The lecture considers the role played by the cult of Virgin Mary as Queen of Poland--a key symbol of national identity--on Polish debates concerning women's rights. Increasing acceptance of anti-women solutions, especially in the realm of reproductive rights, is read as a side-effect of anxieties concerning Poland's status in the European Union. The elevation of the symbolic national motherhood has all but erased the citizenship of actual women, while feeding an aggressive homosociality, a nationalist "brotherhood" defending Poland's "uniqueness." Interpretation of the gendered symbolism of the Virgin Queen/Polish Mother is followed by a look at several events in Poland's recent politics. For instance, the 2006 campaign aiming at a complete ban on abortion, which began with vows to the Virgin in Czestochowa, the site most associated with the patriotic cult of the Mother of God. Finally, based on recent Polish feminist polemics as well as fiction, the talk explores feminist responses to the tightening link between Catholicism, nationalist sentiment and restrictive attitudes towards women.
Agnieszka Graff teaches American studies and gender studies at the University of Warsaw. The author of Swiat bez kobiet. Plec w polskim zyciu publicznym [A World Without Women: Gender in Polish Public Life] (Warsaw: W.A.B., 2001), she is a regular contributor to Gazeta Wyborcza, Krytyka Polityczna, Res Publica Nowa, and many other Polish periodicals. She is also the translator of Virginia Wolff's A Room of One's Own and a leading figure in the Polish women's movement.