Feminism in Poland (3)

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 actual Polish woman and feminist.

Meet Katarzyna Hejna, who agreed to talk to us, over a cup of tea. She is a political science and sociology graduate. She works as a journalist, covering the economy and market.

KHPolandian: – You are a feminist. What does it mean?

Katarzyna Hejna: Of course I am! I can’t imagine it any other way. I imbibed feminism with my mother’s milk. [laughs]
It means that I respect the women, who only several years ago were knocking on Marshal Piłsudski’s door. Women who broke storefronts in England demanding rights. It means that I am aware that the situation of women in Poland and around the world is far from satisfactory. And that we are still on a worse starting position than men. But it also means that we, women – but also men – can change this.

– What are women’s main problems in Poland today?

There still is plenty of them. From such things as unemployment rate being much higher among women. Through women being silent victims of home violence, or sexual violence. To having no real influence on political decisions, especially at the top level. Women being treated with flippancy. And there’s the invisibility of lesbians in the public life.
Even though the Constitution of the Republic of Poland says that all citizens – men and women are equal in rights, it is not so. When we take a closer look at how our culture functions, how it determines us, and how it pushes women into narrow marginalising roles, it becomes clear that women in Poland are in a worse position. Our great-grandmothers secured themselves voting rights 90 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Our situation is far better than it used to be. However we still, Polish women today, should fight for a world, where one’s gender doesn’t determine what is achievable for them. People are all different, and stereotyping about what is “feminine” and what is “masculine” makes us not see or respect the whole richness of world and diversity of people. Girls are raised to be silent, nice and polite. Boys are raised to achieve, fight and show off. Why? This is a trap. It scares me and I want to change it. I don’t fit to the stereotypes. Too many people don’t fit to them.

– So do you try to change the situation of women in Poland? How?

I engage in pro-women, queer, and pro-freedom going-ons… All those which enlarge the space for people, which aim to question assigned roles… I talk a lot. With girls and guys, and explain: what gender and feminism are. But it gets frustrating: debunking myths, explaining things from feminist perspectives, answering the same questions and doubts all the time… What I like most is working with women, and for women. Doing a cultural festival, workshops, meetings. It sparks creativity and gives me a lot of energy. The most difficult thing is to change something in your own life, in yourself. To break the patriarchy within. To not be insecure speaking to a crowd. To talk strongly and make demands. To run for an office. To fight for oneself.

[Translated from Polish]

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59 thoughts on “Feminism in Poland (3)

  1. MaterialGirl says:

    Femina means women, so in this definition every women is feminist (even if she hasn’t known it yet).

  2. Colin says:

    I dislike the term ‘Feminism’ I much prefer calling it what it is – Equality for all, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, disability, political persuasion, etc.

    I know it is difficult for women in Poland but I am pleased to see a growing acceptance (or maybe I am naive and its just tollerance) of equality. In business, predominately the financial services sector, there are more and more women executives and equallity of pay, this is also the case in the medical profession (more psychologists and doctors) and isn’t the Chairwoman of the Polish Electricity Company (PGE) a woman?

    We have many male and female ‘gay’ friends and they are all open towards their sexuality. This also extends to smaller towns.

    There are more female politicians.

    Male executives that I work with share the workload at home, to me there is no difference, regardless if one partner stays at home or not we should still share the workload (I know this through feedback from their wives, partners).

    I think the problem within Poland lies with the older generations, so hopefully this issue of lack of equality will filter out quite soon.

    The real issues of lack of equality lie outside Poland in developing countries. I am increasingly pained by my regular visists to those countries, I have met women who have been abused, mutilated, denied medical care and proper education and forced into lives of sexual subjection and compulsory childbearing.

    Is there an answer? – Not an immediate one on a global scale but through supporting ‘equal rights at home’ men and women can start to make a difference across the world – one small step at a time….people can also stop just commenting on blogs and actively help Amnesty International (instead of the mere less than 1% of the so called developed population that do).


  3. scatts says:

    I need to know more about the invisibility of lesbians. It sounds like it might be interesting! :)

    Am I hitting the right note of sensitivity here?

  4. Boguslaw says:

    “I think the problem within Poland lies with the older generations, so hopefully this issue of lack of equality will filter out quite soon.”

    I am affraid its not that simple. Of course it depends what do you think by “older generation” but accordnig to opinion polls and sociological research generation of polish youth is far more “conservative” than generation of their parents. What is more, young Poles are less egalitarian as well.

    Market and Church are cooperating in Poland in very effective way, must say.

    “There are more female politicians.”

    Yeap, but they are as bad as male politician ;)

    Perhaps we should declare war on Sweden and then quickly surrender.
    But what we`ll do if Sweden surrenders first?

  5. gast says:

    OMG, January is a really tough month…massacre… and now the feminism BS…

  6. Datblog says:

    Boguslaw – I am sorry but I do not subscribe to opinion polls and sociological research they can easily be manipulated – for example if you put 1000 people in a stadium at random, and it just so happens one of those people is Bill Gates – you then take an average of everyone’s financial worth – are you telling me that is the real average? The example may be simple but its relevant to opinion polls – they don’t work, they can be manipulated and lead to sexy headlines to suit the originating party…

    I prefer to base my ‘learned ignorance’ on my own observations. My wife is very active in the ‘female community’ in Warsaw. I work with many male and female executives in Poland within different organisations (commercial and government), both my wife and I attend rallies when needed – for social and other issues we believe in.

    I could go on and on but the loud sound you just heard was me banging my head against the desk in frustration – you won’t change things by reciting erroneous statistics but you will change things by sensible, logical arguments with real life examples…

    Now why would anyone want to start a war with Sweden? In fact why would anyone want to start a war with any country?

  7. Datblog says:

    just for reference the last post was Colin – aka Datblog

  8. gast says:

    Just a few names…

    1. Danuta Hubner, Komisarz UE ds. Polityki Regionalnej

    2. Anna Streżyńska, szef Urzędu Komunikacji Elektronicznej

    3. Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, prezydent Warszawy

    4. Monika Olejnik, dziennikarka

    5. Helena Łuczywo, zastępca naczelnego ?Gazety Wyborczej”

    6. Julia Pitera, polityk

    7. Grażyna Kulczyk, prezes ?Kulczyk Foundation”

    8. Alicja Kornasiewicz, prezes banku UniCredit CA IB Polska

    9. Jadwiga Staniszkis, socjolog, politolog, publicystka

    10. Henryka Bochniarz, szefowa Polskiej Konfederacji Pracodawców Prywatnych Lewiatan

    11. Jolanta Kwaśniewska, żona byłego prezydenta

    12. Nina Terentiew, szefowa programowa Polsatu

    13. Katarzyna Niezgoda, wiceprezes Banku Pekao

    14. Bożena Walter, prezes fundacji TVN Nie jesteś sam

    15. Małgorzata Solorz-Żak, prezes Fundacji Polsat

    16. Irena Krauze, bizneswoman

    17. Ilona Łepkowska, scenarzystka

    18. Grażyna Piotrowska-Oliwa, prezes PTK Centertel

    19. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, minister rozwoju regionalnego

    20. Joanna Strzelec-Łobodzińska, prezes Turon-Polska Energia

    21. Elżbieta Pustota, prezes Krajowego Depozytu Papierów Wartościowych

    22. Małgorzata O’Shaughnessy, dyrektor Visa Europe

    23. Katarzyna Muszkat, prezes Zarządu Zespołu Elektrowni PAK

    24. Krystyna Janda, aktorka, dyrektor Teatru Polonia

    25. Elżbieta Penderecka, promotorka muzyki klasycznej

    26. Katarzyna Zajdel-Kurowska, wiceminister finansów

    27. Ewa Kopacz, minister zdrowia

    28. Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, dyrektor Instytutu Spraw Publicznych

    29. Ewa Balcerowicz, prezes Centrum Analiz Społeczno-Ekonomicznych

    30. Jolanta Fedak, minister pracy

    31. Katarzyna Kanclerz, producent muzyczny, menedżer

    32. Katarzyna Hall, minister edukacji

    33. Janina Paradowska, dziennikarka.

    34. Dr.Irena Eris, ERIS SA

    35. Wanda Rapaczynska, AMS

    36. Hanna Suchocka , ex prime minister


    I could name 1000.000 other Polish women in high business positions…

    And i could name 10.000.000 Polish women who have a better live tham the average Polish man…it would start with Doda and would end with all the TVP, TVN, POLSAT women…all you need to do is turn on the TV.

    What feminists in Poland want is not equal rights, but more rights. And more rights for women is not fair towards men…who usually work harder and die earlier. ..Or do you think that all the still very energetic “babcias” is pure accident ?…

  9. Boguslaw says:

    “for example if you put 1000 people in a stadium at random, and it just so happens one of those people is Bill Gates – you then take an average of everyone’s financial worth – are you telling me that is the real average?”

    Great, you have just given us definiton of GDP per capita ;)

    “(…)The example may be simple but its relevant to opinion polls – they don’t work, they can be manipulated and lead to sexy headlines to suit the originating party…(…)
    (…)I could go on and on but the loud sound you just heard was me banging my head against the desk in frustration – you won’t change things by reciting erroneous statistics but you will change things by sensible, logical arguments with real life examples…(…)”

    Wow, Houston, we have a problem.
    First of all, Datblog I think that I play in Your team. You have just misunderstood me. When i was writting that young Poles tend to be more conservative than their parents, i wasnt painting positive picture of polish youth. Quite on the contrary, i wanted only to stressed, that statement that with another generation Poles will become more and more tolerant, open and feminism friendly is just a wishfull thinking. I hope to be wrong, but i am affraid that Poland has long hard road out of hell still to make/do.

    “Now why would anyone want to start a war with Sweden? In fact why would anyone want to start a war with any country?”

    Cool down my friend. It was only one of those jokes in typical polish black sense of humour. You know, Sweden with all that equality between men and women, and Poland standing on the other shore with all that pariocalism and anti-feminism. Perhaps only way to strenght equality in Poland is to declare war on Sweden, only to surrender immediately, and let Swedes to fix some of our problems. I was only thinking about very peaceful “war” ;)

  10. gast says:

    “Poland has long hard road out of hell still to make/do.”

    “and Poland standing on the other shore with all that pariocalism and anti-feminism.”


    Boguslaw, you are crazy my dear. A typical Polish “grass is greener” syndrome. Visit a therapist or make a long journey around the world and look how the women are treated outside of the “Polish hell”…

  11. Datblog says:

    Boguslaw many thanks for clarifying your comments – I understand now.

    I am glad you recognise the way statisticians arrive at GDP…

    So tell me is one of the issues in Poland that men are expected, by whatever stupid thought, peer pressure, history, to be the ‘bread winners’ and when he can’t find work, then his wife, who is more tolerant takes any type of work, waitressing, cleaning, picking up eggs from the hens, etc. The man then let’s this idiotic concept called ‘pride’ take over because he could never be a cleaner or waitress or…. so he starts drinking heavily, becomes depressed, loses all self eseem, self respect and takes out this depression, anger on the weaker sex?

    Am I stretching things a bit away from equality or is this the bigger issue – the male pride?

  12. Boguslaw says:

    “Boguslaw, you are crazy my dear. A typical Polish “grass is greener” syndrome.”

    Typical parochial syndrome. Poland has plenty great things, but also some flaws, and inequality as well as children poverty are among them. There is nothing wrong with self-criticism as long as we dont fall into inferiority complex, so dont be affraid because i know where is that “line”.

    “Visit a therapist or make a long journey around the world and look how the women are treated outside of the “Polish hell”…

    I dont have to go anywhere, because i am aware how could life looks like here in Poland. And i recommend going out of backwater. Perhaps you will notice that women in Poland are not always businesswomen, facing too many problems that either exist in a much smaller scale or just hardly exist in Norden as well as in UK for example. This is not only due to matureness of those societies but also due to women friendly legislation.

  13. Boguslaw says:

    “Am I stretching things a bit away from equality or is this the bigger issue – the male pride?”

    I am afraid it is always about male pride ;)

    But in Poland there is also something else, it is women`s anti-feminism. You see, this specific blend of male pride and traditionalism of women (they like to call themselves “liberals”, but in fact they are simply conservative) leads to such apathy among polish women who are the most ardent guardians of this male dominated society. In other words, this is more complicated.

    Some women, and i dont reffer to those “uneducated, poor and from polish province” once, but what is interesting, to those middle class big city females, wants to be more saint than the pope, which means that they are acting as if they wanted to show that they are even more antifeminist than men. They like to stressed that they are “real” women contrary to those feminist, and real polish women dont need support from anybody, no state, no feminist organisation (of course they daddy`s support doesnt count).

    Now, what this has to do with equality and women rights?
    Well, i dont know wheter you have noticed, but there is no such thing as women`s solidarity in Poland, and without such solidarity, there will be no equality. And lack of women`s solidarity has to do with polish elitarianism. I want to stressed that feminist organisations make in my opinion too many mistakes as well.

    – first of all, feminism in Poland is percieved as a snobism, and sometimes polish feminist dont want to help to change that. Some of them like to fight only for semantics (female names of professions that right now have only male names) and are forgetting about more disturbing things like sexual harassment which is widespread in Poland as a “popular custom”. This behaviour (fighting for semantics) comes form elitism of some polish feminist, who dont want to fight for the rights of the “redneck women”.
    Well, action-reaction. Society believe that feminists are only fighting for privileges for themselves. Lets face it, polish feminists have very bad public relations.

    – another thing, in my opinion, is that some women want to feel superior against other women. They could possibly even support some of the market friendly middle class feminists, but only if this feminism is confined to make easier for women enter into business community and so on. Helping those form polish province who are subjected to a sexual harassment and mobbing as well as other “things” is not so neccesary. Who wants to support those “uneducated” ones anyway?

    – some women believe that by rejecting women solidarity, they will become more attractive for men. I know it is pretentious, but life is full of such people – i am affraid.

    – catholic church.

    – ideology of free-market-so-called-“individualism” which is for some people in Poland a substitute for religion.

    – some women are affraid of responsibility that is coming with emancipation.
    In Poland we say:
    “Mężczyzna jest głową rodziny, a kobieta szyją która nią porusza”.
    Which means that: Man is a head of a family, and woman is a neck that moves that head.

    Some women believe that they have a power above men and simultaneously less responsibilities. They are affraid that after emancipation they will stop being “princes”.

    Polish women are alone, being forlorned by everyone, even by themselves, but no one has told them that yet.

    And what about men?
    I know that you dont like opinion polls, but to digress for a moment, polish sociological research says that polish men are more willing to support women rights than polish women. Not only classic emancipation rights but also right for abortion.

    But of course most men are against of all of that, and as always in such situation it is because of fear, ideology and lack of imagination. They cant imagine that women could not need their support anymore. Some of them are affraid to be unwanted or even worst – useless ;) Others cant imagine that women will not serve them anymore. Still others are simply stupid.

    Probably this is not all, and of course this is only my point of view, but i think that i have pointed out the most important barriers that stand in the way of equality bewteen men and women in Poland.

    To conclude the most important things are lack of women`s solidarity, lack of reflection among polish men and very strong Church as well as free market ideology influences in polish society

  14. domingo says:

    I know JKM may not be the most sensible person on the planet, but there is a grain of truth in what he says:



    If feminist activists and Mrs Środa are alike, then im not surprised that our youth is becoming more conservative.
    Equality for all – sounds very nice indeed, but we have already tried it (1945-1989) – didn’t work at all.

  15. Datblog says:

    Boguslaw – you raise many good points – I agree there is lack of solidarity with women. I would suggest some of this is because of the perception of feminism – when people think of ‘feminism’ they automatically stereotype it into doc martin wearing shorn, hair types (I do not but many do). Women do not want to be associated with this. The more we have the likes of Agnieszka Graff speaking up then the message and stereotype will be spread across both genders. Another pet hate of mine is stereotypes but that’s a whole different post…..nevertheless its a sad fact that many lazy people do stereotype…

    But here lies another problem – strong traditional gender preferences – both women and men traditionally have strong opinions about which gender they are more comfortable dealing with (a man or a woman) in a variety of professional positions – doctor, banker, lawyer, police officer, airline pilot, school teacher and surgeon.

    Regrettably despite the rise of equality in parts of the world these gender preferences still exist – even ‘feminists’ express preferences in these domains – is this also a lack of reflection?


  16. BurntMaze says:

    The Feminist club is too select. Even though most Western men believe in equality how many men have you heard calling themselves feminists? Me. None. Why? Because they can’t. Feminism is a sexist club which purports to want equality. An interesting contradiction, no? Remember that, as I’ll come back to this point later.

    The enlightened men I talk about are actually pro-equality, which is an infinitely more honourable club to be in as it deals with all inequalities in society. It takes one value and applies that value to all people regardless. Oh, I’m sure that many feminists are also anti-racism, pro-freedom of sexuality, equal opportunity employers, etc but I think they break it all up into subsets so they can show the world how many Scout badges in caring they have. If this is correct then it’s more about the individual than the greater good, isn’t it? But then perhaps that’s the point for many feminists. Perhaps it’s not so much about the cause, as it is about them and something deeper. Something deeper? But what could that be?

    A few years ago I went to the theatre with a group of friends to see Oleanna. Afterwards, in the pub, we got on to the subject of feminism. No surprises there. After being verbally punted into the corner by one of our friends my feminist friend confessed that feminism for her and many wasn’t at all about equality. What feminism is actually about for many is pay-back. Pay-back for centuries of women trailing behind. The problem is that they’re paying back the wrong people. The pro-equality men of today are not the same men who suppressed women in the past.

    If women really want equality with men then they should abandon feminism and come over to the everyone-welcome equality camp. Equality enables men to fight for women’s rights without the sins of their fathers being put upon them. I was brought up to believe women should be treated equally, however, to many feminists because I pee standing up I am ‘them’. No man is ever going to follow someone who accuses him of being a bigot because of his sex but few would disagree if the concept of equality were put to them. Just because I am white it doesn’t mean I’m a racist and so why should I be a sexist simply because I am a man?

    Oh, and if feminism really was about equal rights for all women then they would do a better job of standing up for the rights of women in Muslim nations. As it is, many of them simply hide behind the skirts of cultural relativism. I am appalled at how these women are treated and yet am labelled culturally insensitive by the very people who should be standing up for their rights not to be stoned, not to be covered up in case men look at them, for their rights to be educated, free to talk to men who are not in their family and so on.

    So. In my view feminism is about filling some missing part in individual women rather than actually fighting for equal pay. It’s about middle class women who’ve never really been suppressed desperately looking for something to get involved with. In short, feminism does more damage than good.

  17. MaterialGirl says:


    10.000.000 polish women who live better than polish men? From where is these statistics? Maybe from the misogynists poll?

  18. Sylwia says:

    Colin: In business, predominately the financial services sector, there are more and more women executives and equallity of pay, this is also the case in the medical profession (more psychologists and doctors)

    The number of women managers is above 30%, which I think is quite fair assuming that many women do want to have kids and leave work for some years. The finance sector is indeed feminised. I never worked with a male Financial Director. The significant number of female doctors is nothing new. There was a 50% limit on female doctors during communism, so that men would have a chance too. There’s no such a limit today, so the profession is going to be feminised sooner or later. :D

    It might be of interest that the profession of judge is feminised too. In family courts around 98% of judges are women. Fathers almost never win a case. Polish women are more likely to divorce than women in other countries.

    Domingo: Korwin-Mikke is hilarious, as usual, but Dr. Środa is a very inteligent person.

  19. Datblog says:

    Thanks Sylwia – hope I never have a reason to get divorced…..

    It turns out that there is a picture of Dr Środa, my wife and A Graff on the wall in my lounge :-)

  20. Ania says:

    I just want to stick my nose in for a sec:

    when I took a boyfriend, 8 years ago – both his and mine families started asking my opinion on all subjects, and quit asking him. They call me to ask are we coming to dinner, when will we be in Poland, how are things in general. They never call him, not even his Father. I get to spin it all.

    When I want something, I say so. He will bring it to me on a silver platter.

    When I want him to change his style of dress, he chooses from three options I give him.

    When I decided to quit work and start my company, he accepted without any comment like: ‘well that’s just great, what will we live for!!!”

    So I get all that respect, and not only in the way of opening the door before me, but that too. The house is mine, the time is mine, the decisions are all mine.

    Moreover, I get that for free and of course. He had to earn it. My Parents ignored him until he started to be a professional software engineer – they thought a poor student had no business around me. Now that he serves me – he has his own respect, too.

    And look at Polish women abroad – there are plenty of comments like:

    -everyone can have a Polish girl.
    I agree – we are promiscuous, because we are a backward Catholic culture

    -Polish girls get into relationships with black and Asian men
    apparently yes, because we are an intolerant Catholic culture

    -Polish men are not seen to fool around THAT much
    because they are a macho Catholic culture

    -Polish women are owners of 52% of businesses,
    because we are domesticated backward Catholic hens

    -there are more female students than male students,
    because in Polish backward Catholic culture the females are dominated

    -there are female engineers, like my Mother
    because we are million ears behind the West, where there aren’t any

    -try to divorce and see what happens: the man will agree to give it all up, the women will grab at all of it, and the judge will at least try to secure the interest of both of them. She will walk away with land and machinery and he with his oldest car – like when my Uncle divorced.

    -your children will be taught by females all their life, until University, where there are still some males preserved in tobacco smoke.
    because the females have limited access to self-improvement

    -even in the University, if you want to pass, all you need to do is ask Panią z Dziekanatu for another exam date, and she will kindly allow the Dean to sigh it.
    because females in Poland are under-represented.

    But I try to be fair – I think that Men should be given their rights, so they can keep the cars, if it pleases them, and their Politics, if they like it so much, and can have a say about the furniture (someone needs to carry it upstairs)

    And the Feminists are willing to accept less power and be treated like men? How foolish!

  21. island1 says:

    Domingo: Doesn’t work.

    Thanks for the interview Katarzyna.

    Ania: Is he allowed to sleep in the house?

    Your perpetual hypersensitivity about the perceived arrogance of the West (wherever that is) is starting to become a parody of itself. Nobody even mentioned a comparison.

    BurntMaze: From what Katarzyna said about her involvement in all kinds of “pro-“this and that activities I suspect she would agree with you. Clearly, general equality is the ultimate goal, but there is a case I think for addressing the equality issues that apply specifically to women and it’s reasonable to call that particular aspect of the problem feminism.

  22. Domingo says:

    “When we take a closer look at how our culture functions, how it

    determines us, and how it pushes women into narrow marginalising

    roles, it becomes clear that women in Poland are in a worse position.”

    Utter nonsense. It’s not culture or discrimination what pushes women

    into it, it’s women themselves. Are typical lucrative masculine

    professions, like plumber, dustman or janitor, ‘culturally

    determined’? Perhaps, but no one is forced to be a janitor as well as

    cleaning lady or housewife. You have to work hard to achieve,

    regardless of your sex and attending ‘manifas’ won’t change a thing. Don’t b***it me it is harder for women to do career. 70 % of my fellow

    students was female, i’m currently looking for a work in

    administration branch and every single job ad begins this way: “We are

    looking for woman/female student…”

    “Having no real influence on political decisions, especially at the

    top level.” What kind of talk is that? More than half of population of poland is female (with right to vote of course), what impedes them for voting on another women? Their agressive husbands? Polish Women’s party won 0,28% (!!!) votes in last election, so what do polish feminists expect, anyway? Men to take care of women’s interests?

  23. Domingo says:

    So, my conclusion is – polish women DO have equal rights, they just don’t use them, and it’s not our (men’s) fault:-)

  24. Jubal says:

    Korwin-Mikke would be hilarious, if he wouldn’t be just plainly stupid. It’s really a pity to see a quite intelligent person behaving like a mindless clown.

    Also, I’m afraid that there were no gender-related limits to the medical studies, or, at least, I’ve never heard about these from my teachers (of course, the number of students was – and is – limited and there was our own kind of affirmative action, but that’s all).


  25. Domingo says:

    Oh, and my link above requires acrobat pdf reader. It’s just a small brochure which says polish women are leadnig entrepreneurs among women from european countries. As far as i remember, this fact was also mentioned by Gazeta Wyborcza.

  26. Ania says:

    This might be because I live here, in the West, so I’m reading this blog with different eyes than the Poles who have never seen the poverty, unemployment, uneducated-ness, obesity etc. I’m sorry if you don’t feel appreciated. However, this is the biggest blog about Poland, and would be a shame to leave it all to comments like: ‘their Constitution still needs to be changed’. Plot about your Constitution all you want – I am not changing anything in the UK.

  27. Sylwia says:

    Jubal, it depends on how you take Korwin-Mikke. If one treats what he says seriously then of course he’s not funny at all. But I think most Poles see him as a stand-up cabaret. Our cabaret scene is largely based on chauvinistic and sexist jokes too, but we know they’re joking. In case of Korwin-Mikke we know that he believes in what he says, but we don’t. So we keep laughing, yet no one votes for him anyway.

    I like his kind of logic, because it’s intelligent. It’s just not true or wise. He’s a good example of how one can argue about just anything basing one’s arguments on facts and stats, and yet be completely wrong. It’s funny and entertaining as an exercise.

    I read about the gender related limits on medical studies at some feminist site. I don’t remember it either, but I have no reason to doubt them.

    I said it before, but I can repeat it. It’s nothing against Katarzyna, and thank you for the interview, but I think that feminism in Poland is not successful because it’s misguided. The slogans are simply offensive to women. If you receive such a response like from Ania it’s because she felt offended by the assumptions made about her. The problem is that we don’t like it. Even assuming that we do indeed live in the dark and don’t understand ourselves, no one will reach to us by offending us. It’s nothing against any particular person here, it’s just that the whole ideology has this effect on us.

    It doesn’t mean that there are no problems in Poland, it just means that the problems are different and not addressed. It’s not you, Jamie, making comparisons, it’s the simple fact that the feminist ideology addressed to Polish women is a Western ideology that makes us react this way.

    Imagine that a Polish activist goes to Britain and says that English people are programmed by the Catholic Church, that their attitudes towards themselves are an effect of a long German and Russian occupation, and that their view on democracy comes from a particularly long feudal system in Britain. You’d think that the person lost their mind. But then you see more Polish activists, and some British too, looking at you and identifying the same problems basing them on the same patterns. At the beginning you try using some rational arguments to prove you’re not a camel, but after years you just lose patience. That’s what happens in Poland and that’s why women, myself included, react the way they do.

    Polish feminism is lazy. It’s not creative. If it was a free market product it’d disappear from our shelves. Years ago when Hellmann’s began selling their mayonnaise here they quickly lost their position because what people like to eat in other countries was making Poles puke. Then they checked what we like and created Majonez Babuni. They are fine now.

    With Polish feminism it’s the same. We don’t like the taste of it. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t buy it if it tasted differently. But telling us over and over that we’re just wrong because they have a great product to sell won’t succeed any more than showing us thousands commercials with the original Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

    The problem is that feminist studies are supported in the form they are now, and so nothing will change. If anything it can only alienate Polish women more, so their reaction will be exactly the opposite to the one desired. They’ll link feminism to something inedible, and they won’t want to try it even if the taste of it changes one day.

    There are politicians that make us feel ashamed even if from time to time they might say something not so stupid. I have this reaction to some feminists. Every time I see Kazimiera Szczuka in TV I’m ashamed that she’s even a woman. She is supposed to represent the Polish educated female elite, but she’s so stupid she makes me cringe. It’s simply not going anywhere if the face and rhetoric of Polish feminism looks like that.

    Polish attitudes are often blamed on the Catholic Church. I think it’s a wrong assumption. Poles use the Church far more than the Church is using Poles. We just have this self-defence reaction to run to the Church every time we feel attacked. If, at this moment, the traditional values voiced by the Church win in the Polish society it’s not because Poles buy them any more they always did, but because they use them to protect themselves from the contra-values offered by feminism, Western ideas and so on. It’s a reactionary attitude, not a static one. If Polish women could cease being under attack they’d move away from the Church to a middle position and start working constructively, so if anything Polish feminism is at least as blameable for the current situation as the Church.

    If people are happy to receive grants for just adjusting Polish history and patterns to Western ideas they can go on, but if they really want to change something they should change the brand, and start anew.

    One thing that should be clear by now is that Polish women don’t want to be like Western women. It has nothing to do with their not wanting equality, and everything to do with a different culture. When we compare us to others we like ourselves better. It doesn’t mean we’re right or wrong, we’re simply different. Just as any culture is. It’s like we like our bigos while the English like their beer. I understand that to some it may seem strange that we’re not crazy about English beer, but we’re not. With being a woman it’s the same.

  28. Pawel says:


    I try not to start to engage in this discussion as I wouldn’t be able to reply to posts due to lack of time…

    I just wanted to say, reading your comment I had the “Feminizm Babuni” before my eyes and it made me laugh:))

    Comparing something so a-commercial as feminism to a commercial products just shows where we are in Poland after communism: at the other extreme of ultraliberalism (in European sense, that’s conservatism for our dear American friends).

  29. Sylwia says:

    Pawel, I’m glad I made you laugh. Marketing and PR are my domain, so I see everything as a product, starting from mayonnaise and ending on communist propaganda or Hollywood cinema.

    I don’t think that feminism is a-commercial. I’m either too little or too much an idealist to believe that. Every ideology is a product. It has its brand and its promotional campaign, and it can or cannot bring one a benefit. That’s what about any product is.

    I do think that feminism was noble at its origins, all ideologies are. Even marxism or feudalism. But they change and develop. The arguments of Polish feminism are manipulative, so someone uses them in order to achieve a gain. Either monetary or not, it doesn’t matter. If someone rewrites my history it’s not innocent, and I’m fully entitled to distrust it.

    If I ever see an honest essay on the situation of Polish women I might change my mind, so far I see only ones where some things are exposed to make them fit one’s argument, while others are concealed. It’s propaganda in the ugliest form, and I’m not surprised Polish women at large are not as stupid as to buy it.

    “Feminizm Babuni” might not be that bad. You should have met my grandma!

  30. Jubal says:

    I studied medicine between 1994 and 2000 (while simultaneously working for Pogotowie Ratunkowe between 1997 and 2000) and I did not encounter this story, hence my doubts. Also, there were/are HUGE gender percentage differences between various specialisations.

    You’re not the only person living abroad… but you’re nicely exemplifying one of the worst stereotype: the one of a constantly whining and complaining emigree. Cheer up, you’ll die anyways, there’s no need to worry too much right now.

  31. Phlojd Katzenjammer says:

    So Polish people aren’t at all programmed by the Catholic Church, their attitudes towards themselves aren’t at all an effect of a long German and Russian occupation, and their view on democracy doesn’t a bit come from a particularly long feudal system?

    I guess it’s obvious that they have been most influenced by the Bahai faith, their attitudes in large measure an effect of the Canadian and Icelandic occupation, with their view of democracy coming from an economic system that completely bypassed feudalism.

  32. Ania says:

    Jubal: I have a positive side to me, I just like to rant on this forum.
    I’ll paste an essay just for you.

    ‘I’m the foreigner who likes English Food’

    Given the amount of complaining from us Poles about Western food, one could think that there is nothing that we Poles could possibly like. But I’ve found several things that are just simply delicious. The list is open with the Sunday Lunch. The idea of the Sunday Lunch appeals to me especially strongly because it is your own tradition, so when I eat the lunch, I feel that I am imbibing the culture a little bit more.
    There are meanings that I like to see in the components – three slices of beef roast for example. I can cook beef roast, too, however the meat that I choose is usually smaller in diameter, so the slices would look unimpressive. But – they would not have been slices at all – they would be cuts, a centimetre, or half-inch thick. My first impression then was that of eating a sandwich with side trimmings, but no bread. I couldn’t have been more misguided. In fact – there was more than enough on my plate!
    Then come roast potatoes – that dish I could have prepared as well, but maybe not with so much love. Potatoes are to me meagre filler, and not an object of nicknaming: tatters. To my great satisfaction, I’ve found that the potatoes served in England whether in a pub or in a restaurant, were in fact always very good.
    The tatters are accompanied by vegetables. Now I must admit that the choice of those is often in dispute with my personal tastes, and my deepest disagreement concerns the carrots. It should be obvious to the general public that carrots cut into inch long pieces and steamed cannot possibly taste good, while still containing plenty of calories, as potatoes do. In my opinion, there is no point in serving them this way. Carrots should be chopped into cubes, quarter-inch tall, steamed with butter and then sprinkled with fine flour to thicken the sauce. Anything else is just painful to eat. The roast parsnips are on the contrary – plain, but impressive.
    The parsnips are an issue in themselves. In Poland, we haven’t ever thought of parsnips as anything else that soup flavouring, to be discarded prior to eating. I’ve been at least astonished to have found them on my plate for the first time in a company canteen, described with the carrots and potatoes as ‘roast veg’. And my surprise has been very positive – apparently the parsnips should have always been roasted, and never mind the soups.
    Finally – the gravy. I want to make it known from the start that I have the gravy, and the whole idea of it, as something made from boxed goods, filled with powder of unknown provenance, brown, obscure, and little. Sadly, the gravy is more than well combined with roast lunch, so I’ve been poisoning myself with it more than once this year, and wish to continue. Gravy is especially bad with turkey, and is for unknown reasons served with every major dinner. The best choice to avoid gravy altogether is to order roast pork with apple sauce – apples cannot possibly be ruined by factory production, can they?
    The tradition that is ruining my health more than the glass of Rioja with my dinner is the tradition of eating puddings. I do not condone the practice in any way, at all. We, Eastern Europeans, only eat puddings at a party. Eating a pudding is obviously wrong, and goes against the millennia of tradition of serving vegetable soup with every dinner. Pudding procurers should be shot on the spot. Saying that, can there be anything that matches a roast lunch better than forest fruit cobbler, or Bramley apple pie? NOT! So, the situation calls for immediate discussion… no, it really calls for an immediate five mile walk, swiftly followed by a small glass of local market ale.
    For the sake of my waistline, it’s very well indeed that this tradition only applies to Sunday.

  33. basia says:

    Hej Phlojd:
    Don’t blame this situation on bad-ass Canadians. We have enough problems of our own, namely debating “national identity” ad nauseum. Yes, I know we have that reputation abroad as world power, global agressor and such not, but really, deep down we’re just a mixed up little colony left over from British Imperialism. :)

  34. Sylwia says:

    Phlojd, I think you couldn’t possibly misunderstand me any more.

  35. Phloyd Katzenjammer says:

    Playing the poor misunderstood woman, heh, Sylwia?

    Basia, you also have some very dirty evil geese who even try to kill people in planes.

  36. basia says:


    Good one :) Some countries have WMD (weapons of mass destruction) that strike fear in the hearts of men. Here in Canada we have geese.

  37. Ewa P. says:

    Sylwia, I know there are at least some gender studies made, at last, at the topic of _Polish_ women. Because yes, we have some differences historically ingrained – for example, the “real Polish lady” who would take everything in hand and keep family fed and upright when the lord is somewhere, battling for ours and yours (would it be an appropriate translation? :-) ). I know, that there are, because one of the people who are doing it is my childhood friend, who after analyzing deeply the western gender studies decided, that the mold somehow does not really fit. Yes, some things are universal (like the JKM suggestions that no woman has an analytical mind and could understand higher mathematics), but not all.

    One of the most funny stories I know about feminism and affirmative action happened in USA some ten or fifteen years ago. One of my friends, PhD in mathematics, was visiting USA – stipend, postdoc? Not sure. She was invited to stay and work there, permanent position and all. As at the time it was still a lucrative proposition, she decided to accept… till the moment she learned, that the proposition was given to her because… the affirmative action demanded of them the increase in the number of women mathematicians in the faculty, and they had no other woman around. She wend mad, ditched everything and returned to Cracow :-)

  38. Phlojd Katzenjammer says:

    Just keep those birds north of that border, eh, Basia? Not only are those quackers intent upon terrorism but even when they are just hanging out, they ruin our outdoor athletic pursuits with their green malodorous remains.

    Ewa P., that’s still not at all an uncommon practice in universities all over the U.S., even more so in the social sciences, I’d say.

  39. island1 says:

    Chesley Sullenberger the hero? Chesley Sullenberger the goose killer I say.

  40. Phlojd Katzenjammer says:

    Why are you being redundant?

  41. Sylwia says:

    I’d love to read your friend’s work, Ewa.

    Yes, some things are universal (like the JKM suggestions that no woman has an analytical mind and could understand higher mathematics)

    I’m not so sure it’s universal. JKM is highly controversial rather than popular. The great number of women in the finance sector negates his view, and Poland has quite a long history of women in science. After all in the 19th century university professors taught thousands of women in the Flying University clandestinely (Maria Sklodowska-Curie was their student for example). Also, women in our countries are more likely to study hard sciences than those in the old EU-15.

    I’d say that less women choose maths as a matter of taste, but it’s not said that they’re not very good at it when they do. Not to mention that boys are taught maths and physics mostly by women.

    …till the moment she learned, that the proposition was given to her because… the affirmative action demanded of them the increase in the number of women mathematicians in the faculty, and they had no other woman around.

    That’s why I’m glad that we don’t have the glass ceiling policy. The number of women in lucrative positions is similar in Poland and the USA, but at least we know we’re appreciated for our skills and not treated as handicapped and needing special care.

    Here’s an article about women entrepreneurs: http://www.aliciapatterson.org/APF1904/Simpson/Simpson.html

    BTW Can you imagine that male only clubs still exist in England? It’s one of such thing that well… differ.

  42. Colin says:

    Sylwia – the article is old, St. Andrews now allows women as do most of the ‘old school’ golf clubs in the UK, including RAC, etc.

  43. Sylwia says:

    What about White’s? :D

    In truth the most puzzling thing about the male clubs isn’t that some still exist in the 21st century, only that they existed at all in the 18th or 19th century. It’s typical for the English culture, and not universal. When I first learnt about them I had a great trouble to understand why men would want to meet without women, or why women would be barred from entering a public place. It’s not something one sees in Polish literature or cinema. There were places where women would not like to go. Not many go to a striptease club even today, but they could if they wanted to.

    There were places that associated men only – in army or politics, but a woman could enter the building. In England men and women separated even after dinner. Men could join the ladies whenever they wished, but women couldn’t remain with men.

    Those are things that sound strange to a Pole. That’s what I meant. A different culture.

  44. Colin says:

    Unfortunately there are men and women separation, clubs, institutaions, all over the world – even here in warsaw there are lesbian clubs with a strict no male policy…and of course gay male clubs with a no women policy –

    I was a member, inherited, of a golf club in the UK with a no female policy and fought vehemntly to change it – thankfully it happened and now, although still a member, I never get to go:-)

    By the way there is an excellent organisation in the US promoting women in IT – here’s the link http://www.ncwit.org/

    I really like what they are doing, IT is far too dominated by men

  45. Ewa P. says:

    Sylwia, for the record, I am a physicist, hopefully nearing habilitation. I know very well, that Poland – with France and Spain, from my observation – has relatively high percentage of women scientists (and I mean hard science). Nevertheless the JKM idea is still pretty popular :-> (and as for maths, I can tell you that there are more girls studying maths than boys). Simply, reality and stereotypes does not always match, surprise, surprise.

    Problem with women and career (political, academic, whatever) for many years wasn’t the problem with the “glass ceiling” as such. Mostly the problem was domestic – either those who did pursue their careers were single, or they finished at the intermediate level (in university – PhD and rarely more). In Poland, the expected situation was a husband making himself known, and a wife with eight-hour-job and full time home occupation (and those westerners, if they don’t remember times just after the war, cannot even imagine what did it require in the, for example, eighties). Only very lucky ones could do anything more…

  46. Colin says:

    Margaret Thatcher’s first degree was in Chemistry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Thatcher

    An inspiration to all….

  47. Colin says:

    and let’s not forget Merkel who is a former environment minister and who holds a doctorate in physical chemistry. These women certainly do not work 8 hours.

    Give us another generation and we will have an equitable balance….

  48. Sylwia says:

    Oh, come on! White’s is not a gay club, is it? I think there’s an obvious difference between places divided according to sexual preferences and those public ones where women are simply not allowed for no good reason.

    And yes, there are male and female convents too. But it’s not a public secular place where women are not allowed either. Moreover, usually both men and women can pay visits in convents, while a woman couldn’t enter White’s.

    It’s exactly one of such examples when people say it’s all the same. It’s not. It’s very different.

    Merkel isn’t a good example. She’s from the former DDR and those women were much better educated and more active than those from Western Germany.

    Western feminists fought for their right to work. In communist countries women were forced to work whether they liked it or not. We’re coming from two different worlds.

    There always were some remarkable women, but an exception doesn’t prove a rule. One of my great aunts became a professor of maths and physics in the early 1900s, but at those times women already made up for about 40% at universities. Maria Skłodowska-Curie received her first Noble Prize in physics in 1903. Elżbieta Hevelius became our first female astronomer in the 17th century. Marysieńka Sobieska earned more money on her business investments in Warsaw than Sobieski did as king. In the 18th century women published books on economy. I think one was even translated to English.

    Ada Lovelace pioneered in computing in the 19th century, but women weren’t allowed to take degrees at Oxbridge yet in the early 1900s. Victoria became a queen, but women in England had it never as bad as during her reign. So what does it change that she was a queen? She couldn’t enter White’s anyway. :p

  49. Jacek Wesołowski says:

    Wasn’t she more of a figurehead than a ruler?

    I don’t want to make claims about discrimination in Poland or lack thereof, because I suspect living in Warsaw means my point of view isn’t very representative. I know many examples of men and women treating each other poorly, sometimes because of egoism, and sometimes because of ideology. And sometimes because of egoism covered in ideological camouflage.

    However, one thing I’ve noticed recently is that it doesn’t make much sense to discuss the topic with foreigners. I mean random foreigners living in remote places, who’ve never been to Poland and have never heard of it. Particularly, Americans. It’s as if we were talking about the same thing, but in reality it’s comparing apples and oranges. We seem to have a civilised conversation, and then suddenly it turns out they think I’m an anti-feminist or some such. For instance, people I talk to think giving a character in a film large boobs is offensive in itself, and I don’t see why (because, in my culture, big boobs mean the character is supposed to be admired for her attractiveness, and in theirs it apparently means she’s supposed to be raped). Or they start praising one author or another, because their female characters are so strong and independent, and I don’t know what they’re talking about, because all my female friends behave like those characters, and still most of them are neither particularly strong nor independent.

    I think this is particularly dangerous when people import foreign rhetoric (both “pro-” and “anti-feminist”) without noticing all the differences of thought patterns. They keep repeating statements they don’t really understand, and they are very surprised that nobody else understands them, either.

    Postscript – I do wish there were more women in IT.

  50. Boguslaw says:


    Why do you hate polish men so much? When i was reading your post i was thinking that we need more feminists to protect us against such behaviour as yours. Of course dear Aniu – nothing personal.

  51. threefin says:

    Isn’t the problem really that women used to be the power behind the throne, and now they want to occupy the throne as well? And then shock – horror, the divorce rate skyrockets!

  52. […] Hejna talks about feminism in Poland – at Polandian. Posted by Veronica Khokhlova  Print version Share […]

  53. Colin says:

    Poland is ranked at 49 in the world for Gender equality according to the new world Economic Form Report – here, http://www.weforum.org/en/Communities/Women%20Leaders%20and%20Gender%20Parity/GenderGapNetwork/GenderGapNetwork

    An interesting note Poland is among the gainers, having climbed up 11 places from last year due to gains in the percentage of women among legislators, senior officials and managers as well as in ministerial level positions.

  54. Croeso says:

    Giving the running of Iceland to a lesbian is is a punishment and not a case for celebration.

    They passed her a poison chalice then dropped her down a deep hole with a shovel, if I may mix my metaphors.

    Similarly, the USA presidency: who’d want that job in this economic climate ?
    Prayer might help but god may not there to help, she is very busy at the moment, multitasking has its limits.

  55. […] [Comments for Polandian] Comment on Feminism in Poland (3) by Croeso […]

  56. gforse says:

    whats wrong with being nice and polite?

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