Skip to main content Accesibility Help

The Substantive Representation of Women in Poland

  • Anna Gwiazda (a1)

This article examines the substantive representation of women in Poland after the 2015 parliamentary elections. By looking at the case of the Black Protests, in which tens of thousands of demonstrators, wearing black, defended women's rights by protesting a proposed total abortion ban, it revisits the existing approaches to substantive representation. Hanna Pitkin's definition is used as a starting point, but then broader questions concerning women's interests, agents, and sites of representation are considered. This article identifies a variety of interests but argues that in Poland, conservative interests dominate in parliament, although feminist interests are voiced too, especially by nonelected agents in extraparliamentary sites. This article makes an important contribution to the research on women's political representation because it deals with unexplored aspects of representation in Central and Eastern Europe.

Hide All

I would like to thank the reviewers for their useful comments on this article. This research was funded by the Noble Foundation's Programme on Modern Poland research grant.

Hide All
Bego, Ingrid. 2015. Gender Equality Policy in the European Union: A Fast Track to Parity for the New Member States. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Blofield, Merike. 2008. “Women's Choices in Comparative Perspective: Abortion Policies in Late-Developing Catholic Countries.” Comparative Politics 41 (4): 399419.
Centrum Badań Opinii Społecznej (CBOS). 2016. Polacy o Prawach Kobiet, Czarnych Protestach i Prawie Aborcyjnym [The Poles on women's rights, Black Protests, and abortion]. Warsaw: CBOS.
Celis, Karen. 2009. “Substantive Representation of Women (and Improving It): What It Is and Should Be About?Comparative European Politics 7 (1): 95113.
Celis, Karen, and Childs, Sarah. 2012. “The Substantive Representation of Women: What to Do with Conservative Claims?Political Studies 60 (1): 213–25.
Celis, Karen, and Childs, Sarah. 2014. “Introduction: The ‘Puzzle’ of Gender, Conservatism and Representation.” In Gender, Conservatism and Political Representation, eds. Celis, Karen and Childs, Sarah. Colchester: ECPR Press, 3387.
Celis, Karen, and Childs, Sarah. 2018. “Introduction to Special Issue on Gender and Conservatism.” Politics & Gender 14 (1): 14.
Celis, Karen, Childs, Sarah, Kantola, Johanna, and Krook, Mona Lena. 2008. “Rethinking Women's Substantive Representation.” Representation 44 (2): 99110.
Celis, Karen, Childs, Sarah, Kantola, Johanna, and Krook, Mona Lena. 2014. “Constituting Women's Interests through Representative Claims.” Politics & Gender 10 (2): 149–74.
Celis, Karen, and Erzeel, Silvia. 2015. “Beyond the Usual Suspects: Non-Left, Male and Non-Feminist MPs and the Substantive Representation of Women.” Government and Opposition 50 (1): 4564.
Childs, Sarah, and Krook, Mona Lena. 2006. “Should Feminists Give Up on Critical Mass? A Contingent Yes.” Politics & Gender 2 (4): 522–30.
Childs, Sarah, and Krook, Mona Lena. 2009. “Analysing Women's Substantive Representation: From Critical Mass to Critical Actors.” Government and Opposition 44 (2): 125–45.
Childs, Sarah, and Lovenduski, Joni. 2013. “Political Representation.” In The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics, eds. Waylen, Georgina, Celis, Karen, Kantola, Johanna, and Weldon, S. Laurel. New York: Oxford University Press, 489513.
Childs, Sarah, and Withey, Julie. 2006. “The Substantive Representation of Women: The Case of the Reduction of VAT on Sanitary Products.” Parliamentary Affairs 59 (1): 1023.
Chiva, Cristina. 2018. Gender, Institutions and Political Representation: Reproducing Male Dominance in Europe's New Democracies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dahlerup, Drude. 2009. “What Constitutes Successful Substantive Representation of Women? Theoretical and Methodological Problems in the Study of Women's Substantive Representation.” Presented at the World Congress of the International Political Science Association, Santiago de Chile.
Dahlerup, Drude. 2014. “Representing Women. Defining Substantive Representation of Women.” In Representation: The Case of Women, eds. Escobar-Lemmon, Maria C. and Taylor-Robinson, Michelle M.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 5879.
Dodson, Debra L., and Carrol, Susan J.. 1991. “Reshaping the Agenda: Women in State Legislatures.” Center for the American Woman and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. (accessed November 8, 2018).
The Economist. 2016. “Poland's Religious Politics: Courting Disaster.”; January 2. (accessed November 8, 2018).
Ekiert, Grzegorz. 2017. “OP 13: How to Deal with Poland and Hungary.” Occasional Paper 13, Social Europe. (accessed November 8, 2018).
Erzeel, Silvia, and Rashkova, Ekaterina R.. 2017. “Still Men's Parties? Gender and the Radical Right in Comparative Perspective.” West European Politics 40 (4): 812–20.
Foa, Roberto Stefan, and Mounk, Yascha. 2017. “The Signs of Deconsolidation.” Journal of Democracy 28 (1): 515.
Foreign Policy. 2016. “Foreign Policy Global Thinkers: Barbara Nowacka and Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak.” (accessed November 8, 2018).
Franceschet, Susan, and Piscopo, Jennifer M.. 2008. “Gender Quotas and Women's Substantive Representation: Lessons from Argentina.Politics & Gender 4 (3): 393425.
Fuszara, Malgorzata. 1993. “Abortion and the Formation of the Public Sphere in Poland.” In Gender Politics and Post-Communism: Reflections from Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, eds. Funk, Nanette and Mueller, Magda. London: Routledge, 242–52.
Gerring, John. 2004. “What Is a Case Study and What Is It Good For?American Political Science Review 98 (2): 341–54.
Graf, Agnieszka, and Korolczuk, Elżbieta. 2017. “‘Worse than Communism and Nazism Put Together’: War on Gender in Poland.” In Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilizing against Equality, eds. Kuhar, Roman and Paternotte, David. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 175–94.
Gwiazda, Anna. 2016. Democracy in Poland: Representation, Participation, Competition and Accountability since 1989. New York: Routledge.
Gwiazda, Anna. 2017. “Women in Parliament: Assessing the Effectiveness of Gender Quotas in Poland.” Journal of Legislative Studies 23 (3): 326–47.
Heinen, Jacqueline, and Portet, Stéphane. 2009. “Religion, Politics and Gender Equality in Poland.” Research report, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and Heinrich Böll Stiftung. (accessed November 8, 2018).
Inglehart, Ronald, and Norris, Pippa. 2003. Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Knill, Christoph, and Tosun, Jale. 2012. Public Policy: A New Introduction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Korolczuk, Elżbieta. 2016. “Bunt Kobiet AD 2016: Skąd Się Wziął i Czego Nas Uczy?” [The women's rebellion in 2016: What were the origins and what did we learn?]. In Przebudzona Rewolucja: Prawa Reprodukcyjne Kobiet w Polsce. Raport 2016 [An awakened revolution: Women's reproductive rights in Poland. Report 2016]. Warsaw: Fundacja im. Izabeli Jarugi-Nowackiej, 31–42.
Kość, Wojciech. 2016. “Women in Black Protest Poland's New Abortion Proposal.” Politico, October 2. (accessed November 8, 2018).
Landman, Todd. 2002. Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
Lijphart, Arend. 1971. “Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method.” American Political Science Review 65 (3): 682–93.
Lovenduski, Joni. 2005. Feminizing Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Mackay, Fiona. 2008. “‘Thick’ Conceptions of Substantive Representation: Women, Gender and Political Institutions.” Representation 44 (2): 125–39.
Marcinkiewicz, Kamil, and Stegmaier, Mary. 2016. “The Parliamentary Election in Poland, October 2015.” Electoral Studies 41: 221–24.
Markowski, Radoslaw. 2016. “The Polish Parliamentary Election of 2015: A Free and Fair Election That Results in Unfair Political Consequences.” West European Politics 39 (6): 1311–22.
Mazur, Amy G. 2002. Theorizing Feminist Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Napieralski, Bartosz. 2017. Political Catholicism and Euroscepticism: The Deviant Case of Poland in Comparative Perspective. London: Routledge.
Parsons, D. W. 1995. Public Policy: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Phillips, Anne. 1995. The Politics of Presence. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Rashkova, Ekaterina R., and Zankina, Emilia. 2017. “Are (Populist) Radical Right Parties Männerparteien? Evidence from Bulgaria.” West European Politics 40 (4): 848–68.
Reingold, Beth. 2006. “Women as Office Holders: Linking Descriptive and Substantive Representation.” Presented at the Political Women and American Democracy Conference, University of Notre Dame.
Reingold, Beth, and Swers, Michele. 2011. “An Endogenous Approach to Women's Interests: When Interests Are Interesting in and of Themselves.” Politics & Gender 7 (3): 429–35.
Saward, Michael. 2010. The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and Mishler, William. 2005. “An Integrated Model of Women's Representation.” Journal of Politics 67 (2): 407–28.
Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie A., and Taylor-Robinson, Michelle M.. 2011. “Introduction: The Meaning and Measurement of Women's Interests.” Politics & Gender 7 (3): 417–18.
Squires, Judith. 2008. “The Constitutive Representation of Gender: Extra-Parliamentary Re-Presentations of Gender Relations.” Representation 44 (2): 187204.
Szczerbiak, Aleks. 2017. “An Anti-Establishment Backlash That Shook Up the Party System? The October 2015 Polish Parliamentary Election.” European Politics and Society 18 (4): 404–27.
Thomas, Sue. 1991. “The Impact of Women on State Legislative Policies.Journal of Politics 53 (4): 958–76.
Wängnerud, Lena. 2009. “Women in Parliaments: Descriptive and Substantive Representation.” Annual Review of Political Science 12: 5169.
Waylen, Georgina. 2008. “Enhancing the Substantive Representation of Women: Lessons from Transitions to Democracy.” Parliamentary Affairs 61 (3): 518–34.
Weldon, S. Laurel. 2002. “Beyond Bodies: Institutional Sources of Representation for Women in Democratic Policymaking.” Journal of Politics 64 (4): 1153–74.
Weldon, S. Laurel. 2011. When Protest Makes Policy: How Social Movements Represent Disadvantaged Groups. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Williams, Melissa S. 2000. Voice, Trust, and Memory: Marginalized Groups and the Failings of Liberal Representation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed