woman makes it easier to establish this kind of relationship. The idea of the Virgin Bride has gone the way of the Kingdom of Sicily, but the illusion or perhaps the fantasy continues, at least in the minds of a few reactionaries.
Truth be told, many Sicilian nuptial customs, particularly as they existed before the twentieth century, were based on Muslim practices dating from the medieval Arab domination of the island. The church may have supplanted the mosque, but the idea of a young bride being betrothed, without her consent, to an older man she barely knew, was remarkably similar to the marital traditions that still exist in Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim countries.
In certain respects, Sicilian men's attitudes toward women have not changed radically in the last hundred years. Divorce was legalised in Italy only in the s, and in some ways the advent of the miniskirt has only accentuated a certain sexism; many young Italian women entering the workplace are discouraged by the reality that shapely legs and a pretty face, rather than genuine credentials, seem to be the main qualifications for employment in a private sector overwhelmingly dominated by males.
An obvious reflection of this is Italian television, especially variety and game shows, where fat or ugly men are surrounded by beautiful young women. In Italy, a woman is unlikely to hold a high position in business unless her father owns the company where she is employed, though many women work in their husbands' family firms. Foreign Spouses in Sicily Love knows no boundaries or borders.
Not since the medieval conquest of Sicily by Saracens and Normans have there been so many foreign spouses in Sicily. Today, most are women. Typically, an au pair or vacationer from northern Europe or a British Commonwealth country marries an Italian man she meets in Sicily. American brides in Sicily are far fewer except for numerous American women of Italian ancestry , while a growing number of foreign women married to Sicilian men are from eastern Europe.
Very few non-Italian spouses married to Sicilians reside in Sicily compared to the number of Sicilian spouses of non-Italians living outside Italy. When the husband is the foreigner, the couple usually choose to live in his nation even if they met in Sicily; his carreer opportunities may be better in his home country. One day one of the male editors of this website was having a conversation with an American woman married to a Sicilian who was complaining about her husband and his annoying "Sicilian" behavior, speaking about certain difficulties of living in Sicily and raising a family here.
At a certain point, her American friend asked her, "Before marrying and moving to Palermo, didn't you ever consider that the social situation of women in Sicily might be different from what you had experienced in the United States? Another American woman in Sicily, raised in a Jewish family and now married to the Catholic father of her two children, complained to a group of expatriate American women that there were no synagogues in Sicily!
If she had read something of the history of our island, she would have known that this had been the situation since Some of these love affairs accentuate strong social and cultural differences. Life for a woman in most countries is not much like life in Sicily. But love was never logical. Most Sicilians share essentially similar social backgrounds and lifestyles. Understandably, there are those who seek something different even in love. While a few Italian men think of the sexual conquest of a pretty foreign girl as a sign of success, others view a foreign wife, without a trace of Italian blood, as an "exotic" status symbol.
Often, a young woman from England, Poland, Norway or elsewhere, who can barely speak Italian, marries a local man without knowing him --or Sicilian social culture-- very well. Then there are the Sicilian women who for whatever reason, prefer foreign men Mamma and Wifey Mammismo is the Sicilian phenomenon part of a wider Italian practice of men clinging to their mothers to the extent that a married man might actually side with his mammina against his own wife or girlfriend in a dispute. The attachment of Sicilian men to their mothers is not unlike what exists, to varying degrees, in Greece, Turkey, Israel and most Arab countries.
Whatever his relationship with his mother, the "typical" Italian husband tries to exercise a subtle degree of authority in his marriage. With younger couples, this is often too subtle to be observed, but it is clearly linked to a prevalent sexism in Italian society , where women still have a long road to travel in terms of equality with men.
Rather few Sicilian women hold gainful employment for which higher education is required, and this prompts many to marry men who are well-paid. Ben posizionato is the local term. Italian women who don't like overbearing males sometimes choose to marry foreign men American men stationed at the Sigonella military base find no dearth of prospective Sicilian brides , while attractive ones who feel that getting a job should be based on qualifications more substantial than shapely legs and a willingness to flirt with the boss may seek employment outside Italy. Exceptions prove the rule.
There are some Sicilian men who view women as social equals. Typically, such men are better-educated and relatively young, or may have lived in places like the United States or northwestern Europe for extended periods during their formative younger years. Whatever their experience, they usually understand that female companionship can be based on more than catering for a husband's culinary and prurient appetites. Why does such a status quo persist? It's a question of conformity and the momentum of centuries. Despite occasional travel, and exposure to "foreign" ideas via television and popular culture generally, many Sicilian women simply do not know any other way of life.
Diverse Dating Customs in 6 Countries Around the World
A wife's choices are based on a kind of social conditioning that says she "must" be Roman Catholic at least nominally , give birth to at least one male child, have her husband's dinner on the table for him promptly and ape his political opinions, however bizarre. Yet, Italian feminist organisations like Arci Donna have fought hard to achieve something akin to social equality, and to impress upon their sisters that real equal rights depend on more than being able to choose your sex partner.
Modern Marriage Does truly "modern" courtship exist in Sicily? An increasing number of "fidanzati" choose to live together before marriage, paying little more than a nod to tradition, and many younger Italian women pursue a series of short-term romantic relationships with little regard for social convention.
Especially when they travel or study outside Italy --a simple matter because, unlike a single Russian woman for whom entry into certain countries is made unjustly difficult by biased immigration policies , an Italian woman does not need a visa to enter European Union nations or the United States. One Italian women's magazine compared the girls who seek unbridled week-long romances abroad to Arab women who wear veils at home but remove them while on vacation in London.
What are the stereotypes of Italian men:
Like many other aspects of Italian life, weddings are part of la bella figura good image , reflecting a respect for the trappings of the past without denying the realities of the present or future. Change is in the air, and the social differences in attitude between a typical Sicilian woman of 40 and a young woman of 20 are nothing short of astounding. Almost Forever Divorce has existed in Italy only since the s. Obtaining one takes at least three years, and cause must be shown.
Sadly, it's usually adultery, spawning a cottage industry for private investigators in Palermo and Catania as spouses attempt to gather proof for their cases. Many couples remain together despite long term infidelity. Statistics indicate that marital infidelity is far more commonplace in Italy than it is in the United States, Ireland or the United Kingdom. In Italian law, a woman's husband is presumed to be her child's father. In a seeming invasion of personal privacy, a woman who remarries within ten months of her divorce must provide a medical certificate stating she is not pregnant.
A treaty between Italy and the Vatican recognises Roman Catholic marital annulments as civil divorces --the perfect marriage between Church and State. Speaking of Church and State, it's obvious that forces stronger than modern Catholicism and the post-war Italian state have influenced courtship among today's Sicilians.
Obviously, Sicilian marriages are no longer arranged by parental consent, but in this land of miniskirts, beauty contests and public displays of affection, it is surprising to foreigners that a subtle social influence is rooted in medieval Islam, one of the historical religions of Sicily.
Relationships in Italy versus America
In the autobiography of an Arabian bride Princess: Sasson , one reads of conservative Saudi Arabian social practices quite similar to those which have shaped life for centuries in Sicily, where things are changing generation by generation. If the Norman and Swabian kings brought Sicily into the European Christian orbit, it is nevertheless clear that certain enduring customs and attitudes remained distinctly Arab and Muslim over the centuries.
Thanks to extensive Saracen colonization and a high birth rate among the Sicilian Arabs many of the Sicilian Muslims had three or four wives , Sicily's population doubled during her Arab period. Particularly in the case of numerous towns of Saracen foundation where there was little subsequent foreign influence by Normans and others in intimate familial affairs , one wonders whether Libyan leader Muammar al-Quaddafi's references to Sicilians as "our Arab brethren," words so offensive to many of today's Sicilians, were completely misdirected. Even the daily afternoon closing of Sicilian shops for three hours is rooted in the medieval Muslim practice of closing the souk, or market, during the afternoon hour of prayer.
It's been centuries since Sicilian women were made to wear veils, but it wasn't very long ago within the living memory of older Sicilians that many were permitted to leave their homes after dark only if accompanied by friends or chaperones. In a familial context, if not a political legal one, the medieval Koranic view of relationships between men and women has had a lasting effect on Sicilian life.
It's not influenced by today's Islam. Nowadays, many a husband in Sicily seems peculiarly jealous and possessive, perpetually insecure in the suspicion that his attractive wife, armed with her own car and plenty of flexible time during the day, is betraying him, that he is "cornuto" literally "horned" for the horns believed to protrude from the heads of cuckolds in Italian folk tales.