Whatever her politics, the Italian MEP’s insistence on bringing her daughter to Strasbourg does much to raise this ignored issue
What’s not to love about this picture of Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli and her two-year-old daughter? The matching clothes, the double affirmation of those toddler hands, the fact that the serious besuited Eurocrats on either side are largely ignoring the two-for-one vote of number 762 – who can look at it without smiling?
On a day when a “medieval” Italian court jailed six seismologists for failing to predict an earthquake, Ronzulli is presenting a far more positive image of her homeland. The fact that she has campaigned for gender equality despite being a member (along with her husband) of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party simply adds to the stereotype-busting nature of her behaviour.
When Ronzulli first brought her daughter to work when she was just six weeks old back in September 2010, pictures of the politician voting while carrying her baby in a sling caused a media stir. Voting on proposals to improve women’s employment rights, Ronzulli expressed surprise at the reaction. “We’ve been doing a lot, a lot of work in the European parliament and there was no interest in the press. Then I come with my baby and everybody wants to interview me,” she said.
Since then we’ve had a series of pictures of little Vittoria Cerioli, nearly all of them affirmative. Ronzulli obviously makes a point of turning up to vote for something she believes in – so there are lots of palms and even a thumbs up, but it’s the images themselves that are doing the high fives. Whether it’s the baby echoing her mother’s voting intentions, wearing a bobble hat or simply lying on the desk in front of the politicians; Ronzulli usually serious, voting or speaking, but sometimes texting, laughing, looking a bit knackered; these pictures do more than a library full of working-time directives to raise questions about work and parenthood.
During one interview Ronzulli said her decision to bring baby Vittoria into vote was not a “political gesture but a maternal” one based on the fact that she was still breastfeeding. She nonetheless said she wanted “to remind people that there are women who do not have this opportunity [to bring their children to work], that we should do something to talk about this.” After the furore caused by Vittoria’s first appearance, Ronzulli seems to have gained agreement across the political spectrum in Strasbourg for children to be allowed in as long as proceedings weren’t disrupted. Sounds easy, eh?
As a woman whose own children were forced to push increasingly desperate notes under the door to garner any attention whenever I worked from home, I realise that not everyone can copy Ronzulli. Or even want to. But, while not all of Ronzulli’s politics (nor indeed her liking for pink mobile phone covers) are to my taste, it’s refreshing to see what she has done. Most parents in less privileged positions are forced to lie about sick children or vital school meetings to bosses who are less than understanding. Ronzulli’s actions at least suggest that, instead of pretending they don’t exist or even closing the door to their entreatries, accepting the presence and involvement of children could be good for us all.
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