Women's Magazines as Spaces for Dissent: Restructuring in Poland

Article excerpt

The post-communist restructuring in Poland has included a redefinition of gender relations and conceptions of womanhood. The paper compares the deployment of gender identity and citizenship in two women's magazines during the Communist period and at present. Women's magazines serve as both a testimony to the changing discourses of gender, and as spaces of dissent against the current state reinforcement of patriarchal gender ideology and the retrenchment of public-private split.

La restructuration de la Pologne post-communiste a compris une redefinitions des rapports de sexe et des representations des femmes. L'article compare l'articulation de l'identite genree et de la citoyennete dans deux magazines de femmes publies pendant la periode communiste et actuellement. Non seulemenmt les revues de femmes temoignent-ils des discours changeants entourant le genre, mais ils agissent egalement en tant que forum pour la dissidence contre le renforcement actuel de la part de l'erat de l'ideologie patriarcale genree ainsi que le retrenchement de la division entre les domaines public et prive.

The economic and legislative restructuring that has taken place since 1989 in Poland has had a tremendous impact on all aspects of social relations. The reorganization of the state from a centrally-planned economy to a capitalist market economy to date has included legal "reforms" (the new 1997 constitution being the most current example), changes in market rules and regulations, rewriting of school curricula, and the reorganization of work.

A fundamental aspect of these changes is the ongoing redefinition of gender relations and conceptions of womanhood. The current state and corporate favouritism towards male workers in the context of high unemployment in Poland is explained through a particular patriarchal discourse of rigidly defined male and female roles, where women are relegated solely to the private sphere. Current media discussions about gender relations and, specifically, about the possibilities for women, are markedly different in content and analysis from similar discussions that took place under the Communist rule.

In this article I will sketch the discursive transformation of gender identity and citizenship by tracing and comparing their deployment in two women's magazines during the Communist period and at present.(1) Because the two magazines that I focus on, Kobieta i Zycie (Woman and Life) and Przyjaciolka (Woman Friend), are two of the longest running women's magazines (published since the early 1950s) they are particularly well suited to analyze the straggles that have been waged around the relationships between gender, citizenship and work. In Poland's new social order it is clear that new discursive forms of gender and citizenship are crucially important in the process of constituting and stabilizing the new Polish state. The women's magazines have been in the past, and continue to be today, spaces for criticisms of government policy, for presenting alternative visions of democracy and gender relations, and for situating women's issues and concerns as central to any discussion of policy and politics. In such ways, these women's magazines offer a limited space for voices of dissent, as sites where the economic and political restructuring of the current capitalist Poland is critically assessed.

At the heart of current nation-building efforts in Poland is the reconceptualization of womanhood and the conceptual and practical reinforcement of the public/private split. This movement, and the contestations around it, are visible in the deployment of different discourses of gender in women's magazines. The new ideological terrain, supported and legitimated by state administrative and textual practices, regulates "acceptable forms and images of social activity and individual and collective identity" (Corrigan and Sayer, 1985, p. 3). It is important to recognize the naturalizing effect of the new cultural codes of femininity, masculinity, and citizenship that are currently forming in Poland. …