The time had come, members decided, to fight the prejudice which denied that they were real men – men who knitted, baked cakes and washed dishes. The association’s first convention, in the wooded uplands above Torre del Lago, ended with an exchange of recipes and a call to arms.
In Italy’s roll call of subversive organisations few have so daringly challenged the country’s macho values, which tell men to make money, seduce women, drive fast and shun domestic duties.
The association knows the fight will be long, hard and filled with the laughter of sceptics. Founded 15 years ago, only now has it had the nerve to hold a convention. Of an expected 400 delegates, however, only 50 showed up.
The new president, Fiorenzo Bresciani, was not discouraged. “July is a hard month for us. There is still so much to do at home,” he said. He will invite all married men to join and lobby for legal recognition of househusbands.
Male versatility was underrated, Mr Bresciani said. “Women’s fingers may be smaller and more able, but I’ve seen men do incredible things with crochet.”
He admitted, however, that ignorance was widespread. “Many men don’t know that the best way to wash windows is simply with water, ammonia and an old newspaper.”
Mr Bresciani sold his butcher’s shop 10 years ago to work at home instead of his better-educated wife, Daniela Terigi, a homeopathic doctor.
According to surveys cited in a recent report from Censis, a research foundation, Italian men are opening up to emotions and fresh ways of thinking. But men interviewed at random in central Rome were incredulous.
Silvio, 34, a barber, was typical. “Men as homemakers? Oh please, not in my lifetime.”