Italy: Male or female title? PM Meloni stirs gender debate

Milan: Giorgia Meloni is Italy’s first woman prime minister, but she is choosing to refer to herself using the masculine form of her new title – sparking a debate on the issues of female empowerment and political correctness.

In Italian, names can take a masculine or feminine form and Meloni’s formal title of “Presidente del Consiglio” was preceded by the masculine article “il”, rather than the feminine “la”, in the first statement issued by her office on Sunday.

While a trailblazer for women in Italian politics, she heads a far-right party and is not known as a feminist: she opposes female quotas in boardrooms and parliament, arguing that women should rise to the top through merit, and appointed just six women to her 24-strong cabinet on Friday.

Her choice of definite article was criticised by Usigrai, the main trade union at state broadcaster RAI, as well as by Laura Boldrini, a feminist centre-left lawmaker and former speaker of the lower Chamber of Deputies who was always known as “la presidente” in that role.

Under RAI’s corporate gender policy, the feminine form should be used whenever it exists, and “no colleague can therefore be obliged to use the masculine” to refer to Meloni, Usigrai said in a statement.

Boldrini linked the prime minister’s linguistic choice to the name of her party, Brothers of Italy (FdI).

“The first female prime minister goes by the masculine name … Is using the feminine form too much for the leader of FdI, a party that already omits Sisters from its name?” Boldrini tweeted.

The Accademia della Crusca, a guardian of the Italian language, has said using the feminine for positions held by women is the grammatically correct choice.

However, anyone who prefers to use the traditional masculine form, for ideological or generational reasons, has every right to do so, its president Claudio Marazzini told Italian news agency Adnkronos.