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GAZETA WYBORCZA

Poland's Abortion Battle, Why Free Women Are Done With Weak Men

Only when an abortion is legal, can we begin to speak of moral decisions and love. But men, we are told, are scared and frustrated by these protests. One Polish woman's frank words for men.

The so-called Black (Czarny) protesters on Oct. 24 get ready to march.
The so-called Black (Czarny) protesters on Oct. 24 get ready to march.
Katarzyna Wezyk

-OpEd-

WARSAW — A recent interview with Polish psychologist Pawel Drozdziak set off a renewed round of polemics following the massive nationwide protests this month against government proposals for strict bans on abortions in Poland.

Drozdziak was quoted at length in Saturday's edition of Gazeta Wyborcza, speaking about the "frustration" of Polish men, often facing economic hardship, as an explanation for incidents of lashing out at women protesters. But the psychologist apparently isn't so concerned with the frustrations of Polish mothers, who are told that their needs are secondary to the needs of their husbands, of their children, the Church and the nation.

"Uncontrolled aggression is the result of men's problems and the experience of failure," Drozdziak said. "Half a century of free competition has taken its toll. The "frustrated man" is taking his revenge on the inaccessible independent woman from a big city."

Well, this is a very poor estimation of Polish men. If I were one, I would be offended by such generalizations. But in Poland, we are told that this is normal, this is who we are, and nothing can be done about it. And you definitely can't do anything about it by wearing black clothes and taking to the streets to protest. To think, women wanting autonomy! The possibility to decide about your own life, health, fertility and sexuality! Moreover demanding it aggressively, like a man might do, instead of, you know, in a womanly way, delicately, careful not to hurt any man's pride — and that most delicate male organ: his ego.

Then Drozdziak moves on to "feminists," who he says, "completely ignore the love that can exist between a man and a woman. I have found nothing about that feeling in any feminist studies. They mention instead the rights, the limits ... the slogan "my belly, my business' is in reality a symbol of great loneliness. Afterwards, you can really wear black clothes, as a symbol of mourning this time. If a man said "your belly, your business," what else is left?"

Freedom maybe? The right to decide about one's own body? The right to be an adult, an autonomous entity, who is able to understand a moral issue? Perhaps, for those frustrated and frightened men, somebody at the protests should have written on a banner: "Dear men! We love you, we admire you, you are the best in the world, the most clever and handsome. But, just by the way, only if you have time, can you please consider that the new abortion bill threatens our lives and health, and maybe it's not such a good idea to pass it. But you know what — no rush. Thanks for your attention. Signed, Polish women. P.S. We apologize for going to work. It won't happen again"."

Even a loved child reminds about the rape

Drozdziak then turns his attention to the male partner of a raped women who seeks an abortion "Why is he not consulted, to see if they want to bring up the rapist's child? A man who sees a woman only as a mother, and not as a sexual being, can accept something like that. Another man in such situation would lose his mind." I am not so sure about that. Maybe because it's not a man who for nine months must carry the baby inside — a baby who is the result of the worst kind of trauma that can ever happen to a human being. And a child who, even if she will be able to love it, will constantly remind her of the rape.

An American student wrote to her rapist, "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice ..." Dr. Drozdziak, can you really compare that to, as I understand your argument, the discomfort of a man, whose belonging was touched and is now going mad because he cannot look at her as a sexual object? Very brave indeed.

Abortion, as it turns out, is a legal issue. It means that either it is legal, or allowed with limitations, or completely banned. In my opinion, only when abortion is legal can we speak of the issue of love and its tragic implications, because only then can we speak of moral decision. When abortion is illegal, that decision is made for us.

Natalia's courage

Finally, it is worth mentioning another recent interview, with Polish singer and songwriter Natalia Przybysz in Gazeta Wyborcza"s supplement Wysokie Obcasy. It shows the issue of abortion not from the perspective of what men might think, but simply from the point of view of woman who decided she didn't want to be pregnant. And no, it was not because of some drama — rape, health issue or genetic disease — but because she liked her life as it was, and did not want to change it. She did not want that kind of sacrifice.

Przybysz, 33, already has two young children. She said that "they also need my attention and that they also deserve to have a life. Not only to be fed and be driven from one place to another." She decided to publicly reveal that she wanted to end her pregnancy. "We live in a reality where everyone pretends that this does not happen. Every women is left alone to deal with it. So I want to say it out loud: I'm a woman who decides for herself."

And for saying that, as one could have expected, she experienced a wave of hate.

Well done for your true courage, Natalia. For speaking of your abortion of convenience as the outraged moralists, who sit on the sofa doing nothing, wrote. Because somehow I don't believe that the estimated 100,000 Polish women who have abortions every year are all facing severe circumstances. I think instead that the majority of those abortions are carried out, because in that moment of life, for this or that reason, these women did not want to or could not have a baby.

A woman's selfishness, as it turns out, is still the most horrifying thing in the world.

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Ideas

Calmez-Vous, Americans: It's Quite OK To Call Us "The French"

A widely mocked tweet by the Associated Press tells its reporters to avoid dehumanizing labels such as "the poor" or "the French". But one French writer replies that the real dehumanizing threat is when open conversation becomes impossible.

Parisians sitting on a café terrasse.

Parisians sitting on a café terrasse.

Dirk Broddin on Flickr
Gaspard Koenig

-Essay-

PARIS — The largest U.S. news agency, the Associated Press (AP) tweeted a series of recommendations aimed at journalists: “We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing 'the' labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead use, wording such as people with mental illnesses.”

The inclusion of “The French” in this list of groups likely to be offended has evoked well-deserved sarcasm. It finally gives me the opportunity to be part of a minority and to confirm at my own expense, while staying true to John Stuart Mill's conception of free speech: that offense is not a crime.

Offense should prompt quips, denial, mockery, and sometimes indifference. It engages conflict in the place where a civilized society accepts and cultivates it: in language.

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