Men’s role in Hungarian society: Marching in the wrong direction

The inspiration for today’s post comes from many widely divergent sources but I hope that they will gel into a reasonably coherent series of thoughts.

First, I was intrigued by the readers’ discussion on male and female roles in Hungary versus Great Britain or the United States. Second, I read an interesting article about Fidesz’s adoption of the extremely conservative ideas of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Party concerning women and family. Third, the other day I watched a television program on ATV in which among the invited guests was a well known writer who was horrified at the boorishness of Hungary’s prime minister. I might also add here that the reporter who is the moderator of the program is at least as much of a boor as Viktor Orbán himself. And fourth, and I know this sounds rather odd, I watched the fifth lecture of the History of the Early Middle Ages, 284-1000 about St. Augustine, which inspired me to seek some answers for the possible causes of Hungarian male behavior, especially among people who never had the benefit of a liberal arts education.

Well, I’ll bet you have no idea where I’m going. So, let’s see what I can make out of all this. While I was reading the different comments my mind raced back to my childhood as well as to my experiences among relatives and friends from the more recent past. Let’s face it, Hungarian women are also somewhat responsible for their own plight. If the wife never asks the husband to help out, the man would be crazy to volunteer. Men in my family were unable to boil an egg. My father’s underwear, suit, a clean shirt and the appropriate tie were dutifully laid out every morning. So, one could say, the all-obliging wife deserves at least some of what she gets.

Okay, one might argue, but this was an entirely different generation when few women worked outside of the home. Things have improved since. Perhaps, but I’d wager to say that even the majority of families still function this way. There have been scores of sociological studies that back up this point. According to all the analyses, Hungarian men’s contribution to household chores and child rearing is far less than in western countries.

In a society where women become in a way the servants of men it is not surprising that some of the men, perhaps even a majority, actually look down on the weaker sex. Lately there has been a lot of discussion in the media about the rude, sexist, vulgar comments coming from male parliamentary members when female MPs rise to speak. And this is not something new that came along with the Orbán government; according to veteran woman politicians this was the situation already between 1990 and 1994. First of all, there are so few female members of parliament (less than 10%) that it’s easy for the men to feel superior. The women are almost intruders in this male club.

And the rudeness and primitiveness of some of the male MPs leads me the television program in which among the invited guests was Krisztián Grecsó, a poet and writer. During the discussion Grecsó mentioned his adverse reaction when he sees Viktor Orbán sitting surrounded by his rich plutocrat friends at football games chewing sunflower seeds and spitting out the shells on the ground. Grecsó is horrified that the prime minister of the country behaves like that in public. What kind of an example is it, he asks, for the rest of Hungarian society? The boorishness of the Hungarian prime minister is noticeable practically everywhere. He is quite capable of standing for an official photo with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with his hands in his pockets. Or when he is seen on a photo in the VIP waiting room at the Brussels airport with a bottle of beer in front of him and his legs spread wide apart. A picture of Orbán appeared in one of the French newspapers a couple of years ago in which he was sitting in Felcsút dressed in sweat pants and a sweat shirt sipping coffee. He looked like a two-bit football player from the local team. And in many ways he is.

The seven liberal arts / Hortus deliciarum of Herrad von Landsberg / 12th century

I often talked in the past about Orbán’s lack of a solid education. After high school he immediately moved on, just like all Hungarians who decide to enter the law, to law school. Thus he lacks the foundations of what we in North America call a liberal arts education. Since I always quote from Yale sources, let me switch and quote from a brochure of Harvard College’s Admission’s Office. Here is their definition of a liberal arts education:

A Harvard education is a liberal education — that is, an education conducted in a spirit of free inquiry undertaken without concern for topical relevance or vocational utility. This kind of learning is not only one of the enrichments of existence; it is one of the achievements of civilization. It heightens students’ awareness of the human and natural worlds they inhabit. It makes them more reflective about their beliefs and choices, more self-conscious and critical of their presuppositions and motivations, more creative in their problem-solving, more perceptive of the world around them, and more able to inform themselves about the issues that arise in their lives, personally, professionally, and socially. College is an opportunity to learn and reflect in an environment free from most of the constraints on time and energy that operate in the rest of life.

A liberal education is also a preparation for the rest of life. The subjects that undergraduates study and, as importantly, the skills and habits of mind they acquire in the process, shape the lives they will lead after they leave the academy. Some of our students will go on to become academics; many will become physicians, lawyers, and businesspeople. All of them will be citizens, whether of the United States or another country, and as such will be helping to make decisions that may affect the lives of others. All of them will engage with forces of change — cultural, religious, political, demographic, technological, planetary. All of them will have to assess empirical claims, interpret cultural expressions, and confront ethical dilemmas in their personal and professional lives. A liberal education gives students the tools to face these challenges in an informed and thoughtful way.

Most of the important government officials and political leaders in the United States received that kind of education before they entered professional school. Indeed, just as Paul Freedman, the Yale professor who teaches the course on early medieval Europe, said, reading St. Augustine’s Confessions or the works of the ancient philosophers will serve his students well in all walks of life. He urged his students to widen their horizons.

Perhaps a little more contemplation, thoughtful inquiry, and soul-searching wouldn’t hurt these Hungarian men, mostly lawyers, in the Hungarian parliament. Some knowledge of literature, history, and philosophy would make them more tolerant and a great deal wiser. And perhaps also less boorish. But Orbán’s ideas on education deny the role of such liberal inquiries. Through his spokeswoman Rózsa Hoffmann he is moving away from intellectual inquiry and is placing the emphasis on practical learning. If he manages to transform Hungarian education to his liking, the lack of a liberal education will make Hungarian society even less tolerant and self-reflective.

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Guest

My Hungarian friend does more than half of the cooking, much of the shopping, spends a lot of time with his children, but little of the laundry (there are 3 small kids at home). He follows his father in this. In contrast, his father-in-law, does virtually nothing except make the morning coffee. Again, the father-in-law probably is imitating his father. So there is at least one exception!

Julie
Guest

Hungarian women, just like women everywhere, have to stand up for themselves. I don’t think there’s any way around it. The ensuing backlash will certainly be very unpleasant; but as the Professor says, men aren’t going to just recognize women as equal partners out of the goodness of their hearts. On a personal/family level, it means insisting that your husband/son/brother/boyfriend treat you with respect and carry his own weight around the household. On a political level, it means organizing to insist on legal respect for women’s rights and voting accordingly.

Feminists aren’t anti-men, or believe that they’re inherently better. Feminists believe that men and women are equals, and that laws, policies, and personal relationships should reflect the fact. It makes me angry to see all these examples of disrespect toward Hungarian women, but I’m just a commenter on a blog. Hungarian women have to do this for themselves.

Guest
London Calling! Eva …a very perspicacious and acute analysis of the male condition in Hungary! (I don’t want to be left out of the avalanche of ironic posts we will get about reconciling Harvard’s ‘mission statement’ with the troll! So I will guess at least 6!) While I accept a ‘liberal arts education’ will make people more sensitive to different cultures and roles in society – I believe the way ‘Mummy’ does things for her son is key. As Jennifer points out. Italian men, for example, are renowned for living under Mummy’s wing – until they strike lucky and find an Italian woman to marry – who maintains the continuum! Of course she has been conditioned to pummel the pizza and cook her Mother’s version of minestrone soup! Due to my circumstances – my early life was influenced by a mother who could only pass on her skills (My twin and I had a (very) absent father!) – hence I can sew, crochet, knit, and I can even Tat! I had to cook the basic English food – and do the washing up – or drying up – depending what mood my twin was in. Hence I have never been… Read more »
Guest

ooops! – I forgot to close the bold. – Sorry! – I was watching the Pogacsa!

Guest

A problem with housework, etc. is that it ‘don’t get no respect’. It is done by someone else–Mom or a hired person. “Menial jobs” such as street sweeper, garbage collector become valued only when they don’t get performed. It’s not just women sticking up for themselves, it is recognizing the value, skills (see Charlie H) and inventiveness involved in these tasks that will help men to get more involved.

Guest

London Calling!

Jennifer – yes “……women have to do this for themselves..”

Yes (2) – even some women here (in England) say that some women are too keen ‘to make a rod for their own back’.

And many men are feminists!

And they need a little help – that’s why I am posting the YouTube clip that ‘Pete H’ posted in Eva’s earlier post (which I hope she won’t mind!) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqfL3NBi0pg

Stick with it – the camera person had the cam upside down! – but she is very eloquent to an (alas small) audience.

Regards

Charlie

Member

The reason for not having more women in the parliament is not because they were beaten by the male candidates in the race. There were very few female candidates. Also I don’t know how many of the directly elected (by the voters) MPs are women? As opposed to the ones that came on party lists to make the gender ratio look better. More women need to run for office in Hungary. That will bring more sensitivity to family and social issues.

The difference between US and Hungary is very obvious (I live in the US), let’s just say Hungarian men have a lot to catch up to, but the overall picture in the Hungarian society is not as bad as the present FIDESZ leadership projects it. This “bunkoness” in the present day politics is apparently a FIDESZ/KDNP thing. A bunch of arrogant pricks took advantage of the credulous voters. This is just their season.

I’m wondering if this sunflower seed spitting image in case of Orban is some kind of PR routine. To connect to the average Hungarian bunko? With Orban, one never knows if he is really stupid or just pretending it for something.

Paul
Guest

There are two things preventing the acceptance of true equality for women: men – and women.

For women to truly gain equality it is not enough for them to behave more like men, in fact I would argue that this is exactly what they shouldn’t do (do I have to remind anyone of Margaret Thatcher?!). What women most need is for men to stop behaving like boys and grow up and become equal partners to women.

And women need to realise that just because they can drink and swear and act as stupidly as a man, or even buy a house, run a business, or kill people, just like a man, that this is NOT equality. The feminist battle hasn’t been won, you’ve just been alowed to prostitute yourself before the great god of consumerism.

Hungary may be 50 years behind the times, but even here in ‘the West’, despite the many strides we’ve already made, we still have a long, long way to go.

petofi
Guest

Ok, here’s an idea. Men have f*cked up the country so bad that women should refuse to do any, ANYTHING, unless a woman is now voted in to be Prime Minister!

Now there’s an idea who’s time has come. Perhaps we can get
a Merkel-type.

WOMEN OF HUNGARY! STAND UP AND SAVE YOUR COUNTRY NOW!! (And don’t lie down until one of you has replaced Orban.)

Julie
Guest

Paul :
There are two things preventing the acceptance of true equality for women: men – and women.
And women need to realise that just because they can drink and swear and act as stupidly as a man, or even buy a house, run a business, or kill people, just like a man, that this is NOT equality. The feminist battle hasn’t been won, you’ve just been alowed to prostitute yourself before the great god of consumerism.

I don’t anyone is suggesting that women need to “act more like men.” They do, however, need to insist on their rights being respected–and no matter how they go about this task they will certainly be accused of being un-feminine, or shrill, or bitchy, or offensive, and if they just asked more politely men would be more willing to listen to them. ‘Twas ever thus. I certainly don’t envy them their task.

Member

And of course imilis simili gaudet.

http://bit.ly/OQDpOa

Orban yesterday met Berlusconi in Italy during the CDI (Christian Democrat International) gathering. The subject was the possible cooperation between Berlusconi’s party and the FIDESZ. Apparently Orban wanted to know more about the lavish orgies Berlusconi organized while he was in power. Then Orban the 5th attended the papal audience …

petofi
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
By the way, according Henrik Havas–the mediator of the show in question whom I really despise–that is the real Viktor Orbán. If Orbán says that he eats gyulai kolbász for breakfast, we can believe that that’s what he does. So, if Havas is right Orbán is a real boor (bunkó). As far as his upbrining, he himself admitted that he was beaten by his father.; He added that the beating was necessary because otherwise he was unmanageable.

So Orban, because of his father’s beatings, is now ‘perfect’, I suppose. Orban ought to have been at those debates on family abuse and related this nugget…

N.N.
Guest

I think sums up the general attitude in Hungary, and sadly, in the rest of the world :

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-solnit/men-explain-things-to-me-_b_1811096.html

petofi
Guest

Mutt :
And of course imilis simili gaudet.
http://bit.ly/OQDpOa
Orban yesterday met Berlusconi in Italy during the CDI (Christian Democrat International) gathering. The subject was the possible cooperation between Berlusconi’s party and the FIDESZ. Apparently Orban wanted to know more about the lavish orgies Berlusconi organized while he was in power. Then Orban the 5th attended the papal audience …

No, no. Orban was getting tips on how to invest ‘hot’ money
surreptitiously.

Ms KKA
Guest

I wonder how “Lysistrata” would sound performed in Magyar? 😉

An
Guest
@Julie: It is more than that, Hungarian women not only need to stand up, but first need to realize there is a problem and things shouldn’t necessary be the way they are. I honestly did not think much of women’s issues and rights in Hungary while I lived there. I remember at university (would be called college in the US), we had an English teacher from Britain who kept asking us why Hungarian women let men treat them they way they are treated. And we looked at him and we really did not get what the big deal was… it’s just how it is, we thought, guys love us, it’s just how things are in Hungary. What, women go to work just like men do, then go home, prepare dinner, take care of the house and the kids… what’s the big deal? This is how it is. Sexist jokes and remarks used not to bother me… I didn’t even really register them. I heard them but I really didn’t see how demeaning they are. My own mother told me when I was young, how unfortunate it is that I am smart, because I am a girl! I will only have… Read more »
hajraa hungary
Guest

The speakers at the Milla demonstration, starting with Virag Kovats, were great.
They demanded reasonable legislation, which they will not get from Orban’s clique.
Ertsey, LMP gave a very brave speech in the Parliament.
The alcsut son must leave.
The poverty of Hungary is a stain on our history.
Deak was the ideal model politician.
Everybody knows his name. Very few know the details of his politics.
http://mek.oszk.hu/02200/02213/html/

Member

Ms KKA :
I wonder how “Lysistrata” would sound performed in Magyar?

We even have an opera version of it from the 60s written by the late Emil Petrovics.

Member

I would like to bring your attention to Krisztina Morvai’ speech in the EP about domestic violence (Sept. 21) Unfortunately I am not able to find the original English language footage. If anyone would know where to look for it, I would appreciate it. I find the video timely as Morvai’s name was recently brought up by Ms Scheppele. I also expressed how much it saddened me that such a promising female politician ended up as nationalist nutcase. I am glad when I see this footage. http://www.morvaikrisztina.hu/

petofi
Guest

Some1 :
I would like to bring your attention to Krisztina Morvai’ speech in the EP about domestic violence (Sept. 21) Unfortunately I am not able to find the original English language footage. If anyone would know where to look for it, I would appreciate it. I find the video timely as Morvai’s name was recently brought up by Ms Scheppele. I also expressed how much it saddened me that such a promising female politician ended up as nationalist nutcase. I am glad when I see this footage. http://www.morvaikrisztina.hu/

She got bitten by the Tse-Tse-Hungarica–a rare form
of viral mosquito first infected by Orban, Viktor the First.

Guest

Mutt :

Ms KKA :
I wonder how “Lysistrata” would sound performed in Magyar?

We even have an opera version of it from the 60s written by the late Emil Petrovics.

Hey! Like minds think alike – Lysistrata was the first thing that came to my mind when I started to read this thread …

Obviously only the more “enlightened” women are posting here , but it’s true:

The way women are treated and behave in Hungary is often not acceptable for the 21st century – but exceptions happen.

So in retrospect I was lucky twice to get a Hungarian wife that is really emancipated, most of our Hungarian friends are totally different – even her sister (a retired teacher) conforms 100 % to the old role model.

PS: In the younger generation I see some development, but of course most young Hungarians that I know are academics, I don’t know about the situation in general.

Guest

My last comment is in moderation – I wonder which “forbidden word” triggered that, really strange.

Guest

London Calling!

God help Hungary if Orban teams up with Berlusconi.

Mutt’s picture is depressing.

My partner’s aunt left Hungary in her teens – and had to fight for her daughter to follow her, under communism – giving up everything in Hungary.

Unfortunately she and her (Italian) husband thinks the sun shines out of Berlusconi’s …whatever. and insists that he will be back to continue ‘the good times’.

Orban and Berlusconi are brothers in arms – both are blind to the necessary measure required to balance their economies.

Berlusconi is an alleged paedophile (prosecutions still continuing) – and his attitude to woman exploitative (Bunga Bunga parties).

I have no doubt that Orban covets Berlusconi’s media empire – and its power in Italy.

If Orban sees Berlusconi as a role model then women’s situations in Hungary will be unchanging.

One Uber Male Chauvinist Pig chewing nuts with another Uber Male Chauvinist Pic.

God help Hungary.

Regards

Charlie

Bowen
Guest
Berlusconi is probably thrilled that a European leader is still willing to be in the same shot as him. To play devil’s advocate a bit on the men/women debate … I’m probably a bit unmasculine by most standards. I don’t drink so much or enjoy football. I don’t know how to fix a car engine or wrestle a wild boar to the ground. But I enjoy cooking, I like a clean house, and so on. With a previous Hungarian lady I used to live with, I was pretty much banned from the kitchen. Any attempt to prepare food for her was regarded as suspicious and she wouldn’t really eat it (e.g. salads, Thai food, etc.). However, she enjoyed making sure I had some heavy stuffed cabbage, or a kolbasz and some beer for me when I got home. I would eat it, whilst she sat next to me eating an apple or something. I found this slightly uncomfortable, since I wanted the pleasure of eating together, rather than being ‘served’. As did the fact that she insisted on spending most Sundays ironing my clothes when I’d rather go out for a nice coffee or a walk. And I certainly wasn’t… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!

Bowen – you mustn’t say ‘unmasculine’ – just a balanced, sensitive, non-tribal bloke!

Interesting post.

Hungary needs you!!

Regards

Charlie

oneill
Guest
I grew up in a large British-Irish family where if you wanted or needed something done you did it yourself. Mother simply didn’t have the capacity to mollycoddle the tribes of children (both us and our neighbours’) constantly traipsing in and out of the house. Consequently, everyone (and that includes my father) by necessity had to be able to cook, change lightbulbs and fuses, wash and iron clothes for themselves. By contrast when we first moved to Hungary Ms O’Neill’s parents considered it a personal insult, if I ever ventured out of my armchair into the kitchen to make myself a coffee. Having worked a 10 hour day my m-in-law considered it quite natural to then slave for another hour or so over the stove to make us dinner. Her day would be (if we let her) finished by ironing our clothes for the next day. It is quite usual for 30 yr old plus single or divorced Hungarian males to be completely incapable of understanding the complexities of a washing machine or microwave because their mother has never consider it necessary to teach them. As a result, when the house miraculously doesn’t run itself they get most perplexed and… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
An, you are a “girl”? One problem with not using one’s name is that such information can get lost :-). From your posts I would not have thought so, I only thought that for a man your language is not really expressive :-). Now I am certainly sounding quite anti-feminist but in my experience there are too large differences in how men and women (and I mean within their respective group) behave that I would hesitate to accept a generally bad treatment of women and vice versa. Which does not mean that obvious cases of discrimination should not be remedied and people who are abused in whatever way should not get support from the public. No, this is what I very much support. But I think this is not a case of men vs. women generally but this is a case of those men and women who are in favour of more equal treatment vs. those men and women who prefer the traditional roles. In my impression also it is often overlooked that there are not only men who like the traditional roles but women also. So I certainly identify myself more with people with similar interests to mine, no… Read more »
Ivan
Guest

My experience is that the most anti-women behaviour in Hungary comes from women themselves – and the bunkos are delighted by this, of course. When my (Hungarian) wife was very ill AND pregnant her grandmother attacked me hysterically for doing extra housework (in fact, doing ANY housework at all). Meanwhile, my father-in-law’s partner colluded openly in my sister-in-law’s eating disorder, and continually praised the ‘stylish’ reuslts. Where does this come from? It doesn’t come from men, I think. It comes from a collective mania for ‘normalis’ that is often genuinely upsetting. Fidesz, meanwhile, appear to attract a huge level of support for women. At rallies in 2002 I witnessed a near-Beatlesesque level of devotion from young university-educated women for Orban. There is still some of that. And it’s still bizarre.

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