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"Noi Donne" and "Famiglia Cristiana": Communists, Catholics, and American Female Culture in Cold War Italy

  • Author(s): Harris, Jessica L
  • et al.
Abstract

Italy's Cold War cultural contest for the hearts and minds of Italian women was a three way struggle between the Catholic Church, the Italian Communists, and the United States. The arrival of American consumer products and models in postwar Italy and their growing influence on upper to middle-class, and eventually working-class women, provided the two domestic groups, who previously had been engaged in a bipolar struggle with each other, with a common enemy - the materialistic, immoral, and avaricious "American way of life" as represented in the products and models that belonged to its consumer capitalist society. The Catholics and Communists employed their popular magazines Famiglia Cristiana and Noi Donne, respectively, in this fight against American consumerism. This article examines how Famiglia Cristiana and Noi Donne responded to the challenges posed by the increasing presence of American consumer culture, specifically in the areas of beauty, and entertainment and celebrity, in Italian women's lives. It argues that, far from an outright rejection, the two publications included American consumer modernity into their pages and adapted it to fit their visions of the ideal postwar Italian woman. They mediated the influence and novelty of the American consumer culture, offering selected criticism and praise that were in line with important Catholic and Communist beliefs, such as modesty and religious morality, and collectivism, equality, and financial morality, respectively. Therefore, the women promoted in these two magazines were modern, consuming women that remained loyal to the core ideological beliefs of the Church and Communists.

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