Onamaimię (She Has a Name): Combating Sexist Hate Speech in Poland
Kasia Górnicka, Joy Liu, Mariia Veselovska
2016 Ideas Incubator Fellows
2016 Ideas Incubator Fellows
Growing up, I was called a variety of names. Some of them likened me to animals or objects, some of them were just descriptors that I never thought to challenge. I began to listen and absorb these descriptions. I began to accept them as true.
My experience is not unique. Girls are commonly and casually called derogatory terms. The problem is often exacerbated when these terms are not regarded as sexist hate speech because they do not appear obviously offensive. We selected four of those Polish terms to craft and build a social campaign against sexist hate speech called Onamaimię (She Has a Name).
Although there isn’t much official research on the subject, many Polish women told our team they were called derogatory terms growing up and felt strongly about the sexist nature of these terms. Often, they were unclear about what qualifies as hate speech and unsure how to react. We centered our campaign on a few seemingly innocuous words that represent the beginning of sexist hate speech. We chose the Polish words świnia, pasztet, laska, and foczka. These words roughly translate to pig, pate, seal, and cane. All terms directly objectify girls by comparing them to an animal or inanimate object.
Like most sexist hate speech we experienced, part of what hurt the most was being unexpectedly confronted with terms like świnia, pasztet, laska, and foczka. We wanted to re-create this sensation in some way to see what other people’s reactions would be. By choosing the coffee cup, a place where a person’s name is often written, we wanted to make the connection that seeing the terms świnia, pasztet, laska, and foczka on a coffee cup is essentially replacing a woman’s name and reducing her personhood. We named the campaign Onamaimię (She Has a Name) to convey this message.
In collaboration with Polish artist Aga Strzeżek, the campaign made illustrations of the four words in a simple, black and white style as a visual representation of the comparisons that are made when women are called świnia, pasztet, laska, and foczka. The visuals form the core of the campaign and are on stickers available at local Warsaw cafes and restaurants on coffee and other beverage cups. The stickers link to the Facebook fan page, which has more images, text, and animations diving further into the four terms. We hope to provide more information and engage people consistently through the page.
We implemented the core components of our campaign, but certain parts took longer than anticipated. In this case, some of the difficulties included logistical difficulties and time constraints. In order to adjust, we made a number of modifications. We were originally focused on designing and distributing coffee cup sleeves, but the ordering process and time necessary seemed to be an issue. At the suggestion of one of our café partners, we decided to use stickers, which could be placed on the cup and include cold beverages as well.
Through the course of developing, implementing, and reflecting on the campaign, we learned that it’s important to think about how to reach an audience that may not already share your beliefs. For us, the offline component was especially important for this. We found generous partners who were supportive of our campaign, and we found women who immediately nodded their head in understanding when we described why these words bothered us. It is in this spirit of listening, acknowledging, and understanding past and current hurts that we created this campaign.
We do this in the hope that one day, people will no longer use świnia, pasztet, laska, or foczka to describe girls so the generation after us can see themselves and be seen as who they are—a whole human being.