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Womens Place in Polish Society Matt Altman-Suchocki

The rights of women in Poland are very unique to the continent of Europe. Because of the decades-long influence of Communism, the role of women in society had a much different dynamic to it than nearby democratic nations. Additionally, the role of Catholicism was extremely profound in shaping the expected roles of women. The forces of Communism (and to an extent, Democracy) and Catholicism are primarily responsible for the gender roles of women in Poland seen today. After World War II, Poland fell under the Communist sphere of influence. With this, brought about many positive changes for womens roles in Polish society. As a historically Catholic nation, traditional Polish values limited women to household chores and duties, on top of their most important role, child-rearing (Fidelis, 2001). However, with Communist rule brought about certain equalizers. Under Soviet influence, women were expected to work and contribute to the labor force. After decades of this shift, Poland was liberated from Communism. The roles of women began to shift back to more traditional, Catholic ones. However, the era of Soviet rule left its mark. Today, women are overburdened in Poland. Not only are women still generally expected to be employed and provide income for their households, but they must also bear the responsibilities of the traditional roles as well (Poland.pl). Women work and take care of the household duties and childcare. In a sense, the combination of Communist and Catholic values has created a mutated evolution of gender roles. Although women are expected to be employed, unemployment rates for Polish women have been skyrocketing. With recent economic struggles, women have felt the brunt of the blow much harder than men. Polish women, since Communism, have been heavily employed in the garment industries of the nation (Nowak, 2010). However, the economic decline has cost thousands of Polish women their jobs. Over 40,000 garment jobs have been lost by women in recent years (Nowak, 2010). The Polish Ministry of Work and Social Policy has done little to change this negative trend. One of the few policies established by the Polish government was to promote Polish womens entrepreneurial involvement. However, since women are exaggeratedly poorer than men in Poland, few women have the capabilities to undergo entrepreneurial adventures. One cannot take that chance when survival is one the line. When Poland officially became a democratic nation in 1991 (poland.pl), many thought the rights of women would continue to increase. While democracy has had a positive social effect on all genders, women have been affected most by economic decline and job loss. This has given rise to a strong wave of feminism in Poland since the late 1990s. In fact, heated debate from feminists over womens rights culminated in a lengthy 12-weekend seminar where every major issue in Polish womens rights was brought under a direct microscope (Penn, 2000). This has resulted in a much higher amount of newspapers, tv stations, and other media to highlight womens rights and their struggle in a positive tone (Penn, 2000). Even conservative outlets became involved. Occurring over a dozen years, ago this jump-started a wave of feminist reforms that have only slowly begun to materialize in Polish society and government policy.

In the end, the rights of Polish women are very unique in respect to the majority of Europe. Centuries of Catholicism, compounded by decades of Communism, had enormous impacts on the gender roles of Polish women. Women in Poland are now expected to have employment, thanks to Communism, while simultaneously assuming responsibility for the children and household, according to traditional Polish, Catholic, values. This enormous burden, along with a struggling economy that has most-strongly affected women, has created many social problems for women in Poland.

REFERENCES 1. Nowak, Agnieszka. Womens Status in Poland: A Permanent Crisis. 2010. http://www.socialwatch.org/node/11595 Retrieved: 10/21/13. 2. Official Website of Poland. www.Poland.pl. 3. Penn, Shana. Women Question Returns to Poland. 2000. http://infopoland.buffalo.edu/women/penn.html. Retrieved: 10/22/13.