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Gender And E.U. Accession In Poland

3996 words - 16 pages

Gender and E.U. Accession in Poland

In the period preceding and immediately following Poland’s accession into the European Union (01.05.2004) Polish media were overflowing “gender talk.” On the radio one would hear randomly placed banter about “natural differences between the sexes” (in fact, a new station (FM 94), was established in 2002 with “real men” in mind). Almost any event discussed on the evening news could be commented with a “this is what women are like” or “men cannot help but be men.” Magazines and newspapers provided an abundance of images featuring manly men and womanly women, as well as departures from such norm (most notably drag queens from gay pride parades in Western Europe). What follows is a reading of a selection of gender-focused cover stories published by three mainstream political weeklies – Polityka, Wprost, and the Polish edition of Newsweek between spring 2003 and the summer of 2004. My aim is to suggest a link between the intensity of “gender talk” in the media and Poland’s E.U. accession.

The three weeklies ask a number of more or less worried questions concerning gender roles, sexuality and reproduction in Poland. Here is a representative sample of cover stories: “What does a man want today? To remain themselves, men increasingly take up femininity” (Newsweek, 21.04.02); “She works, he does not. How the shock on the labor market destabilized the traditional Polish family” (Newsweek, 01.06.2003); “How to raise a child on weekends. Working mothers besieged by good advice” (Polityka, 07.02.2004); “Special protection for women. Who needs the government gender equality program? ” (Newsweek, 07.09.2004); “More freedom – but what about sex? New research on the erotic life of Polish women” (Wprost, 30.05.2004). In the spring and summer of 2004 the spotlight was on reproduction: “If we want to be a healthy society – let’s make children” (Polityka, 14.08.2004); “The last parents. Dramatic decline in Poland’s population.” (Wprost, 11.04.2004). In the summer of 2003 the largely progressive Polityka wrote about the intolerance towards sexual minorities (“Homo-condemnation. The debate on homosexuality,” 09.08.2003), and a year later it turned its attention specifically to lesbians (“When a woman loves a woman,” 04.09.2004). In March 2003 the magazine went so far as to feature a group of feminists on its cover (“Women’s rebellion. Polish feminists take to the streets (...)” Polityka, 08.03.2003). Wprost, the most conservative of the three magazines was, on the other hand, concerned about the way sexual minorities and feminists “terrorize” the heterosexual and largely traditional majority of “ordinary” people (“The terror of equality” Wprost, 13.06.2004). On a more optimistic note, the magazines were preoccupied with the prospect of Poland’s having a female president (Polityka, 13.09.2003), and with Polish women’s skills in various lines of business – vastly superior, according to the magazine to those of women in...

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