Italian men have always been proud of their masculinity and the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. But that stereotype is being challenged by a newly-formed association for Italian househusbands, the first of its kind in the world.
In a house on the edge of the main square in the sleepy Tuscan town of Pietrasanta, a quiet revolution is under way. In the kitchen there is a man in yellow rubber gloves, washing the dishes. In the sitting-room another man is sitting quietly, mending some socks.
On the other side of the room Fiorenzo Bresciani, the president of the Association of Househusbands, is giving a lesson in the art of ironing a shirt. His audience is made up of married men of all ages, wearing beige aprons. They have come here to learn how to do those things that their wives have always done in the past. “Once, my wife did everything,” said one member. “Then I discovered the pleasure of housework. Now, I do all the cooking. I can’t iron yet, but I want to learn.”
“I iron, hoover and clean the windows, because it makes my wife happy,” said another.
As well as the basics, members also learn more complex skills – such as how to present vegetables at a dinner party. They swap tips on recipes and discuss which cleaning products are best for the environment. But they also benefit in the eyes of the law. For some time now, housewives in Italy have been able to claim pension benefits because of their “jobs” in the home.
Stressful workplace: Now househusbands can too. According to Fiorenzo Bresciani, there is no reason why housework should be confined to just one sex.
“Someone has to do this job,” he said. “Someone has to know how to wash, iron, clean the house and cook. This is a job that has no sex – it isn’t masculine or feminine.”
More than 2,000 men have signed up, and the is association is receiving inquiries from all over Europe. It means that for the first time, women are being freed from household chores so they can concentrate on their jobs. Mr Bresciani’s wife, homeopathic doctor Daniela Terigi, is one of these. “When Fiorenzo decided on his own to take this step, for me it was a wonderful thing,” she said. “I didn’t need to ask him to do anything. I said to myself: ‘This really is a new man, this is a modern man. And I thought, if I hadn’t married him already, I would do so again!” —BBC