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Private Symbols as Vehicles for a Public Voice: "Women of the Fast" Reject the Mafia

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Abstract

The 1992 murders of Falcone and Borsellino marked a turning point in the fight against the Mafia in Italy. People throughout Italy, and especially in Sicily, felt that the Mafia had gone too far and that they could no longer be silent in front of its oppression. This essay analyzes the rhetorical strategies used by the Women of the Fast, a group of women who staged a month-long non-violent demonstration to bring attention to the relationship between the State and the Mafia. Specifically, it looks at how women were empowered to speak against the Mafia by using private symbols as vehicles for a public voice. By occupying a public square and using food, bed sheets, and their own bodies as symbols of protest, they changed the meaning of this public place. As such they gave a distinctly feminine touch to their rhetoric, stripping away the traditionally masculine understanding of public protest. Their protest received national and international media attention, adding a feminine voice to the fight against the Mafia.

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