Immigrant women in Italian media: which gender?

Forced Migration, Communication and Media Coverage

by Fabiane Albuquerque

During the data collection period for my doctoral research in sociology (Dec. 2018/June 2019) on the 8 pm news 1 of the italian state network, RAI, immigrant women appear prevalently in crime news, on par with immigrant men. As refugees, on boats, they do not even appear, what predominates are images of male, black, collectively. Angela Davis explains how the construction of gender does not bind all women in the same constructed roles, as since colonization, non-Western women have been portrayed as a kind of “deviation from European femininity”.

In the case of immigrant women, gender does not bring them closer to the women of the hospiting countries, because the notion of otherness has race and ethnicity as its main element, therefore, European women serve as a standard for migrants and they are not seen as similar by the fact that they are women, but different by these two cited markers.
News of babies’ deaths due to the practice of circumcision were common in the source, in one of them, the police conduct a black woman, probably the mother of the child accused of endangering the life of her own offspring.
Another news item concerns a woman referred to by TG1 as being of “Moroccan origin”, then the journalist pronounces the following words: “He had no scruples in approaching an Italian woman and making her fall into the world of drugs”.
In another one, the journalist says that a baby died from its mother’s breast milk. By the veil on her head, accent and name, one can see that she is a foreign woman. The mother’s milk, in this news presented this way, is the element that causes the death of the child, and the mother’s body, the act of breastfeeding, are elements that harm even the children themselves. In the case of children killed by circumcision, this is a cultural and religious problems, for TG1, in this, a biological one.
When one tries to racialize a body, imputing stigmas to it, one seeks elements that reinforce the stigmatization and justify the practice in the service of the ideology created, as in the case of the black women freed and bred soon after the abolition of slavery in the city of São Paulo, who worked in the houses as servants or wet nurses. These women were later replaced by white women, such as German immigrants at the time, due to the ideology of whitening that involved the “whitening of certain occupations” and to justify this replacement, ideas and speeches were created that black women were promiscuous and carriers of “habits of moral perversion”, and could even be “transmitted to white children through milk” (TELLES, 2013, p.252).

During the period of data collection, not a single news story was found in which the woman was portrayed in a dignified, positive, active way. She is not within the domestic space, characteristic of the bourgeois woman, nor in the labor market, only as a problem and threat.


Fabiane Albuquerque

Fabiane Albuquerque is Brazilian, living in France, studying gender, race, body and immigration. She has a degree in social sciences from the Federal University of Goiás (2007), Master level I in Intercultural Competence and Management- Comunicazione e Mediazione Interculturale, Gestione dei conflitti in ambito aziendale, educativo, sanitario e dei mass. (University of Verona – Italy) , level II master’s degree in philosophy from the same university, master’s degree in sociology from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) in São Paulo. She is Phd in sociology, also from Unicamp, with a thesis presented in september 2020 entitled “Corpo suspenso : a (o ) imigrante na media italiana. She has several essays and texts published in Geledes – Instituto da mulher negra ( on race and gender. She is the author of the italian book ” A tavola con il re “, published by Extempora di Siena and ” Cartas a um homem negro que amei “, published in Portuguese by Malê, Rio de Janeiro. She intends to participate in the international workshop in the modality interactive board formats.