March 1, 2024

Why growing up as a young woman is scary: A teen’s perspective from Poland

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Maria Mitko in Warsaw, Poland

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October 30, 2020. Women's Strike (pl. Strajk Kobiet) in Warsaw.

Picture by: Max Zieliński / Greenpeace

Turning 17 at the end of January has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster, one that has left me feeling scared.

Navigating the complexities of being a woman is daunting. Society’s expectations are high and the pressure to fit into gender stereotypes is suffocating. These expectations create an environment of impossible standards, which only leave me feeling overwhelmed and afraid.

In Poland, where I live, there seems to be a prescribed lifestyle for women: get married, have kids, either be a housewife or work at a nine-to-five job. It’s a life that I would find monotonous.

In today’s world, I have the opportunity to choose and pursue a career to my liking, but the thought that I could someday be in such a position fills me with fear and anger.

Despite the global progress made in women’s rights in the past few decades, Poland still has a long way to go. The country’s strict abortion laws – which permit the termination of a pregnancy only in cases of danger to the pregnant person’s life or health, or if the pregnancy results from rape – are a glaring example.

Even in these circumstances, it is often nearly impossible to obtain an abortion due to the ‘conscience clause’ which allows doctors to refuse to carry out a procedure based on their personal beliefs.

Sometimes these laws, reinforced by recent amendments, have dire consequences, as seen in the tragic death of a 30 year-old woman denied a necessary abortion in 2021, sparking nationwide protests.

Knowing that I need to put in double the effort just based on my gender makes me furious. Why should I have to put in more effort simply because I’m a woman? Sadly, I’m used to it and so is every teenage girl and grown-up woman I know in my environment.

Working hard, however, is still not enough to earn as much as men do. In 2022, the hourly gross earnings for men were significantly higher than for women working the same jobs. For example, a report comparing occupational wages found women working the craft and related trades sector earned between 16.4–28.2% less than their male counterparts.

As a young woman, I feel society’s rules are meant to shape us to please men and always be a step beneath them – even when working the same job. This idea scares me, especially the thought of a doctor allowing their beliefs to affect my life-saving treatment and forcing a decision on me that will influence the rest of my life.

The essence of feminism lies in the pursuit of equality between genders, a goal we have yet to achieve. It is defined as creating equal opportunities and a safe environment in which to decide what one wants for their life.

It’s high time for society to embrace inclusivity and integrate the needs of women into the fabric of everyday life. Perhaps then, the prospect of growing up as a young woman would not be as daunting as it is now.

Written by:

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Maria Mitko

Women’s Desk editor

Warsaw, Poland

Born in 2007, Maria lives in Warsaw, Poland, where she attends Witkacy High School and prepares to study English Literature.

She volunteers at a public library where she organises a board game club. She loves listening to music, reading good books and watching movies. Maria’s favourite animals are dogs, of which she has two – Rudolf and Charlie.’

Edited by:

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Sofiya Tkachenko

former Editor-in-chief

Kyiv, Ukraine | Vienna, Austria

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