Thesis: Nationalism, Gender,

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¶ … Nationalism, Gender, And the Nation

The objective of this paper is to answer the question of whether policies of nationalist government modernize gender relations or do they represent a traditionalist aim to preserve or reestablish unequal and pre-modern gender relations, in effect archaizing gender relations? Another important goal is to connect this to a more specific question of "How does the notion of women as biological reproducers of the nation influence reproductive choices of women and nationalist agendas behind reproductive policy in socialist and postsocialist Poland?"

It does not really matter what country or region of the world in which the women lives there are always inherently, biologically, and perhaps even genetically related reasons why the woman does not realize the same autonomy or freedom as does the male. However, Nationalism plays a great role in the determination of the path that will be followed in these areas by those females living within the realm of that Nationalism. Feminism deeply despises the traditionalist aim of preservation of the imbalanced gender relations and is also feared by the same.

Integral to the struggles and incompatibility of Nationalism and Feminist movements is the notion of women as biological reproducers of the nation and the influence that reproductive choice of women and nationalist agendas behind reproductive policy. This is precisely the focus of this work and specifically in terms of socialist and postsocialist Poland.

Statement of Thesis

Immediately upon accession to the European Union all appearances of Poland's focus on gender equality disappeared and faded into the background of the traditionalist and nationalist mindset.

Literature Review

Gender Mainstreaming

The work of Alexandra Gerber (2007) entitled: "Gender mainstreaming and becoming European: At The Intersection Of Polish And EU Gender Discourses" reports a study that examined the accession of Poland to the European Union which "began in 1997" and ended in 2004. This accession is stated to have "imposed both a new institutional context within which the formal/legal aspects of national identity must be constituted, and introduced a new strand into the already complex braid of intersecting elements that constitute national subjects." Becoming European is stated to entail "…a cultural dimension of transformation that is not only undertheorized in the existing literature, but is downplayed in the policy environment itself.

Transfer of Gender Equality Policy from EU to Member States

The transfer of gender equality policy from the EU to member states is a case in point." (Gerber, 2007) Gerber notes that issues relating to gender and the rights of women "have proven contentious not only between Poland and the EU, but have long been a source of intranational conflict -- within the Solidarity Movement and before." (Gerber, 2007) During the process of Poland's accession, gender equality, abortion and other women issues were passionately debate topics in the public forum. Accession is stated to have hurried the confrontation "between EU norms and Policy social space" because the "prospect of membership introduced new rhetorical possibilities for talking about gender in Poland that were either inconceivable or infeasible within the conceptual frames available to Poles prior to 1989." (Gerber, 2007) Gerber states the claim that the gender transition is so difficult for two reasons:

(1) Gender is integral to national sovereignty, and to discourses of Polish national identity -- therefore, certain traditionalist factions in Poland have been able to mobilize support for their efforts to thwart extra-national attempts to redefine the gender status quo; and (2) The E.U. does not have a clear strategy of implementation nor a strong idea of the outcomes it seeks to produce, there is space for resistance and almost no cost to doing so." (Gerber, 2007)

Media's Effects on Gender in Poland

The work of Agnieszka Graff (2007) entitled: "The Land of Real Men and Real Women: Gender" states that during the period of time just prior to and immediately after the accession of Poland into the European Union in January 2004 that the Polish media "were overflowing 'gender talk'." Stated to be a key topic on the radio was "randomly placed banter about 'natural differences between the sexes'…" and a new station was established (FM94) in 2002 with 'real men' as their target audience. (Graff, 2007) Graff states that practically any topic of discussion on the "evening news could spark a comment such as 'this is what women are like' or 'men cannot help but be men'. (Graff, 2007)

Graff focuses her study on attempting to find the link "between the media's obsessive concern with gender and the process of Poland's E.U. accession." (Graff, 2007) Graff states specifically of media reports the following information:

"Polityka, Newsweek, and Wprost represent the mainstream of Polish print media. They are the top three opinion weeklies on the market in terms of distribution, selling between 130 and 165 thousand copies per week. On the spectrum of political views they range from liberal/progressive and pro-E.U. (Polityka) to neo-liberal and neo-conservative (Wprost), with Newsweek somewhat uneasily trying to occupy a neutral space, where various views of social phenomena are examined from a "common sense" point-of-view. Despite the differences between the weeklies, there is one striking similarity: in the period examined here all three presented a consistently pro-E.U. line, supporting Poland's accession and encouraging "yes" in the June 2003 referendum." (Graff, 2007)

It is important to note the following descriptions provided by Graff in her work explaining in detail the depths to which the news media sank during the time approach Poland's accession to the EU. Graff states as follows:

"Each of the articles comes with an image, for they are all cover stories. In each case, the front page features a photograph of (usually anonymous) men and women, ultra-masculine and ultra-feminine respectively. Many of the Wprost covers can, in fact, be described as quasi-pornographic: out of the 16 gender-focused covers that appeared between June 2002 and May 2005, six featured air-brushed nude bodies. The couples are arranged in poses resembling the sexual act, the woman clearly "on top," dominating the man. In the most explicit image, the woman is riding the man like a horse, holding the reins rather tightly (14 July 2002). Such images were more than magazine covers to be enjoyed in private. On the contrary, they received enormous public visibility. Displayed on newsstands the week a given magazine came out, they lingered in various waiting rooms for months afterwards. More importantly perhaps, they occupied public space in the form of large posters advertising the weeklies, especially in urban centers." (Graff, 2007)

The entirety of Poland was inundated with media descriptions, visualizations, imaginations, fantasy, and pondering of the gender issues of the country during the time preceding its accession to the EU. Graff states that this "…intensification of gender talk" during the time of the accession of Poland into the European Union "was especially pronounced in the one magazine Wprost in which were reported to be sixteen publication with gender-focused cover stories. Five of the sixteen cover stories are stated to have appeared "between early April and mid-June 2004, which is fifty percent of the cover stories for the magazine during that period of time representing a "five-fold increase." (Graff, 2007)

Graff states: "Poland's E.U. accession took place on the 1st of May, between Wprost's jeremiad on falling birth rates, and its proud announcement that Poles are desired as wives and husbands." (Graff, 2007) Wprost's optimistic announcement of "The Return of the Real Man" is no more and no less fact-based than its anxiety about the unsatisfactory nature of Internet sex, or the "crisis of masculinity" which troubled Newsweek two years earlier. Rather than search for gender realities behind the gender myths, the stories are symptoms of a process that is not really, or at least not primarily, about gender. In my view, the media's preoccupation with masculinity, femininity, and sexual orientation is tied to Poland's E.U. accession -- a link that becomes apparent once we focus on the structure of the stories rather than try to identify the social realities they claim to describe." (Graff, 2007)

Stated by Graff to be emerging from these articles is the unfolding of a master-story as follows:

(1) Things used to be "normal" and "natural," men and women used to know who they are, but (2) Sex roles in Poland -- indeed, worldwide -- are in crisis today, so that

(3) The future looks bleak. Nonetheless,

(4) The natural order (i.e. male domination) will soon be restored." (Graff, 2007)

Therefore the media in the Country of Poland went about weaving a story and bringing the mass of those in Poland to viewing the same happy ending to what was a huge problem due to accession into the European Union.

This structure is stated to appear in many of the articles and also can be "traced at the intra-textual level: the progression of Wprost articles in April-May 2004 also roughly reproduces the sequence." (Graff, 2007) Graff states that the last issue of Wprost in May 2004 "The Return of the Real Man" is one that takes the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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