Post-transition, debate in the Polish media has been overcrowded with male perspectives. Among the commentators, journalists and experts invited to publicly discuss crucial social and political topics, only 13% have been women. We believe that this lack of gender balance and lack of female perspectives on air has contributed significantly to the progressively deteriorating situation for Polish women.
That’s why in 2015 Krytyka Polityczna, in partnership with Women of Science, started a nationwide social campaign #mediawithoutwomen to increase awareness of the problem in media circles and to lobby for change. Part of the project was to create a database with contacts for women experts, ekspertki.org which has now been launched and is in a process of development.
Unfortunately since the conservative populist Law and Justice Party won the elections and took over the public media, the situation for women in Poland has gotten worse. The morning-after pill (EllaOne) has become a prescription drug once again. Medical standards obligating hospitals to respect particular rules during childbirth (like providing a woman with anesthetic if she asks for it or letting her partner to be present) have been overturned. NGOs that help victims of domestic violence have been deprived of public financial support. Meanwhile the Catholic Church – closely linked to the politicians in power – is demanding that a harsh anti-abortion law (one of the most restrictive in Europe), should become even harsher.
In January the Polish Parliament debated two bills. The first was a fundamentalist Catholic project to completely ban abortion. According to the polls, this is supported by about 11% of society. The second, called “Let’s Save the Women”, was a project prepared by NGOs lobbying for women’s rights, to lift the barbarous Polish law and respect the reproductive rights of Polish women, as the majority of European countries do. This is supported by around 40 % of society. The first project passed to be developed in the Parliamentary commissions. The second was rejected, thanks in part to votes of MPs from opposition parties who had earlier declared their support for women!
I’ve been getting more and more angry as I write articles about the disaster of women’s rights in Poland. The public debate following the disgraceful Parliamentary vote was a turning point for me. When in one of the most popular political shows I once again saw eight men debating with feigned compassion about state oppression in one of the most intimate spheres of a woman’s life I realised that writing another article wouldn’t change a thing.
So I decided to skip the attempt to explain this and simply SHOW the absurdity of it all. I contacted Krytyka Polityczna to pitch a political show that would mirror the most popular all-male shows using the same arguments, but with reference to the most intimate spheres of a man’s life. I called it HOT COFFEE HARD TOPICS. To keep it as close to reality as possible, and seemingly serious, I invited renowned female political commentators, journalists and academics. I asked them to choose stock roles showing liberal, conservative and fundamentalist religious perspectives, skipping left-wing, progressive and social democratic perspectives, as usually happens in the Polish male debates. Paraphrasing real public statements made by male politicians and commentators, we elaborated on the subject of men’s access to Viagra pills without prescription. We discussed men’s lack of responsibility, their inability to control themselves and the fact that priests and doctors definitely know better what’s good and moral than they do.
HOT COFFEE HARD TOPICS went viral. At the time of writing the episode has been watched by over 134,000 viewers on YouTube with several thousand more on the Krytyka Polityczna website and other platforms. It has been commented on and analysed by serious mainstream media as well as popular buzz and satirical websites. Some male viewers were outraged and hurt by the way women in exclusively female circles discuss the intimate problems of men! Luckily the majority of viewers recognized the mirror of what they see everyday. Even more important for me is that the majority of our audience were people from outside our social democratic bubble, many of who had not heard of Krytyka Polityczna before. For a while they took off their gender-blind glasses and laughed at what they saw.
I also invite men to HOT COFFEE HARD TOPICS by the way. They can play roles traditionally kept for women, like serving water. Many male journalists or politicians apply to do it and I’m happy about this as the discussion about gender equality also needs the support of conscious feminist males.
We also released two more episodes (currently available in Polish):
Episode 2 – Should male masturbation be banned?
A discussion on the subject of the moral burden of male masturbation. Is it just a private pleasure or murdering 20 million “unconceived children”. Where does human life start? This refers to the fundamentalist Catholic idea of the “embryo” as “conceived child” having more human rights than a woman. This year the idea entered elementary school programs and justifies attempts to completely ban abortion in Poland.
Episode 3 – Is it wrong to beat men?
A discussion on the Polish tradition of domestic violence against men. Does the “European Convention on preventing and combating domestic violence” endanger Polish identity? The discussion refers to the fact that in spite of 300 women being killed by their partners and 700,000 beaten in Poland every year, ruling politicians, including the president, and many conservative commentators are worried that introducing the European Convention in Poland will destroy our valuable traditions.