Polish Women Congress, as the name itself indicates, refers to those of a determined sex and nationality. In this edition of the event, there was removed an adjective ‘Polish’ from the official name which may be interpreted as the willingness to debate women’s situation with the representatives of other nationalities who live in our country. The event takes place in the Congress Hall. Is it a deliberate tactic? Even if it is, it ended only in changing the name. It is in vain to search themes connected to the ethnics in the programme of the Congress. This question, apart from a class and sex constitutes a main category in the exclusion system.
The Congress takes place in Warsaw, the city which is the greatest Polish agglomeration of minorities – including refugees, Asian immigrants or representatives of the ethnic groups which have been living in our country for many years (e.g. Jewesses or gypsies). Statistically, minority women amount to one per cent which is tantamount to a statistical error in a homogeneous Polish system. This is not a coincidence that the privilege of an academic feminism is a qualitative outlook on women’s problems. Frequently, when considered in terms of quantity, these problems are forbidden. It is worthless referring to such drastic problems as reflected in the data on rapes and act of domestic violence. These facts are not reported by the vast majority of victims and therefore, not reflected in statistics. Good examples are also problems of women who are representatives of minority groups, both ethnic, religious and psychosexual. Particularly, in a country like Poland, when taking a census, pollsters automatically fill in the questionnaires with a ‘Polish’ nationality (as if there would be no other). Apart from that, a cross-examination is neglected and even if it is noticed, it is subject to a marginalization.
Minority representatives very rarely take the floor because the xenophobia, racism and homophobia are at the same level in the population of women and men. However, because of the discrimination women are more sensitive to diversity and varied attitudes. Meanwhile, the Women Congress reminded me of the pioneer historical net of collaboration by white, well-educated middle class women. There is nothing wrong in being such a woman. However, it is erroneous to avoid taking advantage of such privileges to give a helping hand to those in worse situation. There were given speeches at the Congress addressed to those women who held high positions. They were sensitized to the problems of people that were next to them. Men, as those more privileged, were called to act on behalf of women’s participation in public life. The issue of Polish citizens and women of non-Polish nationality, who reside in our country, was not brought up. One may be in accordance with the statement that there are more important issues (e.g. parity) or bigger problems (e.g. barriers on the job market). There is also a question of a medical care, that is, the costs of care regarding children, sick and elders are transformed on families. In other words, women are burdened with them. These are important issues so it would be good when more solidarity appeared in the struggle for them.
I cannot escape the feeling that minority women’s issues are put aside just like during the first stage of feminism and during the marginalization of women’s participation in politics after 1989. Personally, I do not remember the slogan which said: ‘Women, please, do not disturb us, we fight for free Poland’ but the elders do not let us forgot it.
Are we allowed to avoid discussing the subject of gypsies’ exclusion or discrimination of Chechen refugees? The marginalization of excluded women will soon affect the Polish feminism.
The Congress revealed that women are more and more eager to act, more determined to gain power and money which are important part of public activity. Let’s hope the Polish women movement avoids taking the same steps as the Western women did.
To me, the Congress was an inspiring event. I felt moved at the very beginning when I saw a documentary relating last year celebration. However, I was disillusioned with the speech of the Speaker Komorowski who stressed his male point of view saying that parity was not a good idea. Appealing to broadening his perspective, we should also pay more attention to women whose voice was missing at the Congress.
Text by Katarzyna Czerwonogóra
Translated by Agnieszka Rabiega