Geraldina Colotti, journalist, writer and Red Brigades militant, tells of how her political commitment has been crucial in her choice of non-motherhood.
GERALDINA: «My name is Geraldina Colotti, I was born in Ventimiglia, a border town with France, I am a journalist for Il Manifesto, and responsible for the Italian edition of Le Monde diplomatique.
I have also been a writer for many years, and I chose not to have children.
Largely, because of my main life choice, which was trying to make a revolution also in Italy, and therefore paying the consequences.
We made politics using guns, in – let’s say – a democratic country like Italy, and then we have payed the price with long years in prison the aftermath of our armed struggle.
I am neither repentant nor have I distanced myself, as I do not regret to have taken on the fight
women’s freedom and self-determination as a crucial point of my choices.
My choice not to have children, though clearly pretty costly in terms of personal experience, it was almost the logical consequence of putting at stake all of myself.
Since politics is mainly a matter of choice, and sometimes you choose for others, and on others’ lives, having adopted this criterion, it seemed logical to me that my whole life, including sacrifices,
should be part of the deal.
So the individual sacrifices, even the greatest ones, have been taken on with this vision in mind.
Because making a choice, sometimes deciding for others too, would have clashed with another human being, who had no fault whatsoever and would have suffered the consequences and blackmailing of a life they had not chosen, imposed on her or him by someone, in this case by myself.
Furthermore, regarding female self-determination, it is crucial for me that the woman be the only one choosing the mother-child relationship that is the core of life.
And that no one else should interfere.
Therefore the only valid rule, from an individual point of view, must be the respect for oneself and for the child’s life.
If they come into this world they have the right to have total attention, at least in the years
in which they must be protected.
I regret somehow to have imposed it on my husband who has shared my life and political choices for thirty years, an activist like me, who would have loved to have a child.
But this has a lot to do with my real, material condition.
I am the daughter of very poor parents, and I could study only thanks to that extraordinary period of struggle and social change in the late 1960s, 1970s.
And my whole life could never neglect the fact that I never had any means and still don’t, today.
Therefore, this would have meant for the child being held to ransom by a number of conditions that get much more complicated when prison is involved.
You can’t keep your child with you over the age of three.
These first three years behind bars are marked by noises, sounds, totally forced and violent relationships.
After, they must be handed over to someone, you are allowed to see them only once a week, they get strip-searched.
Some of my companions of the Red Brigades, when the repressive system got a little softer after many years, chose to have a child because they truly desired it, and my husband really wanted a child.
But when I had the choice, I figured out what that would have meant for me being blackmailed every night, seeing my child strip-searched, perhaps having to accept conditions that would have affected my choice and freedom, because another human being depended on me.
I found this compromise unacceptable.
And I personally felt that the use of this was bad, although every woman clearly can experience this differently.
I don’t intend to teach any lesson,
or say that mine was the best more conscious choice.
However, I felt that it was kind of instrumental to take advantage of the fact that there were slightly softer laws, thanks also to a very long struggle, that allowed mothers not to be behind bars for a number of years.
In this situation, for me, it was not a free choice anyway.
As I said, I care deeply about freedom, and I am fully aware of the price that this freedom entails.
I still strongly believe that self-determination is the best way to free yourself from this barbarism
so widespread in this world.
Developing relationships based on choice and freedom, as much as possible away from what is imposed by the State, means that politics, in the sense of action, has still a lot to say and give.
I really like young people.
We are – I think I can say we are – because with so many women more or less of my generation,
who experienced first-hand the struggle for freedom and sexual liberation, fighting to free relations from artificial safeguards, is a bit like never getting old, isn’t it?
I’m not saying that in a caricatural way or so, but it’s true that was a time when young women and men wanted to grow up quickly to run the world in another way.
Thanks to this, we share a common closeness with the youth.
I don’t like to tell them how good we were in those years, you poor things and so on…
No, I really like being with young people, and what is good is also this transfer of memory.
My partner, even more than me, likes this passing on of our history.
The worst thing we are suffering in this point in time is this total denial of history.
This idea of transformation, sometimes destructive, with all the mistakes we may have made
because if we got to this point certainly something did no go too well in the left, and even more so us, on the damned side of history.
But that represents a huge toolbox to tap into.
And we women have been at that time an extraordinary hotbed that never stopped producing.
The living proof is you being here, with a women only crew, investigating repressed topics, left unexplored or somehow neglected by memory.
I sure miss this a lot, so whenever I can, I take on me to transfer this memory.
Many girls come despite the official version of the winners of our history, many young women want to understand, to question themselves.
Undoubtedly, our research for freedom in those years is a puzzle, because many things have not worked out but others instead, from a social point of view,
have produced the most advanced laws in Europe.
Not just divorce, free and self-determined termination of pregnancy by women, but also all the welfare measures that today have almost disappeared, that have been the result of a struggle for women’s freedom who saw us all on the front line to the very end, to the most radical and organized forms, where women really counted, like the organization I belonged to.
In the Red Brigades, of which little is known, except a cynical vision, instead women were crucial and extraordinary, leaving a mark since its foundation, for example, Mara Cagol, who died young.
Many of us who came after picked up the torch fiercely fighting for women’s freedom.
Nothing comes from nothing.
If something lasted over twenty years, certainly it wasn’t something parachuted from above.
This extraordinary, fruitful period should be a brain-teaser for young historians, and instead everybody is so afraid of the extent reached by the fight for freedom for women and all, they preferred to cancel it from history.
So, yes I do regret greatly not only of not having a child, but also that there were no appropriate channels to transmit this memory.
I don’t want to teach any lesson, as if history repeats itself, I am aware that today the forms of struggle, also the search for freedom for all, might be different.
But it should be a critical tool, so that young people fight back, searching for their own way, getting used to live without safeguards.
Instead, today there is a generalized fear of the other, that leads you to adopt a conformist or seemingly free behavior, which are instead totally staged for the show.
Just think about mothers who sell out their children on a TV show, or this idea again of the objectification of women as we used to say once, isn’t it?
There’s a comeback, concealed as as apparent freedom of choice.
I do what I want, so I can be an escort or something.
Assuming that for me if there’s no violence, anyone is free to do what they want.
But she also exposes herself to the opinion of a fellow woman, looking for a different path, instead?
Something else that women put forward especially during the 80s, is that their social value be given by another woman, as a social being, of course, and not as the subject of authoritarianism or imposition, and not by a man, as usual.
This has passed on a little but not completely, because there have been backlashes, including the return of the male.
Although, historically men seem to suffer an identity crisis with regards to patriarchal pseudo-values, in reality, they are still domestic violence perpetrators, and they are still the main subjects in all political structures.
When a woman comes to power, unfortunately she often resembles a female shark, but doesn’t necessarily bring with her those values of freedom for all, anti-establishment and for self-determination, that are instead the heritage of those who want a different life.»