The heads of the Italian public broadcaster Rai have apologised after a daytime show aired a segment discussing why men prefer foreign women, specifically those from Eastern Europe.
The show's episode was focusing on the topic "Eastern European women's charm", debating whether it poses "a threat to Italian women", as well as analysing the increase in popularity of agencies dedicated to finding wives from Eastern Europe.
In the course of the 30-minute segment the show featured the question "From the East: Husband stealers or perfect wives?" in one of its subtitles, discussing celebrity unions such as US presidential couple Donald and Melania Trump.
The show presenter Paola Perego presented a six-point list titled "why men should pick a Eastern European girlfriend" saying she "found it online" and offered it to the discussion of the panel.
The panelists, including two Eastern-European women – one of them married to an Italian – uncritically discussed the list matter-of-factly and with a light tone.
A screenshot of the six-point list went viral soon after it was aired on 18 March and sparked a public outcry over its sexist and xenophobic message, with hundreds of messages on social media demanding resignation of the TV show presenter, the authors and the whoever else was involved in the process of crafting the list.
The six points included:
- They are all mothers but, after giving birth, recover a stunning figure;
- They always look sexy. No sweatpants or PJs;
- They forgive cheating;
- They are willing to let their man be in charge;
- They are perfect housewives and learn housework since they are little girls;
- They aren't clingy, don't complain and don't get upset.
The broadcaster's president Monica Maggioni said on 20 March she had not watched the show and had found out about the list from the news. "What I see is a surreal representation of Italy in 2017: if this kind of representation is done by the public broadcaster it is a mad mistake, unacceptable" she said, quoted by Italian media. "I feel personally involved as a woman, I apologise".
Maggioni added "We ask ourselves every day how do we portray women and how to progress from there, moving away from stereotypes. Then something like this happens. The problem is not the innocent joke, but the construction of a segment on such a topic: it is an idea of woman that cannot coexists with the public service". She promised the show segment would be subject of examination to understand how it could be aired.
Her message follows from channel director Andrea Fabiano's apologies, written on Twitter a few hours earlier: "We always have to own up to our mistakes, without hesitations. I apologise to everyone for what was seen and heard [on the show]".