Agnieszka Graff is a professor at the University of Warsaw, a human rights activist, and an author. This week she is visiting IU to share her expertise with students and faculty at the University.
Graff participated in a panel focusing on anti-genderism in Europe, which took place Wednesday in the Global and International Studies building and was sponsored by IU’s Polish Studies Center. The center is celebrating its 40th year on campus.
IU started the Polish Studies Center at IU in 1977, one year after it established the American Studies Center at the University of Warsaw. Polish Studies Center Director Joanna Nizynska said it was appropriate to have a leading voice in gender studies from the American Studies Center visit.
“It would be most fitting to invite a scholar from our sister institution,” Nizynska said. “Her work really cuts through many disciplines and connects to many units on campus.”
IU professors Maria Bucur, Diana O’Brian and Claudia Breger and Nizynska also contributed to the discussion.
The anti-genderism-related issues the panel discussed included feminist and LGBT issues.
Anti-genderism opposes one gender or gender definitions as a general rule.
Graff shared her experiences with anti-genderism in Poland among the panel and audience members.
In fall 2012 she was asked to speak at a church in Poland. Five minutes into the discussion, a group of young men entered the church with a poster that that said “Gender 666” and threw a smoke bomb. The church was evacuated.
“Oh my goodness, we’re entering a new state of dialogue,” Graff said, recalling the event.
Eastern European history and gender studies professor Bucur said anti-genderism is a Trojan horse of patriarchy.
“Everybody wants to defend the family. The nuclear family that is the man and the woman,” Bucur said.
Political science professor O’Brian shared survey data with the group that indicated most Europeans are accepting of transgender people. Sixty-three percent of Europeans believe people should be able to change their travel documents to the gender they choose, she said.
“Western Europe leads the way thinking about transgender rights,” O’Brian said.
Countries like Ireland and Denmark allow citizens to determine their gender, and France and Belgium are considering adopting similar models, O’Brian said. However, there is still work to be done as transgender people face disproportionate levels of employment and harassment, she said.
Sophomore Thorin Danielsen, who is studying Spanish linguistics, said he heard Graff speak in his Polish class and came to the panel to hear from an authority on feminist issues.
He said he liked that her conversation was not accusatory and was open to a straight white man like him. Danielsen said, because of the discussion, he plans to research these issues further.
Graff is spending this week at IU speaking in classes Tuesday, participating in the panel Wednesday and offering a lecture “Ebola From Brussels: The Right-Wing War on ‘Gender Ideology’” 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Indiana Memorial Union State Room.
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