Seven women running for parliament are providing voters with the bare facts about themselves. The members of the 9-month-old Women’s Party, or Partia Kobiet, are using nearly nude posters of themselves in their campaigns. The posters sport the logo “The Party of Women. Poland Is a Woman.” (“Partia Kobiet. Polska Jest Kobieta.”)
The semi-nude campaigning ploy has caught the attention not only of Polish news organizations but international news organizations as well. Members of the Women’s Party would tell you that it is not a joke, however. It has embraced such serious issues as women’s equality and abortion rights. Despite that, a recent public opinion survey by the Warsaw-based TNS-OBOP institute shows the party’s support in the parliamentary elections at only 3 percent – below the 5 percent needed for seats.
Manuela Gretkowska, the 43-year-old founder and president of the Women’s Party, is one of those on the racy posters. A feminist writer, Gretkowska was incensed 18 months ago over what she said was President Lech Kaczynski’s and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s successful effort to censor an article she wrote for a magazine. The brothers’ ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice Party, or Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc, say the posters are an insult to voters. And many Catholic priests have expressed dismay at them. Gretkowska rebuffs the criticism by saying that the posters are “intended to shatter stereotypes in the anachronistic world of politics. We are beautiful, nude and proud.” Gretkowska entered the political world only recently but she has been an activist for some time.
A longtime champion of the feminist movement, she has earned a reputation for being a provocative writer who often shocked her readers. Until now, her name has been mentioned in a political context only once – a year and a half ago. That was when she wrote an article for the “Sukces” monthly that criticized the Kaczynskis. But the brothers got wind of the article just before it was to be published. President Lech Kaczynski’s press office contacted the magazine’s management – and the article was killed. Furious, Gretkowska broke off her ties with Sukces and blasted the magazine publicly. The publisher argued that he spiked the article because of errors in it – mistakes that Gretkowska later admitted. When the smoke cleared, Gretkowska had become a cause celebre for those who dislike the Kaczynskis.
Many Poles continue to view her as a victim of political persecution and government censorship. Gretkowska said she decided to enter the political arena after the conservative League of Polish Families called for Poland’s already restrictive anti-abortion law to be made even tougher. The Women’s Party appeared in the last week of 2006. However, Gretkowska said, abortion is not her party’s only issue. Other key issues are women’s rights and helping more women enter the male-dominated political world, she said. All the parties claim to offer equal opportunities for women interested in becoming politicians but in practice they give women so little help that they rarely win election, she said.
“I want women in Poland to be treated as rightful citizens,” Gretkowska said. “Polish women also pay taxes like men, but our laws are not adjusted to meet women’s needs. The female part of society feels discriminated against from birth to retirement.”
One of the disparities, she said, is that the average woman’s old-age pension is much lower than a man’s. Six million women stay at home rather than work, dependent on the salaries of their male partners. Because they are not putting money they are earning at work into the pension system, they earn less when they begin drawing pensions than those who have been working.
The Women’s Party also wants women to earn pay that equals men’s, to be able to obtain free contraceptives, to see an increase in the number of gynecologists, to have the right to a pain-free birth and to enjoy expanded child care. Part of the party’s platform reads: “Dressed or naked, we are not only sex objects. We are innocent and honest — we have clean hands, clean hearts and clean intentions.” Many women celebrities, such as actress Krystyna Janda and boxing champion Agnieszka Rylik, say they support Gretkowska.