THE FREEDOM TO SAY NO
Stories of women, of rejection, and courage
These days, among the school desks, with some teachers we are addressing the issue of refusal, that is, the possibility that people have at a certain point of saying “no” in front of something that does not correspond to them. It is an intriguing, but also difficult, topic and so we thought of starting from some stories.
The first is the story of Apollo and Daphne told in the Metamorphosis of Ovid. Here is a god, Apollo, who, struck by Cupid’s arrow, falls madly in love with the beautiful Daphne. The nymph, however, doesn’t really think about becoming the easy conquest of Apollo who, of course, was a god, but not so kind… on the contrary. Ovid tells that in front of Apollo Daphne runs away as “before the wolf the lamb, the lion the hind, the doves before the eagle”. “ but I’m chasing you for love!” Apollo shouts at her…but, we ask ourselves, what kind of love is it if the girl is not free to say no? Can the word “love” be used? Or rather is it the representation of a predatory sexuality that has nothing to do with love?
The fact that a myth shows us this type of reality could make us think that this was how it worked in the ancient world and that women could not choose, not having a dignity and social consideration equal to that of men.
In fact, Daphne, in order to refuse Apollo, asks for the help of Jupiter who transforms her into a laurel tree… that is, in some way she has to pay for her refusal.
In short, the father Jupiter intervenes but it is not really a great help!
So let’s fly to 1956, in Sicily and discover the story of Franca Viola.
Franca is a 15-year-old girl engaged to Filippo Melodia, the nephew of a well-known local mafioso.
After Filippo is accused of theft and belonging to the mafia organization, Franca’s family breaks off the engagement, but Filippo, just like Apollo (interesting coincidence…), does not accept the girl’s refusal. He decides to kidnap Franca and rape her, in order to force her to marry him in a shotgun wedding, as Italian law provided for at that time (.. you can’t hear this thing!).
Once freed, the girl asks for help from her father who, in short, seems to us much cooler than Jupiter. Not only does he protect her but together with her he denounces the young man to the authorities, starting a process that will change the history of our country. “I don’t belong to anyone, no one can force me to love a person I don’t respect”, Franca will say to the judges, courageously facing centuries of violent and patriarchal traditions. It’s weird that two stories so distant have so many points in common: male predatory behavior, rejection of the female, the presence of “a father” who saves …
It would all seem simple, and yet, what comes to mind as we write this article are all those women who before and after Franca didn’t have the chance to rebel or, if they did, paid a very high price.
Nevertheless in the Greek-Roman world and in the 1960s was there even a very hard-earned possibility of refusing, why still today women who rebel are killed? What are the tools we can use to change these things? What is the way to bring about a turning point in the history of women and their freedoms?
Giulia AlonzoBeatrice Arca
Maria Vittoria Straface
(Classe 2^I, Liceo Scientifico G.B. Grassi di Latina)