Economic redistribution and challenging ‘gender ideology’ – a right-wing model for women’s empowerment in Poland

Activity: Talk or presentationConference presentation


Once it came to power in Poland in 2016, the right-wing PiS promptly introduced a flagship policy that would come to define its time in government for years to come: the Family 500+ programme, offering families an unconditional monthly cash transfer of 500PLN (120EUR) for every second and subsequent child up to 18 years of age. This policy was later accompanied by a host of other measures aiming to improve socio-economic conditions for families and women. The Polish government has presented these on the international scene as the fulfilment of its obligations to implement fundamental rights by advancing the socio-economic participation of families that have been negatively affected by Poland’s transformation from state socialism, thus redefining human rights as primarily the socio-economic rights of families (Grzebalska and Pető, 2017).
Through its wide-scale redistributive policies, the PiS government has radically redefined the relationship between the citizen and the state: for the first time in post-1989 Poland, the state has, at least on a discursive level, abandoned neoliberal economic policy and invited wider groups to benefit from economic prosperity (Grzebalska and Zacharenko, 2018). While it has been branded as women-hating for a number of other measures that it has introduced or attempted to, notably in the area of reproductive rights (Zacharenko, 2017) and in its opposition to ‘gender ideology’ (Graff and Korolczuk, 2017), viewing the PiS government as fundamentally anti-women is too simplistic of an analysis.
Indeed, many PiS policies promote what Kathleen Blee (2012) terms ‘pragmatic gender interests’, strengthening (some) women’s access to their socio-economic rights and addressing their material needs. While these policies do not meet ‘strategic gender interests’ as defined by liberal feminism, they do provide answers to the concrete conditions that women have been subjected to due to the gendered division of labour in the marketplace and women’s roles as providers of reproductive labour in capitalist economies. In post-transformation Poland, they also respond to the fact that for many women, the experience in the work place has not been emancipatory (Czarnacka, 2019).
In view of these processes, it is not surprising that many women continue to support the PiS government, with recent polls showing that 36% of women, compared to 32% of men, want to vote for the party. The presentation will argue that PiS offers women an alternative emancipatory project, by rejecting the postulates of liberal and neoliberal feminism (Gregor and Grzebalska, 2016), securing better material conditions for women and families affected by neoliberal policies and promoting opportunities for advancement for individual women who share its vision (Grzebalska and Zacharenko, 2018).
Period24 May 2019
Event titleBlurring boundaries? Re-articulations of feminisms and gender politics in the context of right-wing mobilizations in Europe, University of Marburg
Event typeConference
LocationMarburg, GermanyShow on map