chapter  10
17 Pages

Redefming maternity and paternity: gender, pronatalism and social policies in fascist Italy

PRONATALISM, FAMILY AND GENDER RELATIONS The fascist regime subjected the family to specific interventions relating to both of its main pivots: relations between the sexes, and thus the gender structure, and relations between the generations. Though it is true that the explicit aim of these measures was population increase, the immediate target of the various forms of intervention was the structure of family relationships and the distribution of power and authority within the family: between man and woman and between parents and children.1 The family was not only encouraged to be prolific but also organically linked with the state, of which it was meant to become a full component and instrument. Fourteen years after the coming to power of Mussolini, this idea was put forward by Loffredo in 19362 and made explicit in the 1930 Penal Code and then the 1942 Civil Code, whose compiler, Rocco, defined the family as a 'social and political institution'.3 This is why, though it is true that most of the family policies of the regime were in reality pronatalist policies aiming not so much at the welfare of families, however understood, as at population growth, their actual effect was not to increase the number of births, but to support a particular structure and concept of the family. In fact, fertility in marriage, which had fallen dramatically between 1871 and 1901 in the big northern and central cities (being 30 per cent lower than in rural areas or southern cities) and had involved mainly the upper and upper-middle classes, followed by white-collar workers and, well behind, blue-collar workers, continued in the fascist period to fall at the same rate and among the same strata, even though the regime's measures focused on towns and on those very strata.