Sanremo 2020: Sexism Behind A Mask

The Sanremo Music Festival is under pressure to take out of the competition rapper Junior Cally for a sexist song he wrote in 2017.

Sanremo has not yet begun, but it has already received strong criticism

Sexism is hiding behind the mask of a rapper named Junior Cally. As the 70th edition of the famous Sanremo Music Festival is about to begin, a scandal has been unfolding, regarding an extremely offensive song that he wrote in 2017. Amadeus, the selected host of this year, remarked that this is not the first year that the author of an inappropriate song promoting violent scenes – in particular towards women — plays on that stage. However, times are changing.

Junior Cally

Alongside Junior Cally, also the public national channel broadcasting Sanremo, RAI 1, is currently being criticized for having picked the singer who wrote Strega (Witch), whose lyrics include particularly strong language as “how much does she talk? / I killed her, I took her bag away / I used it to cover the mask.”

President of RAI Marcello Foa defined it as an “unacceptable ethical choice.” However, the contest rules specify that a singer cannot be eliminated, unless he loses during the competition itself — if not under very particular circumstances. Plus, the song he’s running with, No grazie (No, thank you) has been declared adapt both in language and style for the audience watching the show, which includes both women and a younger, impressionable, group of listeners.

Attacks on RAI

The number of people who attacked both RAI and the singer is quite big. Elisabetta Scala, Vice President and Responsible for the Media of the Italian Parental Movement, requested RAI to forbid Junior Cally from competing. In 24 hours, a petition launched online on by the Democratic Women Conference, collected over 20 thousand signatures, while the Regional Council of Liguria has publically stated their negative stand towards the singer — Liguria being the region where the music contest takes place.

The bon’t worry INGOwhich fights against gender-based violence — and their lawyer Caterina Biafora, handed RAI a notice to desist from broadcasting Cally, and another rapper, Skioffi, who is planned as a guest singer at Sanremo. Bo Guerreschi, the President of the organization, declared that “these songs represent and teach a younger generation that it is okay to behave this way.”

Skioffi was expelled from another TV dancing and singing competition, Amici, for violent references towards women in his songs, such as “I will take her foundation off / by slapping her.” In a recent interview, he justified this language by saying that he had imagined himself as a young psychopath and that he would not use that language — and transmit those messages — again. This justification apparently did not help with his reputation at all.


In the last few days, the hashtag #IoNonGuardoSanremo (#IWillNotWatchSanremo) has been circulating, promoted by the TV host Gabriele Ansaloni (aka Red Ronnie). Ansaloni supports the idea that Cally should not play because the Internet blurs the lines between past, present, and future. “What happened in the past will always circulate. Cally can regret writing the song [referering to Strega], yet the younger generations will search him online and find his previous songs.” Hence, Strega, concludes Ansaloni, is current and real.

Pulling the string: too much or too little?

Surely, there is plenty of quite offensive music online. With the increasing number of protests like #metoo, the number may lower, but bad and offensive music will always exist.

However, when it comes to Sanremo, the reason for all this angst, I believe, is due to the expectations that this particular event brings around. This 70-year-old annual tradition, is exactly what it is: tradition. Obviously, with tradition, culture and preconceptions are fixed. Sanremo was initially born for good music — quite a vague definition — to be enjoyed by an entire family, regardless of age. The genres have changed, and so have the preconceptions of what is now considered to be good music. These last few years, indeed, the festival has been used by singers as a platform to express a common social discontent with politics and economy, often disregarding the beauty of a simple, good quality song.

Sanremo, regardless of who we are talking about, needs to resettle its 21st century goals. Music has changed, and so have the words and styles used by artists. Yet, we do not wish to have singers who explicitly promote violence, while it has become a little redundant the fact that most artists sing about a social concern, forgetting about the lightheartedness Sanremo was created for.

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