Feminism(s) in Poland: a long way to go (?) [2]

The city bus is real democratic institution. Anyone can speak, and everyone else (who happens to be on 34 at the same time) has to listen. It’s like a people’s television. And as with tv: you cannot reply. It would not be polite to interfere in other people’s conversations, even if you’d love to disagree.

Thankfully blogs were invented.

What have I overheard on the bus then? A chat between a girl and a guy. When they started to talk about feminism, the girl was quick to declare that she is not a feminist. That she thinks feminism is “radical”. And that she enjoys to have some things done for her by men. She said a friend of hers was a feminist and she disagreed with her, because men and women were “created” for different roles. Interestingly the guy did not express any opinion, was only a listener, and then they went on talk about how terrible the weather is here comparing to Barcelona.

Whenever she spoke I rolled my eyes thinking “oh dear”. She was a university student, yet she obviously never heard of gender/sex distinction – and where it comes from (the view that gender and gender roles are constructed socially and acquired in the process of socialisation).

I wondered if she really understood what she said, and whether she really believed that… Is it worth to have drinks bought by a guy, in exchange for no political representation? For lower wages? For fewer chances of promotion? For doing both professional work and housework (as happens in most Polish homes)?

I mean, come on!

This inspired me to do a new series here on Polandian that will focus on women. How is life for women in Poland? Are women equal? Where is feminism in Poland? And what do women think? Is what I heard on the bus a wide-spread view? And – if so – why? I will seek answers.

Coming soon, stay tuned.

[Previously on Polandian about feminism: here and here]

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48 thoughts on “Feminism(s) in Poland: a long way to go (?) [2]

  1. boattown guest says:

    Feminists are said to be ugly. They have swhort hair, they don’t shave their legs or armpits and they don’t use cosmetics;) It is not popular to be one. Maybe she was trying to impress him? ‘Pay for my dinner and I’ll become your slave?’
    I saw a programme on tele about women and their role in the society, and I think that little by little, everything will change. Man do not hunt any more, women are more emphatic and it helps them to be good businesswomen. Don’t worry Pawel- there are many smart women, changes are inevitable:)

  2. Aidan says:

    “Is it worth to have drinks bought by a guy, in exchange for no political representation?”
    Believe me guys end up buying the drinks at first in nearly every country. The only difference is that over time the relationship equalizes. In Poland and most countries the guys tend to ask the girls out so clearly he wants to be in her company while she may just be neutral or even slightly negative and be giving the guy a chance. If she asked him out I would expect her to be buying the first drinks.
    The idea that this in any way related to political representation is ludicrous. What might be an issue is that Polish women are too willing to accept the homemaker role but I think that that has as much to do with them wanting to look after their men as the men being chauvinistic.

  3. scatts says:

    What worries me with these discussions is that they always seems to polarise leaving women with the choice of being either;

    1/ Well paid, represented, ambitious, respected, powerful, free, saviours of the universe.

    or

    2/ Downtrodden home-slaves with painted nails & babies being looked after by men (and beaten occasionally to keep them in their place!).

    Why can’t women have the best of both worlds? Suggesting that having drinks paid for by men is some kind of submissive behaviour is just as twisted as the stuff you want to fight against. In my opinion anyway.

  4. hubba hubba says:

    Is Doda a feminist?

  5. guest says:

    There are 100+ much worse countries for women, than Poland.

  6. Pawel says:

    @boattown guest: describe a typical man interested in politics:>

    @Aidan: re: ludacrious: I heard this woman prefers small gestures before equality and power.

    you accuse me of mixing relationships and politics and you do the same:)

    @scatts: You rightly point to dangers in pushing those issues to dead-ends. there are however real problems that need to be solved, and these hopefully will come through the pop-talk.

    @hubba hubba: Why don’t we ask her:)

    @guest: There are 100+ much worse countries for men. Does it mean we shouldn’t make it better?:)

  7. pinolona says:

    Hubba hubba’s comment is interesting: a woman who makes a lot of money and achieves a relatively influential position in cultural terms (I don’t know very much about Doda, other than what I’ve read on Polandian) might be considered a good feminist role model. If she does it by selling her image as a sex object, is she reinforcing outdated stereotypes or exploiting her sexuality to make a living?
    Very interesting.

  8. don says:

    “This inspired me to do a new series here on Polandian that will focus on women. How is life for women in Poland? Are women equal? Where is feminism in Poland? And what do women think?”

    come on. don’t act like poland was an archaic muslim country. if that girl from the bus wants to believe that women have a differend god-given role than men, that’s her good right. bitching about her not having the same liberal opinion like you ist just hippocratic.

  9. DC says:

    How is it hypocrisy? I don’t get that.

  10. me says:

    I agree with don 100%

  11. DC says:

    OK me, so you don’t like the premise. Fair enough. But are you saying #34 bus woman’s opinion is valid and Pawel’s is not? I’m still missing the hypocrisy part – please fill me in.

  12. me says:

    Pawel acts like a typical communist. HE “konows” what is “good” for every woman, man, child and what not. And if he had the right tools/power, he would force the poor 34bus woman to “become more lucky”.

    This is a mentality which starded with the french revoluton, then communism,…and now in 2008 all the greens and feminists want to make the world “better”. The good thing in 2008 is that they do not have a guillotine anymore. All they can do now is vote for the SLD….

  13. Pawel says:

    @me

    I really do not know where to start on this one:) Now I think I understand what you meant by hypocrisy.

    I also think your argument in last comment is not fair.

    Let’s take your argumentation and apply it to slavery in America. You say that I would like all slaves to be free, and I’m forcing this freedom on those slaves who feel perfectly fine to be enslaved… How “liberal”!

    I know this is not a fair analogy, but there you go.

    Also: who was the first to talk about equality of human beings? Was it the French Revolution? or Communism? Or was it Jesus Christ?

    Why do you think I hate people who have a different opinion? And why you tell me not to talk to them?

  14. me says:

    But the slaves felt NOT “Perfectly fine to be enslaved”.

    Thats why the analogy is false. ;)

  15. Pawel says:

    @me
    1. the world that existed was the only thing people knew, there must have been some people among the slaves who didn’t imagine it otherwise

    2. how do you know women are happy now? that’s what I will be asking women in my new series.

  16. me says:

    Jesus Christ did not use a guillotine or sluzba bezpieczenstwa or KGB to make the people “equal” and “happy”.

    Jesus/catholic church just talks. You CAN listen to what they say or NOT.

    Left ideologists do not “just talk”. They create laws.

  17. me says:

    …and you seem to be such a ideologist ;)

    Pawel happiness is a subjective thing. Accept it please.

    One woman is happy if a man buys her a porsche and a house hollywood and the other woman is happy if she can stay at home in Bialystok and rise her 4 children…or even become a nun…

  18. Pawel says:

    Jesus Christ did not use guillotine or the KGB, but there was a lot of talk about burning fire, devils and hell:)

  19. me says:

    I hope you understand the difference between “lot of talk” and “law”.

  20. Pawel says:

    me, we probably won’t convince each other:) the analogy between feminism and communism is not something I can really see…

    communism was a dictatorship and a system of terror and murder, a wrong answer to real problems people experience(d) in capitalism.
    (and it’s not like the western system was(is) flawless. how many awful things were going on there as well)

    feminism (although it comes in many varieties, and it’s difficult to generalise, and also I’m not an expert here)
    wants women to have equal representation in government (currently there are 94 women and 366 men members of Sejm… on my uni all department heads are men)
    wants the state to tackle women’s issues more intensively
    and raise future generations so that men and women have equal chances, are raised to be equally outspoken, and self-confident.

    Nothing wrong with that.

  21. ge'ez says:

    Pawel wrote: who was the first to talk about equality of human beings? Was it the French Revolution? or Communism? Or was it Jesus Christ?

    –> But Jesus was a communist, too, according to some politicians:

  22. union maiden says:

    People like the psudeonym known as “me” always make false analogies between communism and liberalism, feminism, and just about any kind of ism they want to discedit. Then they accuse “the other” of spreading false analogies. And they never see any shades of difference is this or that movement. They see everything ideologically, in black and white with no shades of grey. Then, soon enough they can be depended upon like clockwork to accuse “the other” of advancing communist ideology. They always institute repressive laws when in power and to use that power to dominate others. Amusing, though, how they still manage to hoist themselves up with their own petard. With the advent of the current world economic crisis, however, it seems like their hot fart bubble will soon burst.

  23. me says:

    Union maiden tell my which groups vote for the post-communists. ?

    Union maiden read something about Daniel Cohn Bendit or Josef Fischer or Adam Michnik. Maybe it will open your eyes…

  24. union maiden says:

    Comparing Red Rudy to Michnik, me-me-me? You really should run for office.

  25. Tomek says:

    “Jesus/catholic church just talks. You CAN listen to what they say or NOT.”

    Well, I have to say, there’s a world of knowledge about the history of The Church that you have been missing out on.

  26. Joan of Arc says:

    Uh?

  27. Bennie says:

    Joan, Joan, Joan? What are you still bitching about? You later got named a saint, didn’t you? So what if the ecclesiatical court found you guilty and sentenced you to be burned at the stake? That’s life. It’s your heavenly award that matters!

  28. spaceyv says:

    Interesting post. However, I don’t believe that drinks and whatever else need to be given up in order to achieve gender equality – so long as this becomes a custom that genders can take part in to show appreciation for company. Similtaneously, this might be more difficult for women due to the gender wage gap.

    Also, I think we need to question what is behind buying the drink. I did a series of interviews last year about this very topic, and found that many women felt like they “owed” something to their male escort for treating them.

    I did want to add that another prime staple of feminism is ending violence. A lack of political respresentation and financial dependence, mixed with institutionalized ideas of women’s subordination and ownership render a culture that routinely violates women. Moreso, in Poland, domestic violence and rape are extremely taboo and rarely are reported.

    – spaceyv, feminist researcher

  29. PG says:

    Equality would mean that if a women prefers being a homemaker she can be, but if she prefers working and climbing up the social ladder and succeeding, she can do that too. The same goes for man. These choices should be made based on each individual’s personal preference and not from the pressures of society.
    That being said the disappointing aspect of this story, then, is that the women had to reassure her male friend of “not being a feminist”, which, in other words mean “I’ll take whatever role society throws at me”, in order to feel attractive/liked. You can be a feminist and a homemaker or whatever supposedly “passive” role you like, as long as you are aware that you made the choice based on your own personal preference and not what was expected of you. That lady obviously does not understand what feminism is about, and like Pawel said, is associating socially constructed gender roles (that are therefore NOT innate in human beings) with biological sex. In other words, she will be doing whatever society tells her to do. Like a puppet.

  30. ge'ez says:

    I’d much prefer being a homemaker than having to go out and work for a living and support my family (which my wife also does while similarly sharing the same preference as me). So I guess we are equally oppressed.

  31. karolska says:

    The series on feminism in PL that you speak of…where do I find it?
    You want to hear women’s opinions, you said, so here I am! I’m a woman, a feminist, a Pole and I’d like to share my views. Did you follow up on this discussion in your series?
    I just stumbled upon the above comments so if you could point me in the right direction, I’d appreciate it.

  32. Gabriela says:

    Most feminist women that declare themselves as feminists change their minds about the subject when a guy opens the door of the car for them, pays the bills when they are together and brings them a huge bouquet of flowers.

  33. Pawel says:

    Thanks for all the comments. I have contacted karolska by e-mail:)

  34. Karolska says:

    In reply to Gabriela:
    a feminist who appreciates equal pay for the same job, job-security upon return from maternity leave, right to vote and expression of political opinions, access to education, etc. is also allowed to enjoy a date with an old-school gentleman. What does one have to do with the other? hey…if a man insists even if I try to pick up the tab, I’m not going to fight for it ;)

    And Pawel, I will reply, with pleasure, upon my return in two weeks from a trip abroad.
    I’m also trying to find a good blog on feminism that I once stumbled upon. It explained all the different schools of thought and why feminism became shunned upon by young women in today’s society, brainwashed into believing they’ll be labelled as lesbians.

  35. Pawel says:

    @Karolska
    Were you looking, by any chance, for this http://stopfanatykom.blox.pl/html ?

  36. Sylwia says:

    I’m glad to say that I’m not a feminist.

    There are few problems with feminism, some of them already emphasised here. For example that every woman who’s not a feminist must be a brainwashed man’s slave. That’s enough to turn me off feminism for ever!

    Arguments like equal representation in the government make no sense in Poland where politics has such a low social respect. Once it improves there will be more women willing to be in politics. You can’t force them just because it looks nice in stats.

    I know some very well educated women who were glad to stay at home and take care of their kids. Saying that it’s the effect of their social unawareness is just offensive. There’s nothing wrong with putting family over professional career on one’s personal scale of values. Likewise, I know men who stay at home while their wives work, only that no one makes a fuss about them. And please, don’t tell me that feminism has no issue with it. Of course it does since it uses those women to prove their cause. How many feminist analysis have you seen that say 10% of women prefer to stay at home, but it’s their conscious choice, so they’re fully emancipated?

    What do this kind of statement mean: “Moreso, in Poland, domestic violence and rape are extremely taboo and rarely are reported.”? That you have no proof it’s the case, but are eager to throw it here to prove your point, yes?

    Feminism, as every ideology, has some good and bad points, but why it presumes to speak in the name of all women is beyond me. I see feminism as a limitation for modern woman. The only right choice is not a choice.

    Moreover, feminism is a Western ideology, completely unadjusted for Polish women, using arguments that worked in the US and UK years ago, but were never suitable for us. Half of the things they say is an utter rubbish from Polish point of view. Talking to a feminist is often like trying to prove that I’m not a camel. Feminists show no respect to women who don’t want to agree with their points. You can take any data and switch it to serve your cause, but as long as it addresses artificial problems it won’t make women any more likely to embrace it.

    So before deciding that there’s something wrong with Polish women, since only a tiny percent of them calls themselves feminists, consider that perhaps there’s something wrong with Polish feminism.

  37. kamel says:

    Pawel, I think you should read book ‘Brain Sex’ (‘Płeć mózgu’) by Anne Moir and David Jessel if you want to write something like ‘gender and gender roles are constructed socially and acquired in the process of socialisation’…

    regards,
    k.

  38. Pawel says:

    Sylvia, you may disagree, but havint read that – I say you don’t know what feminism is. Your knowledge comes from the distorted image in popular Polish media.

    I never heard about feminism not allowing women be house wives if they so desire. I think what feminism stresses is that the way our society is organised makes more women want to stay at home, and makes them women think and do certain things. Same with men.

    Sylvia says “Saying that it’s the effect of their social unawareness is just offensive. There’s nothing wrong with putting family over professional career on one’s personal scale of values.”

    Where did I say the former or the latter?

    Feminism is not about telling people what to do, but giving them a real freedom of choice. And feminism says that there is no real freedom of choice if boys and girls are raised differently and taught differently who they should become. The society has a preference for males to be dominant and intelligent and females to be beautiful and sweet …and so on… Males and females then WANT to be like the society wants them to be, in all kinds of ways. They are part of the patriarchy. The world as they know it is engraved within their identities. Feminists who want it different, endanger the tranquillity of status quo and people’s current identities.

    Feminism has a very practical dimention. As most politicians are men, the policies that are there usually concentrate on other things that those that interest women. If in Poland it’s mostly women who take care of children, as you will probably agree it is, why there are so little instutions that relief their effort? Such as kindergartens, infant schools… They cost a lot of money, many women can’t afford. Why so few companies have their own kindergartens? These things would take the taxpayers money. Yes, but many things do, and it all depends how you set the priorities. Things that involve women are not priorities. And thus no body cares. This is just one example.

    Sylvia says “Moreover, feminism is a Western ideology, completely unadjusted for Polish women, using arguments that worked in the US and UK years ago, but were never suitable for us. Half of the things they say is an utter rubbish from Polish point of view.”

    I ask which aspects of feminism are not adjusted to Polish women?
    What exactly, of what feminists say, is utter rubbish, from the Polish point of view?

    Without reaching answers to there questions, it is rather difficult to argue a point here.

    And I disagree with your conclusion. Maybe since a tiny percent of women call themselves feminists, maybe there is something wrong with the knowledge about feminism among Polish women?

  39. Pawel says:

    kamel, thank you for your advice. when I have some more time I will read it.

    can I recommend you Judith Butler’s “Gender Trouble”? (“Uwikłani w płeć”)

  40. Sylwia says:

    “I say you don’t know what feminism is. Your knowledge comes from the distorted image in popular Polish media.”

    Please, don’t make assumptions about me. Actually my image comes mostly from what I heard or read feminists say, among others women from the Warsaw University, the Partia Kobiet on their website, or Kinga Dunin or Kazimiera Szczuka. Unless you mean to say that those women create the distorted image of feminism in media. Then I’d be interested in learning about the differences.

    “I never heard about feminism not allowing women be house wives if they so desire. I think what feminism stresses is that the way our society is organised makes more women want to stay at home, and makes them women think and do certain things. Same with men.”

    Yes, many feminists will stress that they want women to have free choice, but at the same time they try to reprogram the society in a way that suggests that professional career is a better choice. No matter how they wrap it it always comes off this way. Just as what you said did. How do you know that it’s the society that makes the decision for women?

    “Feminism is not about telling people what to do, but giving them a real freedom of choice.”

    Like insisting that they should work five years longer, without even bothering to consider the women’s opinion?

    “And feminism says that there is no real freedom of choice if boys and girls are raised differently and taught differently who they should become. The society has a preference for males to be dominant and intelligent and females to be beautiful and sweet …and so on… Males and females then WANT to be like the society wants them to be, in all kinds of ways. They are part of the patriarchy. The world as they know it is engraved within their identities. Feminists who want it different, endanger the tranquillity of status quo and people’s current identities.”

    That is only one of many possible views, which undoubtedly you find objectively true. But what about Polish women who are at large better educated than Polish men? (If I remember well twice as many women as men have the university degree.) What about families that insist that a girl should acquire university education while a boy should acquire a handy skill? What about the number of women entering police or becoming managers in companies? Are Polish people really programmed the way you suggest, or is it just one example of bringing the Anglo-Saxon model on the Polish soil? Have you checked what Polish women have been doing for the last 200 years vs. their colleagues in the UK and US?

    Have feminists looked at the society closely, or are they just finding there what they are looking for? And what does it mean “the society wants them”? Are feminists not a part of the society? Are they really able to create a model that won’t be just another _model_?

    I think that great many Polish women consider themselves both intelligent and beautiful and they’re perfectly fine with it. Look at Monika Olejnik for example, and she doesn’t consider herself a feminist. Gasp!

    “Feminism has a very practical dimention. As most politicians are men, the policies that are there usually concentrate on other things that those that interest women.”

    I think that all politicians are humans, and all women are humans. What are those things the policies are focussed on that women aren’t interested in? Taxes, roads, working hours, health system, unemployment? What?

    “If in Poland it’s mostly women who take care of children, as you will probably agree it is, why there are so little instutions that relief their effort? Such as kindergartens, infant schools… They cost a lot of money, many women can’t afford.”

    Are you suggesting that Poland is a land of lonely mothers? Why would men not take care of their children (except for divorcees, who pay for kids anyway, or pathological families)? Why would men not share the cost of kindergartens with their wives? I think that the family model that’s still popular in Poland is that a woman holds the money, and the poorer a family the more likely it’s the case. If kindergartens are expensive it affects men as well as women. I see it as a family oriented problem, and not a women oriented one.

    “Why so few companies have their own kindergartens?”

    Because they can’t afford them?

    “These things would take the taxpayers money. Yes, but many things do, and it all depends how you set the priorities. Things that involve women are not priorities. And thus no body cares. This is just one example.”

    I think that if unemployment is a priority it concerns women a lot! If that’s dealt with their lot will improve as well as everyone else’s. Likewise, low wages is a problem of our poor economy. Women don’t need charity any more than men do. They need good job opportunities like everybody. It’s a problem on a far larger scale than women oriented. How feminism is going to deal with it?

    “I ask which aspects of feminism are not adjusted to Polish women?
    What exactly, of what feminists say, is utter rubbish, from the Polish point of view?”

    For example that women are weak, and need a special treatment by law. The mere idea of feminism is anti-women. It made sense to give women equal rights, it doesn’t make sense to give them privileges if they are meant to remain equal.

    We might also look closely at the problem you brought about women being likely to stay at home because the society wants them to. Can you give some numbers? How many women stay at home in Poland as compared to women in the US for example? Isn’t the argument a bit ridiculous, considering that staying at home is a luxury most Polish women can’t afford?

    “Maybe since a tiny percent of women call themselves feminists, maybe there is something wrong with the knowledge about feminism among Polish women?”

    Well, let’s see. There are feminists in Poland (mostly an academic movement – none of the feminists I ever met worked outside of a university, TV or some newspaper, or some non-profit organisation), there is the Catholic women organisation or whatever it’s called, and there are women living in pathological families, of which interests the first two groups claim to fight (along with their own interests). All the three together are marginal, making up for less than perhaps 10-15% of Polish women. That leaves out about 85-90% of women, of whom I’d say they are the typical Polish women, who consider themselves equal, many are well educated, make professional career, share their home duties with their husband or partner, and whose opinions and interests are as far from the three above as possible.

    The assumption you make is yet the same. They should listen to what feminists say to improve their lot. I say they need someone who’d listen to what _they_ say if they are to be represented. Maybe they don’t want to change the Polish model, or maybe not in the direction feminists propose. Is it so difficult to imagine that feminists don’t have the patent for truth?

  41. kamel says:

    Allright, when I have enogh time, I`ll read it…

  42. guestttttttt says:

    The answer for question in the article: NO, the girl was just expressing only her own personal opinion. I wouldnt say either that in Poland it is common to be feminist but certainly the is not any division for male or female roles. I agree that there is lots of streotypes of feminists but remember that to be a feminist, a woman has to feel that shes discriminated in some ways. Im not a feminist becouse i was never a victim of discrimination on any areas.

  43. Steven Woodruff says:

    If dolphins are so intelligent how do they end up in my tuna can in the first place? And if Polish women are so much more clever and better educated than Polish men, then how do they get duped into working for less money, then coming home to do all the chores too ? You feminests crack me up, always looking for a fight when you really are just at war with yourselves. It makes me want to kiss your hand, open the door for you, and sit home making a mess while you run off to work at the bank for half the salary you deserve. :)

  44. island1 says:

    Steven: A admire your project to leave witty comments on each and every Polandian post so far :)

  45. Steven Woodruff says:

    Not much work for an American Carpenter in Poland on a -15 degree day. And by the way, did you read my simple blog? ( seeking feedback) If so, did you read my second post titled ” American dumb ass” ? Please do, you will howl with luaghter .

  46. Steven Woodruff says:

    ME: Laws where made to be broken :)

  47. […] | Tags: feminism, Interview, Poland, Polish women, Women | by Pawel Here at Polandian we announced a series of posts about women in Poland and feminism. In the first episode we give the floor to an […]

  48. Alexwebmaster says:

    Hello webmaster
    I would like to share with you a link to your site
    write me here preonrelt@mail.ru

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