Poland’s Gender Dispute


Jaroslaw Kuisz and Karolina Wigura in Eurozine:

Among scholars, gender studies are seen as supporting a wide-ranging and on-going discussion on the social roles of men and women, on the time they devote to housework and childcare, on the perception of equality and independence in marriage, and on gender equality policies, among others. It therefore came as a great surprise to university teachers and feminist and LGBT activists when senior and highly respected representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland issued a series of controversial statements concerning gender. The clergy compared what they considered a harmful “gender ideology” to communist or totalitarian ideologies, drawing attention, for example, to the idea that a child is “not born, but produced”, an idea that they perceive this gender ideology to endorse.

Whenever the ensuing row seemed to have blown over, yet another pretext emerged for stoking it up again. After a series of controversial statements from representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the media devoted its attention to the decision of Anna Grodzka, the first openly transgender MP in Poland, to join the parliamentary committee formed to put an end to “gender ideology”. The committee's chairwoman, Beata Kempa of the rightwing conservative party United Poland, announced that it was Grodzka's intention to “make a fuss”. And so the gender dispute blew up again.

The direction that the row over gender has taken so far is baffling, not least in terms of how sharply it diverges from the broader discussion outlined above. Neither does it seem to have taken into account in any genuine way the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council. Further, the more rational and moderate arguments of centrist and liberal milieus have received little attention in the wake of numerous jokes, some more appropriate than others. At the same time as playing with a foreign-sounding word, tabloid newspapers printed scare pictures of hairy creatures intended as representations of the kind of demons that the word “gender” now supposedly summoned in the public's imagination, accompanied by captions along the lines of “this is the face of gender”.

More here.