Benito Mussolini's granddaughter Alessandra has vowed to launch a retaliatory campaign against sexist male colleagues in Silvio Berlusconi's ruling party after learning that they were preparing a list of "the best bums in parliament".
Ms Mussolini (48) was astonished to be approached by PDL (People of Liberty) MP Giancarlo Mazzuca and asked how she felt about being ranked number five in the list of best female behinds for a piece destined for 'Panorama', the premier's weekly news magazine.
"I had no idea what he meant," 'La Repubblica' newspaper reported Ms Mussolini as telling another MP. "The (fifth ranking) person who had proposed the most legislation, maybe?"
"He replied: 'Legislation? I'm talking about bums -- and you would be at the number five position.'"
An apoplectic Ms Mussolini rushed to two of Mr Berlusconi's senior lieutenants and, on learning that one appeared to be aware of the list, issued a chilling threat. "If a single line of this article is published," she said, "I promise you I will write an article in (rival left-wing weekly) 'L'Espresso' with my own classification on how long -- or short -- the micro-penises are among our male members of parliament."
In tackling sexism in Italian politics, even the redoubtable Ms Mussolini -- a niece of the film siren Sophia Loren -- has a fight on her hands. Feminists note that chauvinism in Italy comes from the very top, with unreconstructed 74-year-old premier Mr Berlusconi revelling in sexist jokes, partying with teenage starlets and owning a media empire that introduced vulgar, bimbo-led TV programmes to the masses.
But a determined Ms Mussolini said she had already started making jokes about the endowment of male PDL parliamentarians well within earshot.
Although known as an outspoken right-winger, the politics of Ms Mussolini are not easily classified. She speaks out against immigration but has taken a progressive stance on the rights of women and gays.
Her feminist leanings haven't stopped her posing topless for 'Playboy', however. (© Independent News Service)