It was a week ago that a middle-aged Fidesz MP, István Varga, made quite a splash across the country. Here was a very talkative member of parliament who in the course of the last year rose sixty-four times in the House, yet no one knew his name. Well, by now thousands if not millions do.
Varga began his political career in 1994 as a member of MDF (Magyar Demokrata Fórum), but by 2000 it looked as if his political career was over. Then, all of the sudden, Viktor Orbán discovered him and handpicked him to help shape the revolutionary future of the country.
Well, one might say that Varga is a stupid man or that his remarks were just an unfortunate slip and that the whole incident is unimportant. Unfortunately, although it is possible that Varga isn’t among the best and the brightest, let’s not forget that Varga was chosen by his party to be the keynote speaker for the debate on the issue of domestic violence. And let’s not forget that the parliamentary committee on constitutional and legal matters almost unanimously voted against the inclusion of a separate section in the Criminal Code on domestic violence. Moreover, in the ensuing debate Varga was not the only one who made outrageous remarks about women’s place in society. There were others from the same side of the aisle, including Jobbik.
It took four days for Viktor Orbán and Antal Rogán to realize that the party’s decision to ignore the popular demand for inclusion was a political mistake. By September 14 Rogán announced the party’s change of heart but accompanied it with these words: “I bow to the wishes of the ladies.” I think that says a lot about the mindset of the political leaders of the right. They simply don’t get it.
Even during the debate, although the question before the House dealt with domestic violence, the speakers veered off in a direction that had little to do with the topic at hand. The Fidesz and Christian Democratic speakers expressed their true feelings, which put women in their place.
Today Zoltán Balog, a political heavyweight, added his voice to the already disgraceful performance of Fidesz. A few minutes into the debate, answering Katalin Ertsey (LMP), Balog declared that he is not ashamed of the party’s initial decision to block the proposal for a separate statute on domestic violence. Moreover, he will not be a partner to turning against his own government. He admitted that domestic violence does exist, but he expressed his total dismay that women always talk about violence against women while men are often being terrorized by women. He refused to treat the problem as a sex issue. The opposing forces exhibit a bluestockings attitude. And, he added, one mustn’t talk about “violence within the family” because the family is sacred. Instead of family, the government insists on “violence within the confines of partnership or relations.” And this insensitive fellow is a Protestant minister who is supposed to offer solace to those in need.
A bluestocking attitude. Now here is a word one doesn’t often hear nowadays. A bluestocking is an educated, intellectual woman but the word also has negative implications: such women are often stereotyped as “frumpy”–that is, plain or unfashionable. So, if I understand the Reverend correctly, only intellectual women object to be beaten up. Or ones who are unattractive. If these women didn’t stir up so much trouble everything could go on as usual. Widespread domestic violence would continue unpunished. So much for the Fidesz revolution; it doesn’t seem to extend to women’s issues.
Zoltán Balog is one of the most insensitive men in a bunch of insensitives. And he is the spiritual adviser to Viktor Orbán who found God after almost three decades of irreligiosity. As for the bluestockings’ claim, according to a U.S. survey 95% of the victims of domestic violence are indeed women, contrary what the good Calvinist minister says.
As for “bowing before the wishes of the ladies,” someone who comes up with such an idiotic explanation doesn’t understand the whole question and its importance. The recognition of women as equal members of society is not some kind of gift given by the gentlemen who are chivalrous enough to listen to their spouses. After all, Rogán jokingly announced that if Fidesz doesn’t change its stance on the issue his wife is going to join the “bluestockings.”
As Ildikó Lendvai (MSZP) pointed out in an editorial in today’s Népszava, these guys really don’t understand the issue. The only thing they see is that “the women are raising a racket again.” In fact, the two or three Fidesz and Christian Democratic MPs are symbols of a culture of aggression that is spreading in all facets of Hungarian life. Public life and family life cannot be separate, and when “the first man of the state” can say that “collaboration is not a question of resolve but of force” and when the same man boasts about the slaps in the face of the European Union that his government delivered in Brussels, we mustn’t be surprised about the spreading verbal and physical violence.
Let me finish with a story I read today on Index. A young woman, a college student, along with a friend of hers visited a festival in Szeged. At one point she and her friend ended up at a stand where they were selling wine; there one of the customers called her “a liberal whore.” The two got into a verbal argument and the girl inadvertently pushed the man’s glass, spilling some wine on his jacket. The next move: the fellow slapped her in the face. The girl went to the policeman who refused to do anything, claiming that finding a balding man with glasses in the crowd is an impossibility. The girl, however, found him on her own. He turned out to be the chief-of-staff of the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely. A close associate of János Lázár who today is the chief-of-staff of Viktor Orbán.
Verbal and physical violence in Fidesz circles are part and parcel of everyday life. After all, this is a macho old boys network whose members haven’t managed to grow up in the last 25-30 years.