The ‘Be a Boy’ video sees the singer and supermodel team up to oppose the Polish government's regressive attitudes towards sexuality
Since the rise of Poland’s right-wing government last year, attitudes towards gender and sexuality in the country have grown steadily worse. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, has said that LGBTQ+ rights constitute foreign values that pose “a real threat to our identity, to our nation”, while just earlier this month, a woman was arrested for displaying posters of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo. A new sex education programme, due to be introduced in Warsaw and based on World Health Organisation standards, is another target for the party, who say that it infringes traditional Catholic values.
Polish supermodel Anja Rubik and singer Mary Komasa have been vocal about their feelings towards the situation in Poland for some years now. Rubik has consistently used her platform as one of the most internationally successful models to speak out against injustice, particularly in relation to her home country. In 2017, she started a campaign, #sexedPL, to act as the country's “first sex education hub”, and to “promote the idea of tolerance and conversation around sex”. Komasa, a Polish singer renowned for her sultry, ethereal voice, was invited by Rubik to join the campaign the year that it launched.
Rubik has directed the video for Komasa’s new single, “Be a Boy”, using it to send a message of acceptance and resilience. Its release coincides with the upcoming European elections, taking place on May 26, in which Kaczyński and the Law and Justice party are seeking votes with a hardline anti-LGBTQ+ message. We spoke to Komasa and Rubik about the video and the importance of a kinder approach when it comes to activism.
Anja, could you explain your concept for the video?
Anja Rubik: The song is very gentle and dreamlike, and I was actually in the bathtub listening to it to over and over again, and I had this vision of a utopian world that we might all live in at some point. I wanted this paradise-like feeling – very delicate, light, not too sharp – and all these couples, so I reached out to kids that I knew in Warsaw to be in the video.
Could you explain the situation in Poland, what’s the mood like at the moment?
Mary Komasa: I’ve lived in Berlin for the last 11 years and I grew up in Poland. What I can see right now, I don’t see myself coming back to Poland. It’s really sad. It’s not only Poland, because you see the US turning right drastically, and so many (other) places in the world as well.
Anja Rubik: The government has been launching a very homophobic campaign. We’ll see what happens now in June, as the season starts for gay parades. Last year it was very harsh, there were a lot of people hurt, a lot of attacks, and a lot of LGBTQ+ parades were cancelled.
Anja, why did you start the #sexedPL campaign, and Mary, how did you get involved?
Anja Rubik: Sex education doesn’t exist in Poland. We don’t have it at school, so it’s really important to get the message out there. It’s a subject that applies to every single person on this planet, and it has a huge impact on our health, self-acceptance, and tolerance – even understanding what your rights are, understanding consent. It’s vital to our existence.
Mary Komasa: I was invited by Anja to join the campaign and she’s done really, really amazing things with the whole concept of it. For me, that was a turning point. I just thought, ‘Finally my voice can be heard.’ I have a voice, and maybe I needed more time to discover it, but I finally did, and I’m really happy that I’m part of the movement.
What kind of message did you want the song to transmit?
Anja Rubik: The words in the video itself are very direct: it’s love, the fact that love has no gender, that you should be who you are. No one is allowed to tell you what your sexuality is.
Mary Komasa: The song and the lyrics are very gentle. I wanted it to become an anthem – but not the one you’re going to scream, the one that’ll get inside of you through kindness.
“The song and the lyrics are very gentle. I wanted it to become an anthem – but not the one you’re going to scream, the one that'll get inside of you through kindness” – Mary Komasa
Even though the situation in Poland must make you angry?
Mary Komasa: Exactly. I decided to take a different path. I don’t want to scream anymore, because it’s not working. I wanted to create an oasis for people who feel judgement – by who their loved ones are, who they love, who they want to be. I think we managed to do that through the video.
Anja Rubik: What I really like is the way we decided to approach the subject very peacefully.
Is this video at risk because of the rise of censorship in Poland?
Mary Komasa: I’m not worried, because this video is about love. And if we’re going to start banning love, then what’s left for us?
Anja Rubik: If I believe something is true and right in my eyes and could have a very positive impact on society, something honest, that spreads love and non-aggression, I don’t really think about what the response would be.
Do you see a lot of activism among young people in Poland demanding change?
Mary Komasa: I do hope they’re going to be involved for example on May 26 (the European elections), that they’re gonna vote, because I truly believe it’s about them, and it’s hard for an 18-year-old girl or boy to think that they can change something. I know it’s hard for them to believe in that, but we need their voice.