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Policing Sexualities in Russia and in Poland: Homophobia and Pro-Natalism in Political Discourses

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Citizenship
Gender
Nationalism
Family
Comparative Perspective
Domestic Politics
Barbara Gaweda
Tampere University
Barbara Gaweda
Tampere University

Abstract

Current Russian and Polish politics have witnessed a resurgence of nationalist and ultra-conservative discourses with regards to demography and sexuality. A discursive moral panic is afoot: it spreads the argument that both nations are in danger of disappearing or being ‘overrun’. On the one hand, we are witnessing scaremongering concerning the below replacement demographic rates, and on the other a tightening grasp on women’s reproductive rights and a growing fear of migration. While feminist scholarship has been long discussing the gendered-ness of nationalism, this position has not been mainstreamed enough into political analyses of crises. It is all the more important to explore this facet of political discourse. What are then the features of this demographic moral panic? What does it share with other racist and chauvinist discourses? What are the legislative and political outcomes? I argue that the growing strength of nationalist narratives has been a way of responding to political crises. This ‘rallying around the flag’ in order to create a collective national response to the constructed or perceived outside threats has come at the expense of women's and sexual minority rights. By analysing the current political discourses on pro-natalism and the ‘return to traditional values’, I trace the nationalist and, at the same time, neoliberal-market strategies of the Polish and Russian political establishments. I show the mechanisms guiding the moral panic concerning family and sexuality intertwining with homophobia and anti-gender equality rhetoric. The comparison between these two cases exposes the common points in the gendered discourses. All the more pointedly, since both Russia and Poland have recently been implementing legislation that aims at promoting only heteronormative, essentialist gender binary, and ‘white’ identities that exclude any forms of familial and societal diversity.