Gender (In)Equality in the Polish Working Class. Analysis of Everyday Practices.

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
CLM.7.03 (Clement House)
Dorota Olko, University of Warsaw; Institute of Sociology, Warsaw, Poland
This paper is aimed to examine how gender roles and inequalities are manifested in everyday practices of working-class men and women. The presentation is based on analysis of 100 individual in-depth interviews with factory workers, farmers and non-qualified workers of services sector, carried out in four voivodeships in Poland in the framework of the project “Cultural Practices of Working Class”. Interview scenario covered following topics: free time and family life, consumption, situation at work, local cultural institutions. Respondents answered the questions about their practices, but were also asked to share their opinions on issues currently discussed in public discourse eg. trade unions activity or changes in educational system (lowering school starting age).

The cathegory of class was common in discourse on gender inequalities in 60. and 70. Feminists pointed out at the double oppression of women – with capitalism and patriarchy. Theorists undermined, that women maintained capitalist system in various ways: through their unpaid domestic work, consumption (since women are those who are usually associated with the sphere of consumption, while production is perceived as a masculine field; Bradley 2007) and as a lower-paid workforce on the labour market. Women’s double burden deepened in postfordist conditions of intensified work, decrease of job security and privatisation of care work.  In Poland such changes were introduced in 90. within economic transformation, which was a radical transition to capitalism-stabilization program (Sachs 1992).  The common family benefits were canceled and 1/3 of kindergartens were liquidated (Polakowski, Szelewa 2014). As Janine Brodie points out, shiting the costs of care work to households means the decrease of women’s financial independence and the effects of such changes are the most severe for the lowest social strata  (Brodie 2008).

The paper will focus on the experience of men and women who have to deal with the limited financial resources. I will explore how the gender inequalities generated in macro-scale are manifested on micro level, in everyday life of individuals and their families.  One of the aims of the study is to analyse the impact of economic, political (liquidation of social benefits, disappearance of local institutions, job insecutiry) as well as cultural (introduction of more pro-equality discourse during the integration with EU) changes on working-class men and women's everyday practices: divison of family responsibilities, ways of spending free time, work-life balance, consumer choices. Gender roles are here treated as rooted in particula historical circumstances and the practices of individuals – as conditioned by their social position and class habitus (Bourdieu 1979; McNay 1999).