Authors: Salvatore Corradi – FM Chairman, Michela Tassoni – GEC Secretary General
In Italy she is known for being one of the most respected and feared journalists on television, a woman of undeniable elegance, severe and balanced who is not afraid to say what she thinks. Lilli Gruber is not just a character on the small screen but she is much more: award-winning journalist, former MEP, correspondent and reporter in war zones and today she is also a committed writer. She has always been a defender of gender equality and an ally of women, despite never wanting to define herself as a real “feminist”.
Lilli Gruber was born in Bolzano on April 19, 1957, her first name is Dietlinde, name of Germanic origin and variant of the historic and royal name “Teodolinda” whose meaning is “benevolent towards the people”. She is the daughter of the entrepreneur Alfred Gruber, owner of a construction machinery industry. After her parents’ separation, she grew up in Egna (a town in northern Italy on the border with Austria and Switzerland), with her two older brothers. After completing her high school studies, the young Lilli Gruber moved to Venice to study foreign languages and literatures (she actually speaks Italian, German, English and French).
After graduating she returned to Alto Adige-South Tyrol: the passion for journalism blossomed precisely in these years, she began her apprenticeship at the Telebolzano TV station, at that time the only private television in South Tyrol. She wrote for two newspapers and became a professional journalist in 1982. After two years of collaboration with Rai in German language, in 1984 she was hired by the Regional Tg3 of Trentino-Alto Adige; later she will be included in the foreign policy editorial office.
Her exploit came in 1987 when she was promoted to run the network’s main newscast, becoming its point of reference, without however neglecting her experience as a correspondent. She thus became the first woman in Italy to lead a prime-time newscast. In 1988 she worked as an international politics correspondent: she was first in Austria to follow the Waldheim scandal and the following year in East Germany where she witnessed the Fall of the Berlin Wall. In these years she dealt with the most important foreign political events: from the Gulf War to the collapse of the Soviet Union, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Middle East Peace Conference, to the victory of Bill Clinton in the 1992 American presidential elections and followed the trips of Pope John Paul II in 2000 to the Holy Land and Syria.
Her activity took place both in Italy and abroad where, thanks to her multilingualism, she hosted a monthly talk-show on Europe for German public TV. A little break from her journalistic career came in 2004 when she was elected to the European Parliament, an experience that ended six months later to return to her usual profession and in 2008 she became the presenter of Otto e Mezzo, one of the most famous daily deepening programs in Italy.
A life dedicated to journalism, but also to trade union activities where she fought for transparent career paths, the rights of precarious workers and women. It was thanks to her decades of experience in the field of journalism and foreign and local politics that Gruber felt the need to write down her position regarding the role of women in our society.
For a long time, Gruber herself wanted to believe that a woman only needed her skills to excel, but she had to change her mind. Here is her recent book Basta! Il potere delle donne contro la politica del testosterone (That’s enough! The power of women against the politics of testosterone) has become the emblem of the fight against male domination, a true reportage of the battle for female power. The ingredients of Lilli Gruber’s “recipe” are masterfully and clearly expressed down on paper and leave no room for misunderstandings.
A book that has become a huge motivational message: women, don’t be afraid to say “that’s enough!” Scream “that’s enough” to the men who do not choose you as newspaper managers, who do not invite you to the front row at the conference tables, who do not go directly to you to ask for your order at the restaurant. Say enough to yourself above all, stop pulling back for fear of not being up to par, do not overlook this violence and injustice, do not allow your wings to be clipped, indeed fly high. Gruber launches a real call to action, stating:
“The time for change is now. The three masculine Vs, vulgarity, violence, visibility, which are the result of an impotent and aggressive virility, must be replaced by empathy, diplomacy, patience. It is no longer tolerable that so many important countries in the world, from the US to Brazil, are in the hands of an international of misogynistic yokels who do damage not only to women, but to everyone. For me it was also urgent that women understand that we have to wake up, because both in terms of gender and environmental balance, it is five minutes to midnight, as the Germans say. The males in power are leaving a world in pieces: public debt, taxes, unemployment, talent flight, lack of services, inequalities, schools and bridges collapsing, territory falling apart. The battle for women’s power goes hand in hand with the battle for the survival of the planet”.
A strong message that demonstrates how the vehemence and uniqueness of Lilli Gruber lies precisely in the fact that she has never been afraid to speak clearly, to mention the names and surnames of the people involved. In this regard, she takes the responsibility (or perhaps it would be better to say the right) to mention one by one the men who, through their “testosterone policy”, have contributed to the ruin of the world: Putin, Trump, Xi Jinping, Bolsonaro, Erdoğan these are just some of the many men who have favored the spread of a climate of absolute overbearingness and arrogance, undermining democratic institutions and favoring the spread of populism.
In light of the current situation we cannot yet be satisfied, we can say that we have buried gender inequalities when we will achieve fundamental objectives including equal pay, 50% of women on boards of directors, parliaments, governments and much more.
By now we know what we need. What the world needs is a young model to follow like Greta Thunberg, a woman like Milena Bartolini who can train men to compete in the Italian male sport par excellence, we need powerful and authoritative politicians like Christine Lagarde or Nancy Pelosi. Finally, I would add that in this world we also need more women like Lilli Gruber: prepared, confident, courageous and why not, even a little cheeky.