Reflection after the MEP’s speech
With great embarrassment, anger and a sense of powerlessness we follow, as the world rubs its eyes in astonishment watching the performance of a 75 years old Polish politician called Janusz Korwin-Mikke. During a session at the EU Parliament on the 3 March 2017, he claimed that women must earn less “because they are weaker, smaller and less intelligent”. This MEP does not seem to be worried about the consequences announced by the EP president Antonio Tajani. He argued that “women are less intelligent than men”.
In an interview with Polsat News on the 3 March 2017, he said: “Women once ruled. Now women are pushover. Once, no one would have dared to say to a woman ‘you idiot’. It is possible only now, as some idiots try to push us towards equality.”
We are utterly disappointed that this point of view is not isolated. Poland is not the only country where similar views are still popular. According to MEP Terry Reintke Greens, whose statement was quoted on German radio Deutsche Welle, a few deputies applauded the words of the Pole on during the recent Parliamentary session. They all belonged the EP a group of people who “would like to return to the 50s, when women were only housewives, mothers and they ran a hosehold.”
Korwin-Mikke took his rant to his Facebook page where he claims: “The men are coaches of the basketball and volleyball teams, as well as of female chess players. Women want to be trained by a person who is better at than them.” He also adds:” A woman is an intermediate stage between a man and a child. That’s why we love our women and our children, care for them, let them do much more than we should.” He also writes: “Intelligence is a completely different feature than wisdom. This results in more innovativeness of men.” He goes on claiming that Women did not invent anything, as even the mop and sanitary tampons were invented by men.
It is amazing, not only for us, that this happens at a time when all over the world in the cinemas we can watch a movie about minted, a strong woman, a Polish woman, Maria Skłodowska-Curie. MEP Korwin-Mikke probably ousted the information on the outstanding physicist and chemist, the first woman who got the Nobel Prize, the only woman with two Nobel Prizes, the only person who received two Noble Prizes in two various fields of sciences.
On the other hand, sexist jibes that Skłodowska had to deal with, as it is shown in the movie as well as in her book biographies, which should be embarrassing, seem to still be a part of our everyday life.
Concerning the lesser degree of women’s intelligence, one should look into lots of data: “In terms of the average value of IQ, there is no difference between men and women”.
The discussion on our Foundation fan page after the publishing of press reports regarding Korwin-Mikke, brought the attention to the fact that intelligence is a complex feature and is not entirely correct to assume that it is proportional to the ratio achieved at the intelligence test. IQ is an abstract construct, and in the light of current knowledge, a kind of anachronism.
As for the thesis of “innovativeness of men” it is reasonable to refer to modern research, providing that the sex in the sector of innovation does not matter completely. New ideas and the ability of their implementation depends on the individual characteristics of the person. One should also remember that diversity has a direct impact on productivity, and the ideas developed in diverse teams are more innovative than in the homogeneous ones.
Taking into consideration the lack of women-innovators, it would seem that a half of century, a period when women have made many important scientific discoveries is a sufficient period to eliminate stereotypical opinions about women from the social consciousness. It is worthy to recommending such reading as Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby, Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs, or the website Famous Women Inventors.
Despite numerous publications, activities of many organisations at global, regional and national level to promote women in science is not only Korwin-Mikke does not notice the achievements of women in science. According to the L’Oreal for Women in Science report, every 4th person believes that men have an innate ability to stand out in science. Women, as those more predisposed to climbing up the scientific career ladder, were declared only by every 11th respondents.
Returning to the Polish yard, it is worth to recall the statement of professor Bogdan Wojciszke, who in an interview for the portal Onet.pl says: “In Poland there is absolutely no concern to get rid of the stereotypical texts from the curriculum in schools. 50 years ago I was in elementary school myself and I see that as stereotypical readings about sex, as it was written then, still appear in textbooks. Boys and girls still are depicted in entirely different roles. Boys are brave, courageous and active. Girls sit at home and are soft.”
Next, the expert says that “Our country is dominated by Catholicism, which is strongly patriarchal religion. In the Catholic Church, women are not allowed to exercise any significant functions – they perform only menial roles and are subordinated.” Polish religiosity stabilises subordinate role of women. Over the past two decades, for more than 20 years of democracy, we have had two female prime ministers for several months (excluding the current period). Women in Polish parliament make only ten percent, and among Polish professors only 20 percent are females. Frankly said, wherever we look, we find discrimination.
We cannot ignore also next to the fact that the world’s most popular encyclopedia, Wikipedia, in 90% is created by men. The entries devoted to women often include much more extensive information about their private life, not professional achievements. Hence the idea of the international campaign Girls in Wikipedia – a marathon of creating entries on women by women. Polish edition of the action took place on March 8, Women’s Day, but the day of International Women’s Strike.
In conclusion, let us return once more to discussion on our fanpage. One of its participants stated that opening discussion of such views as these spread by Polish MEP and referred to as “proving that the woman is man’s equal, propping it up with the arguments from history and biology is embarrassing and beneath the dignity.
If someone finds that women are more like monkeys than like men are we also going to show scientific results?”. Does it not hit the nail on the head? Therefore, let’s focus on promoting and popularising the achievements of women, supplement Wikipedia and other sources with suitable information. And let’s leave the assessment of the opinions expressed by chauvinistic male politicians to the history and to their future voters, who, hopefully will show them a red card.
Marta du Vall, Polish Women Scientists Network, Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University, Krakow, Poland
Justyna Wojniak, Polish Women Scientists Network, Pedagogical University of Krakow, Krakow, Poland