Tag Archives: feminism

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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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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Feminism in Poland – A long way to go?


Polish women take care of their husbands just as much as they take care of their children.

I’m just about old enough to remember when ‘feminism’ wasn’t just a dirty word in the UK, it was an absurd word. In those days calling a woman a feminist was automatically funny and ridiculous, and calling a man a feminist was completely inconceivable. In those days ‘feminist’ was more-or-less a synonym for ‘lesbian’ and lesbianism was perhaps the most appalling of sexual crimes. The word has lost it’s power in the past 30 years and is rarely used these days with either positive or negative intentions. There’s no need; the fundamental battles have been won, in principle at least. Looking around me at Polish society I wonder if another 30 years will be enough to achieve the same result here.

Let me make it clear that I am not an expert on the philosophical underpinnings of the feminist movement but that I do generally think it is ‘a good thing.’ It seems to me that, so far, the sisters ain’t doing it for themselves in the land of the red and white flag. The situation as I see it is as follows:

Polish women are raised to believe that they are ‘special’
In practice this means they are raised to believe that they are more precious and lovely than their brothers, but that it’s ok for them to clean the house, cook the dinner, and do the shopping while said brothers sit around drinking beer and inheriting things. Sounds like a pretty poor exchange to me, but it’s a message that is driven home by family and church from a young age and it’s very hard for an individual woman to see through the scam.

Polish men are raised to believe that women are ‘special’
In practice this means they are raised to believe that women are weaker in mind and body than them but that it’s ok for them to do all manner of hard physical work around the house and cope with the massive mental stress of keeping a family together. It’s equally hard for the individual man to see through the scam when the society around him insists that women aren’t capable of opening doors or putting on coats on their own.

Will somebody please explain to me why Polish women are considered perfectly capable of using a mop for hours on end, but are not considered capable of opening doors or carrying shopping bags?

Will somebody also please explain to me why anybody has the right to make women feel guilty about their sexuality while male sexuality is openly praised as a good and healthy thing (as long as it’s straight of course)?

Let me leave you with another quote from the truly scary polishmarriage.org

Polish girls are not as liberated and modern as western women and they take their commitments very seriously.

This is the picture that accompanies these words. Clearly they also like to walk around with their tops off and jeans undone while ‘taking their commitments very seriously.’


My personal blog. Go there if you know what’s good for you.

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English-speaker’s guide to the 8th of March: the day when Polish women come out of the shadows

The 8th of March is Women’s Day in Poland – an annual event that used to be just another opportunity for men to buy their girlfriends, wives and mothers flowers and chocolates. For some time, however, it’s been growing as the biggest festival of women’s rights. As an opportunity for women to voice their opinions and persuade people that women have some common interests. That they should take matters in their own hands: do business, get into politics, demand equality within the family, in the workplace etc.

Manifa 1 Manifa 2

As the manifesto of 2008 Toruń Manifa (march of protesters) says, ‘Women are everywhere, they are 50% of the society. Yet their voice is not being heard. Women issues and problems women have are ignored and marginalised. We are fed up with this. Therefore it’s high time we did something about it.’

Among the demands, this movement voices, are: proper sex education in schools; easy access to contraception; abolishing the gender role stereotypes that people are socialised to; right to decide about oneself and one’s body; no more treating women as sexual objects; no more treating women like little girls whose opinion doesn’t matter; no more ignoring the needs of women who are elderly, poor, homosexual, of different ethnicity, of low social standing, handicapped or in some other way not-matching the mainstream stereotype of what is feminine.

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This is a grass-roots democratic movement with no one single nationwide organiser. In each town a local committee forms itself, comprising NGOs, university gender studies scientific associations, informal groups or individuals. Therefore these events should be rather seen as a wider movement powered by various people. This tends to be difficult to comprehend for the media, who are used to dealing with a clear hierarchy.

Manifas are cheerful and fun events with lots of open-minded people, colourful clothes, and a serious message. It is a good idea to join this lot in a weekend, you might meet some interesting people. It happens sometimes that a counter demonstration, in this or that city, are organised by nationalist youth groups, who might shout hateful slogans. Be warned – if you’re a sensitive person. Yet there is no danger, as the police are always well prepared to ensure everyone’s safety.

Join the action in your city with this All – Poland guide:
This post will be updated when further news are released.


G D A Ń S K / S O P O T / G D Y N I A

8 March manifa launches at 14:00 from Cinema City Krewetka in Gdańsk, ul. Karmelicka 1. Colourful and loud march of women will be accompanied by samba sounds

Other events in Tricity:

7 March, 16:00 Exhibition opening “Women in Sejm”, Biblioteka Główna UG (University of Gdańsk Library), ul. Wita Stwosza 53, Gdańsk

7 March, 17:00 Political debate with Iwona Guzowska (Civic Platform),Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka (The Left and Democrats), Anna Kornacka (Women’s Party) and Beata Maciejewska (Greens 2004). Wydział Prawa i Administracji (Law and Administration Department), Audytorium C, ul. Bażyńskiego 6, Gdańsk

8 March 20:00, Afterparty at Faktoria, ul. Rzemieślnicza 26, Sopot.
Programme includes
– Hubert Bilewicz’s presentation on homoerotic motifs in paintings of Tamara Lempicka.
– Exhibition of paintings by Anna Mackiewicz “Woman, woman, woman…”
– Presentation of feminist cartoon satire
– Music by DJ A.A.



8 March Manifa launches at 15:00 on the corner of ul. Łodzianki (former Piotrkowska) and Pasaż Włókniarki (former Schiller) with unveiling of a Woman of Łódź (Łodzianka) monument.

Other events in Łódź:

1 March 21:00, Party raising funds for Manifa, Drag Shows, Club la Foufoune

6 March 18:00,  Iza Desperak lecture “Why a flower is not enough for Eves?” at UŁ Ethnology Institute, ul. Jaracza 78, room 35

7 March (time tba), Women’s Lemon Night + opening of an exhibition of photographs entitled “Our ladies”, Cinema Cytryna

Workshops for teachers, educators and leaders at Centrum Praw Kobiet (Centre for Women’s Rights), ul. Piotrkowska 115, left wing, first floor. Participants will receive certificates.
7 March 14:00 – “Gender and human rights in youth education”
7 March 16:30 – antihomophobic workshop “Teacher without prejudices”
8 March 12:00 – “Intermediate Gender”



8 March Manifa launches at 14:00 from Barbakan.

Other events in Krakow:

3 March: 20:00, Party “Feminism the Slovakian way”, Kawiarnia Naukowa (ul. Jakuba 29). Knohe band from Bratislava, doing electronic music. Best outfit competition – fancy dress encouraged.

4March 17:00, Film screening: “Anatomie de l’enfer”, Kino 18, ul. Floriańska 18, 2nd floor

4 March 19:00, “Seeking the traces of goddess” – discussion forum at eFKka foundation, ul. Krakowska 26/1 (in Polish)

5 March18:00, Film screening: “Iron Jawed Angels”, the herstory of Alice Paul + discussion moderated by Agata Teutsch. Klub Bunkra Sztuki.

8 March 20:00, The Dolls party, Cafe Stranger, ul. Dietla 97.

15-16 March, WenDo workshop – self-defence and assertive attitude class for women. For details contact agata.teutsch@wendo.org.pl.


2104.jpgP O Z N A Ń

8 March Manifa launches at 14:30 near Stary Marych (corner of Półwiejska and Strzelecka), will go through Stary Rynek to Plac Wolności.

Slogan: POzostaje nam tylko ironia (All we have left is irony)

This year’s manifa in Poznań will concentrate critically on the current government’s attitude to women’s issues.

Other events in Poznań:

7 March, 19:00, Debate with politicians on the situation of women after the 2007 election, (Głośna Samotność Bookshop, ul. Ratajczaka 18)

8 March, 17:30, Dia de Mujeres, Głośna Samotność Bookshop, ul. Ratajczaka 18

8 March, 21:00, Afterparty in Klubokawiarnia Meskal, ul. Nowowiejskiego 17 (corner of Młyńska)

9 March, 12:00, Open information meeting about breast cancer and cervical cancer prevention. Ośrodek Babiląd, ul. Bukowska 31/6


Manifa ToruńT O R U Ń

8 March Manifa will launch at the Old Town Market Square near Copernicus statue (at 14:00), going through ul. Szeroka, ul. Świętej Jadwigi to New Town Market Square and back.

Slogan: Kobiety wyjdźcie z cienia (Women, come out of the shadow!)

Other events in Toruń:

4 March 18:30: “Dakini and the Guardian Lady – the angry face of womanhood in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism” lecture at the English Department of the Nicolaus Copernicus University. Collegium Maius – Wydział Filologiczny, Fosa Staromiejska 11, room 311 (2nd floor).

6 March 19:00: Movie screening: “If Walls Could Talk 2”, Przestrzeń Alternatywna LaLucza, ul. Podmurna 30/4, (part of Women’s cinema month at LaLucza).

7 March (time tba): Interdisciplinary conference: “Female perspectives: Woman – a gender, a phenomenon, a human or a subject of research?”. Various speakers. Muzeum Okręgowe, Kamienica pod Gwiazdą, Old Town Market Square.

8 March 20:00: Afterparty (entrance fee 3zł) at NRD/Galeria Dla… ul. Browarna 6.
Exhibitions of works by Xavier Bayle (“More Than Bodies” – what is woman’s body?) and photographs by Beaty Ziemowska and Katarzyna Jankowska (“Kobiety na Rozbracie” – )
Performances by Xavier Bayle (“History of one liberation” – Polish version of the bobbits, as Mickewicz would have never described it); by To Masz Cebo (live installation “TEST”); and by Dagmara Pochyła (installation with performative participation of the artist “NEWS”)
Party: DJane LU: experimental, electronica, breakcore, drill, digital hardcore, hard step with Drag Queens and Drag Kings.


Manifa SilesiaS I L E S I A
( K A T O W I C E)

8 March Manifa launches at 11.00 from the square in front of Teatr Śląski in Katowice.

Slogan: Solidarność jest rodzaju żeńskiego (Solidarity is of feminine gender)

Manifa in Silesia will stress the need for solidarity between women. Solidarity above differences: in class, financial status, education, profession, health, political or religious denomination, cultural background, age or sexual orientation.

Organisers encourage to bring bicycles, noise-making devices and fancy hats.

Anyone wishing to lend her hand in preparing signs, and other manifa gear, is asked to pop to Złoty Osioł Restaurant (ul. Mariacka 1) at 9:00 am.



9 March (!!!) Manifa launches 12:00 from Plac Lotników through Plac Grunwaldzki, City Council building to Rusałka (where Marzan, the male version on Marzanna, will be drowned).

Slogan: Świadoma kobieta to zdrowa kobieta (Woman aware of her rights is a healthy woman)

This year’s Manifa in Szczecin will concentrate on health issues. Women often dedicate their lives to both housework and professional work, taking care of their family they ignore their own health. Many conditions are therefore discovered too late to be treated. Women are uninformed in health matters due to lack of accessible information, caused by insufficient government policies in health awareness. Unsuitably equipped state surgeries, worsening image of medical staff, long waiting list – discourage women from taking interest in their health. Szczein’s Manifa will also stress the problem of infertility and IVF. Infertility treatment should be included free of charge within the state healthcare system. Prenatal examination should be available to all women.


Manifa WwaW A R S A W

8 March Manifa launches at 12:00 from Plac Defilad near Teatr Dramatyczny.

Slogan: Wielki Marsz Solidarności Kobiet.

Other events in Warsaw:

8 March, 18:00: Post-manifa chill-out. Sylwia Chutnik promotes her book “Kieszonkowy Atlas Kobiet” (“Pocket atlas of women”), Świetlica Raster, ulica Hoża 42 m.8

More from Warsaw to be announced.

Read my other posts.

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