Wednesday, November 26, 2003

A few of us English guys want to play some 5-a-side football. We mentioned this to some of our Italian friends in the hope that they could tell us where we could play; predictably, they challenged us to an Italy vs. England clash.

I will report back here with the result. However the game won’t be taking place until we find our fifth player (inevitably we need a goalkeeper). In the pub on Monday night one of our female friends offered to play but the Italians were rather dispariging about the idea; “No” they said, apparantly seriously. One of them did say to me later that she could play but they would have to have an Italian girl too “to make it fair”. “Mind you” he said “it still wouldn’t be really fair because your girl is a proper woman and this Italian I know is a butch lesbian”.

This chimes with the set-up at the Bologna Ultimate Frisbee with whom I trained with a few times when I first arrived in Italy. Frisbee is often played as a mixed sport (mixed is my favourite form of the game) yet, contrary to what I’m used to, the girls and boys at Bologna train seperately. Indeed, their annual tournament has an Open (in theory anybody is eligible to play but in practice nearly all men) and Women’s division but no Mixed (in which the number of each sex on the field is fixed).

Girls – Italian and English – often comment on how much more gentlemanly and civilised Italian men are. Leaving aside the objection that generalisations shouldn’t be bought to bear on the individual (that is: just ‘cause some Englishmen will pinch your arse and try and stick their tongue down your throat five minutes after meeting you, that doesn’t mean we all will, love), this misses the point. Italians may treat a girl better – they may insist on always paying for dinner, for example – but isn’t that a sign that they still hold Victorian notions of what a man and woman’s place is in the relationship (or, no better, that they place the girl on a pedestal). This isn’t desirable: the most healthy relationships are based on equality. Of course within that surprises are good and it’s true that men often enjoy treating girls. However to take this as the natural form of a relationship is outdated and stifiling. Besides, it’s irrelevant if we’re discussing what’s best for the relationship: natural is not at all synonomous with good. The naturalistic fallacy - the idea that what is natural is therefore good (or, put another way, deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’) – has held no philosophical weight for centuries. Why haven't some our attitudes to courtship caught up?

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