How women are being treated in the Hungarian parliament

In September of 2012 there was an uproar in the Hungarian parliament over the issue of domestic violence; I spent at least two posts on the issue. By popular demand, the House had to consider including domestic violence in the criminal code. It was clear from the beginning that the Fidesz-KDMP caucus was planning to vote against the measure. One member of the government party after the other got up, delivering ringing speeches about “the place of the woman” in their world: they should produce lots of children, perhaps five or six. Once they did their patriotic duty they could look around and fulfill their career plans.

I first wrote about the subject on September 12, but a week later I returned to the question because Fidesz politicians launched an attack on “bluestockings”–to use the Reverend Zoltán Balog’s term–because they dared to call domestic violence “family violence.” Never mind that the dictionary meaning of domestic violence is “violence toward or physical abuse of one’s spouse or domestic partner.” This insistence on avoiding the word “family” highlights Fidesz-KDNP’s attempt to elevate the notion of family to something close to sacred. The word “family” cannot be associated with anything negative, like violence.

Yet the very same people who are so worried about the sanctity of the family and the role of women in it treat their female colleagues like dirt. According to the liberal Klára Ungár (SZEMA / Szabad Emberek Magyarországért), the women in parliament have been maltreated by their male colleagues ever since the dawn of the new democratic era in Hungary. In those days, she claims, the young male politicians of the Free Democrats were a great more enlightened than the older crew of the right-of-center coalition who often made boorish jokes at the expense of their female colleagues. Another former Fidesz female politician, Zsuzsanna Szelényi, on the other hand, described this college crowd as macho from day one. Yes, there were some female members of the group, mostly girlfriends or later wives, but it was a predominantly male gathering where the presence of women was not always welcome.

Since then not much has changed in the Hungarian parliament. If a woman rises to speak, especially if that woman is from the opposition, obscene, demeaning shouts ring out from the Fidesz-KDNP-Jobbik section of the House. On such occasions the right side of the aisle closes ranks. Not even the women of Fidesz-KDNP raise their voices in protest. They don’t have the slightest sense of solidarity with members of their own sex.

Ágnes Osztolykán

Ágnes Osztolykán

The latest scandal involved Ágnes Osztolykán, an LMP member of parliament and a woman of Roma origin. A couple of days ago she published a post on her blog entitled “Darkness in the Honored House.” Late at night on the first day of the new parliamentary session she discovered that she had no money to take a taxi home. She found a group of colleagues chit-chatting in the corridor and asked whether “one of them could take her home.” She almost apologetically adds, “after the fact, by now I know that this was a wrong question.” Almost automatically her first thought was self-accusation. She asked the wrong question. So, she blames herself for the treatment she received because, after all, one can expect only an obscene answer to this kind of request. This is how things are in Hungary.

You can imagine what followed. Some MPs suggested that they would take her home, but to their own apartments. Osztolykán adds: “I was hoping they would stop, but in fact they got more and more into the swing of things” until a Jobbik member of parliament, one of the most primitive characters of the bunch, György Gyula Zagyva, about whom I wrote a post already, got involved. Zagyva told her that he wouldn’t mind f…ing her even though she was a Gypsy.

The comments that followed this revelation were, in my opinion, on the wrong track. Everybody concentrated on the fact that these people are members of parliament and should set a good example. No wonder, they added, that people use such filthy language everywhere.

But this is not the point. First of all, members of parliament are part and parcel of society as a whole. Perhaps the composition of this particular parliament is lopsided in the sense that the men and women who sit in the parliamentary delegations of Fidesz and the Christian Democrats are Viktor Orbán’s personal choices. You may recall that the candidates had to be personally approved by the “pocket dictator,” as someone called Orbán not so long ago. And Jobbik’s presence in the House only adds to the crowd that considers women not quite equal to men. Don’t forget that it was young Jobbik activists who listed incoming freshmen and made all sorts of obscene notations when it came to female members of the class.

I also blame Hungarian women for this state of affairs, and I do hope that a few more incidents like this will wake them up. In a country where people equate feminism with lesbianism and where women seem unaware of their inferior status in society they are easy targets. If women don’t stand up and say that enough is enough, nothing will change either inside or outside of parliament.

The solution to all this is not the white rose delivered by the Fidesz MP after he had insulted a female member of parliament but a radical change in the status of women in Hungarian society. As for the white rose, in the MP’s place I wouldn’t have accepted it.

54 comments

  1. Hungarian women can be very hard on each other. One thing which surprised me after moving here was the lack of ‘sisterhood’ here,and the way women can be so ‘bitchy’ (sorry) towards each other. Like they’ve been so indoctrinated about their lack of value,they cannot stand up for one another. Yet most Hungarian women are strong,capable and educated. I think the sexist attitude still persists,but it can and will change,IS changing.

  2. Do they have the faintest idea how this behaviour looks outside Hungary? None of these ‘men’ is fit to be a man, let alone an MP.

  3. “IS changing” – not much, I’m afraid, especially outside Bp. My impression is that, after 89, most women couldn’t wait to get back to ‘normal’.

  4. This reminds me of what is said of successful development aid: We only succeed if we can reach and convince the women (in Africa, India, for example).

    And it reminds me of what Paul said of his in-laws and his wife’s opinions.

    So let’s focus on the education of women – by women.

  5. Any lawyers can file a claim against this idiot. Assault!
    Zagyva must be fined, imprisoned, and taught a lesson.
    As a reckless citizen, he must be put on the terrorist list, too, and banned from flying.

  6. AJ14 :

    Any lawyers can file a claim against this idiot. Assault!
    Zagyva must be fined, imprisoned, and taught a lesson.
    As a reckless citizen, he must be put on the terrorist list, too, and banned from flying.

    Well, I don’t about Zagyva being a terrorist but I can assure you that nothing will happen to him.

  7. It’s in the culture. Nothing expresses this more than the commonly used saying: Penz szamolva, asszony verve jo. Money is best when counted, as a woman (wife) is best when beaten.

  8. During the 40 years communist rule, equality was declared, but in reality it meant double work for the wife. Usually women were working and had to do alone the cleaning and cooking. The care for children was also the work of women. The husbands used to come home and watch TV or go to a football match.
    The sociologist Mária Neményi has written about it an interesting report.
    Women liberation movement did not arrive in Hungary.

  9. London Calling!

    The sooner women stop seeing themselves as one of their husband’s ‘chattels’ – psychologically then they can look the world in the eye in their own right.

    Stopping the ludicrous – self styled and self accepted – archaic and demeaning designation would be a good start.

    Come on, women! Break away – bring Hungary into the modern world.

    Sort your men out!

    Regards

    Charlie

  10. Women in the Hungarian Parliament
    f= left wing= MSzP+SzDSz+LMP,
    g=right wing= others

    1920. 1 Margit Slachta
    1922 1 Anna Kéthly
    1926 1 Anna Kéthly
    1931 2 Anna Kéthly, Margit Herzog, Lilla Melczer (from 1932)
    1935 2 Anna Kéthly, Lilla Melczer, Róza Hagara (from 1936)
    1939 1 Anna Kéthly

    1945. 16, 3.9%

    1947. 4%
    1949. 17%
    1953. 11%
    1958. 17%
    1963. 18%
    1967. 20%
    1971. 24%
    1975. 28%
    1980. 30%
    1985. 21%

    1990. 7.0%
    1994. 11.2%, f= 33, g= 10
    1998. 8.3%, f= 17, g= 15
    2002. 9.1%, f= 25, g= 10
    2006. 11.1%, f= 27, g= 13
    2010. 9.1%, f= 10, g= 25

    Sources :

    Click to access 02koncz.indd.pdf


    http://www.rubicon.hu/magyar/oldalak/a_nok_parlamenti_valasztojoganak_tortenete_magyarorszagon_1919_1945/

  11. Seems I’m really lucky with my rather emancipated Hungarian wife – I couldn’t live with a “typical Hungarian housewife” …

    But we also see a lot of those who even lose their names (and much of their dignity) after marrying – I still find it strange to read or hear someone is called something like Kiss Csabané …

    So whenever we have visitors one of my main points is showing how a husband treats his wife in a civilized way: Helping with household chores, doing the washing, putting things into the dishwasher etc …

    Back to the general position of women in Hungary:

    There is a very high percentage of broken marriages and divorces and often the wives are in a very bad position. Of course marrying a foreigner is no guarantee for a happx life (I know several bad cases there) but it seems it gives women a better chance!

  12. I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform,and follow in the footsteps of my mum-in-law,and other female members of the family..but NOT by my husband. He’s the complete opposite. I love the shocked looks on my students’ faces when I tell them he does most of the cooking! They are either speechless(the men) or jealous (the women!) It is actually the women themselves who criticise or demonise other women who don’t follow their code of behaviour. Yes,as someone mentioned,above,a similar situation can be found in other societies where women are seen as less. We have to work on the women first! What did you mean,Paul,when you said that women couldn’t wait to get back to normal after 89? Did you mean more freedom?

  13. Hey, Nicky!

    A bit OT:

    I also like cooking, though my wife does most of it. Of course she can do all the Hungarian stuff, but also much more. It’s kind of unbelievable how she learned to prepare all those international dishes, using stuff that just was not available in Kadar times and later was way too expensive:

    She cooks Italian, Greek, Spanish, Mexican – even Schwab style: Käsespätzle has become one of her favourites …
    Many things she tried first at one of my sister’s table, on holiday in the Canary Islands, or in a Greek/Italian restaurant in Germany – and when I told her how it’s done, she immediately said: Ok, I’ll try it – let’s go shopping …

    But still I like to do the cooking when we have Hungarian visitors (her family especially – just to show off or rather to give her more time to talk with her relatives) and you should see the look on their faces some times …

    PS:

    Of course nowadays you can get almost everything in Hungary – you just have to be willing to pay the price …

  14. Nicky :
    I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform

    From a male perspective there is a lot of pressure to conform on both men and women. I can’t be bothered which puts me a odds with some. In-laws are now used to me and realize there’s no hope. The funniest is Dedi (great-grandmother). She was always chiding my wife on how she dressed and how she behaved. Even though my wife also doesn’t conform so well she’ll sometimes make the odd comment like, thats not a bad salary for a women.

    I’ve commented on the shocking state of lack of protection from situations of domestic violence. No restraining orders.. the intimidation *by the police against the victim*!!!! And the fear.. having seen the fear first hand.. knowing that one has no protection… horrible. Hungarian MPs can act with impunity under these conditions.

    OT, the local college is now so broke that they can no longer renew anyone’s contracts. I’ve no idea how far in debt the college is but it would seem that OV is pushing down debt as a percentage of GDP by hiding these types of debts from the auditors. Trying to fool the EU excessive deficit proceedings???

  15. Jean P since not everybody gives his own name, it is practically impossible to give the sex ration of commenters

  16. Nicky :
    I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform,and follow in the footsteps of my mum-in-law,and other female members of the family..but NOT by my husband. He’s the complete opposite. I love the shocked looks on my students’ faces when I tell them he does most of the cooking! They are either speechless(the men) or jealous (the women!) It is actually the women themselves who criticise or demonise other women who don’t follow their code of behaviour. Yes,as someone mentioned,above,a similar situation can be found in other societies where women are seen as less. We have to work on the women first! What did you mean,Paul,when you said that women couldn’t wait to get back to normal after 89? Did you mean more freedom?

    Nicky – in all my time in Hungary and married to a Hungarian I have never come across a Hungarian man married to an English wife! In fact we’ve had discussions on here about why it’s always the other way round.

    You must have some odd moments with your in-laws. I’m always doing things they don’t expect or understand (like the ironing! – or opening doors), but, as a man, I get away with it. You must have a lot more pressure to comply.

    To answer your question – by ‘normal’, I meant back to their old roles: wife, mother, cook, cleaner, etc. ‘Equality’ in Hungary wasn’t gained from below by a women’s liberation movement, it was imposed from above by the government. So, as soon as the government fell, everyone, including unfortunately the women, just wanted to go back to how things were.

    This is a generalisation, of course, and there are plenty of Hungarian women around who see things differently (although I suspect many of them now live abroad), but it is pretty true of most women in Hungary, young, as well as older.

    Although, for once, this isn’t a uniquely Hungarian situation, most (all?) the ex-Soviet central/eastern European states experienced much the same thing. The problem all these countries have – not just to do with feminism, but also racism, dealing with their history, societal changes, etc – is that the clock stopped somewhere around 1948, and and didn’t start again until 1990. They simply haven’t been through the cultural development that we’ve experienced over the last 50/60 years.

    As you’ll know from visiting Hungary, although at first the relative poorness is a bit of a shock, the country and its people actually seem quite Western and ‘normal’ to us Brits, and you wonder what all the fuss is about. But underneath, the cultures and attitudes are radically different, and after a few years, especially if you live in Hungary for some time, you start to realise just how different they are.

  17. Paul :
    in all my time in Hungary and married to a Hungarian I have never come across a Hungarian man married to an English wife! In fact we’ve had discussions on here about why it’s always the other way round.

    It is likely that English women can spot the big difference about how Hungarian society in general treats women. I do not think that they have to much desire to move to Hungary. I do know very few Hungarian man who married to a Canadian or American here in North America. I also know a very few Russian ladies who married Hungarian man and moved to Hungary. Your observation I think supports Eva’s entry.

  18. For my friends who are ethnic Hungarians, I can struggle to explain why Fidesz/Jobbik is so offensive. For these friends who are women, they understand that misogyny in Hungary is a problem.

    The anti-Hungarianness of the Orban/Borat coalition is most apparent in its treatment of women. We need to hit the current government about this if we want to improve Hungary. It may be the best way.

  19. Gardonista: “The anti-Hungarianness of the Orban/Borat coalition”

    Perhaps, we could insert another definition in the Orban resume: Anti-Humanity.

    He is a war criminal in all shapes, and his defense can be only the insanity concept.

  20. Nicky :
    I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform,and follow in the footsteps of my mum-in-law,and other female members of the family..but NOT by my husband. He’s the complete opposite. I love the shocked looks on my students’ faces when I tell them he does most of the cooking! They are either speechless(the men) or jealous (the women!) It is actually the women themselves who criticise or demonise other women who don’t follow their code of behaviour. Yes,as someone mentioned,above,a similar situation can be found in other societies where women are seen as less. We have to work on the women first! What did you mean,Paul,when you said that women couldn’t wait to get back to normal after 89? Did you mean more freedom?

    Nicky, the problem is – at the first level, that is – being Hungarian, the gender comes sometimes way afterwords. Solidarity – as is – a problem.
    Seems, that the whole concept somehow gone missing in Hungary. I have no intention to go into details and try to figure out, whether or not the rather complicated history has any part, or in what degree in this, but if you’ll just look around on the streets, you certainly will see, what I mean.

    Otherwise the whole event is just shameful, doesn’t matter, who- and how try to explain away.

    There is a Hungarian word, what I haven’t managed to translate in it’s full ‘glory’, so I gave up, anyway, the word is “tahó”.

    In my opinion this is the main characteristic of the ruling elite in Hungary, TAHÓ, plain and simple.

  21. My dictionary gives me in German:der Tölpel
    Translations for this:
    dolt dupe galoot gawk jay loob lout muff slob yokel clod [coll.]
    schlub also: shlub, zhlob, zhlub (Amer.) [coll.] Yiddish

    Take your pick!

  22. “She found a group of colleagues chit-chatting in the corridor and asked…”

    “Some MPs suggested that they would take her home, but to their own apartments.”

    “…until a Jobbik member of parliament, one of the most primitive characters of the bunch, György Gyula Zagyva…”

    What kind of MPs were in this “group of colleagues”? Well, one can immediately suspect that they weren’t members of Fidesz or Jobbik because then a source like Hungarian Spectrum would put extra emphasis on that. 🙂

    According to Zagyva, they were members and ex-members of Osztolykán’s own party (LMP). Zagyva named two particular people – since then, one of them has denied that he was there, but the other members of the party remain silent…

    I find it rather strange that members of a party that routinely uses feminist rhetoric and actually suggests a 50% female quota in the parliament (an incredibly undemocratic notion) would get involved in a “scandal” like this. Naturally, one subconsciously imagines Fidesz or Jobbik MPs when reading the above lines – misleading suggestions are extremely abundant in the “independent” media of the “democratic opposition”.

    Paul: It’s a great honor for us Hungarians that “we seem quite Western and ‘normal’ to you” – at least at first sight! 🙂 I’m sure something this outrageous could never occur in the parliaments of civilized European countries like the United Kingdom, and I hope you are successfully enduring those primitive, barbaric Hungarians around you! 😀

  23. London Calling!

    I just think the term you need is Eva’s ‘boorish’ – which we don’t see much in England.

    MCP’s – Male Chauvinist Pigs – says it all too.

    (Eagle Eye – I haven’t quite sussed you out – yet.)

    Regards

    Charlie

  24. Eagle Eye :What I find outrages but not surprising that you have the nerve to make a “party issue” about this. THe whole idea is that many Hungarian man think this way. I guess you included. They were MPs. Do you get it? SHould I spell it out any further? THis blog actually very often criticizes LMP, the DK, MSZP and so forth. I wish that Fidesz publications would take the same approach but then again what to expect when their followers made up by people like you 😉 Do you also encourage that women should give birth of a half dozen new Hungarians so they would not get be beaten by their husbands? THat was a famous Fidesz saying. 🙂

  25. Eagle Eye – I don’t think it would come as much of a shock to anyone on here if it turned out these MPs were LMP. Sexism and misogyny are culture-wide and politics-wide problems in Hungary.

    As for your quote from my reply to Nicky that Hungarians “seem quite Western and ‘normal’ to you”, I’m sure you’re well aware that you are quoting this out of context and entirely ignoring my use of quotes around ‘normal’, so I won’t bother trying to explain it any further.

    But it is a terrible sadness to me that the Orbán/Fidesz/Jobbik ignorance, stupidity, and (Charlie is right) boorishness, has turned Hungary back from the more enlightened and progressive path it was taking between 1989 and 2010. When I first came to Hungary in 2001 I was impressed at what a civilised place it was. Far from being like the UK, I actually thought it was better in many ways – the amount of book and newspaper reading, the emphasis on education, the way children were looked after, the polite behaviour of people in public, the interest of many people in history and politics. It was like going back in time to the England of my childhood and youth, before Thatcher opened the Pandora’s box of greed and selfishness.

    But this is not the Hungary I see today.

    Partly this is because I misinterpreted many of the external signs with my English outlook. As I spent more time in Hungary and with Hungarians, and began to pick up enough of the language to understand more of what I saw around me, I gradually began to see how different we were underneath and to see the negative sides of things I had previously thought of as entirely good (e.g. the emphasis on family, and the public politeness).

    But mostly this is down to the effect of Orbán’s black propaganda between 2006 and 2010, and the impact on society of the oppressive Fidesz-Jobbik regime since 2010. For the last seven years, Orbán and his cahoots have been deliberately (and successfully) remodelling Hungarian society and culture along the lines of their own uneducated, uncultured, small-minded, bigoted – and, worst of all, limited – views of the world.

    This has left a sick and dysfunctional society, run by a minority of zealots and believers, with the broad majority left unsure of what to think or believe any more, and frightened to talk, or even think, about it. And with those who do think either siding with Jobbik out of desperation, or simply giving up and leaving the country.

  26. Paul, actually Gyula Zagyva (Jobbik) later tried to save his skin by saying that it wasn’t him who said what he said but Gábor Vágó (LMP). Vágó wasn’t even there. He called Zagyva a coward. And a coward he is.

  27. Paul: Thank you for your long and polite reply. I have to admit that the contempt towards Hungarians that I felt in your previous comments was missing from this last one. Perhaps I misunderstood your intentions. On the other hand, having reread your previous comments, I still think that my answer for _those_ comments was appropriate. In particular, I don’t know what you mean by me ignoring your use of quotes around ‘normal’ – as far as I can see, they are present in my answer.

    I absolutely agree that Hungary was a far better place in 2001 than it is now. So who was the prime minister in 2001? And who was in power between 2002 and 2010? I have to admit that Fidesz is partially responsible for the deterioration of Hungarian public life, but I think that putting all the blame on them (noting that they weren’t even in power for most of the time) is extremely one-sided.

    Eva: It makes me sad that I seemingly have to take the side of Zagyva (who really is a shame to our parliament), but I just can’t take it when people “bias” the facts. So I will have to present the entire story with all the details, using only the blogs of the people involved:

    20th February, afternoon: Ágnes Osztolykán posted in her blog. Her version is quite accurately described in the present article. She was asking a couple of MPs if either of them can take her home, and the MPs started making sexist comments to her: “I can take you home, but to my place”. After a while, Gyula Zagyva, one of the MPs, said that “despite the fact that you are a gipsy, I would f**k you”. She said something like “only in your dreams” and then left.

    http://osztolykanagi.blog.hu/2013/02/20/sotetseg_a_tisztelt_hazban

    Probably later that day: Gyula Zagyva replied on his webpage. He claims that Osztolykán is lying and is a coward. Zagyva overheard a conversation in which Gábor Ivády and Gábor Vágó were making comments like “I can take you home, but to my place ” to Osztolykán, while András Schiffer was smiling in the background (all these three people are LMP or ex-LMP members). He interrupted saying that “despite the fact that you are a gipsy, _they_ would f**k you” (the difference with respect to Osztolykán’s version is only one letter in Hungarian).

    Just to emphasize, he did _not_ claim that the thing he actually said (by perhaps one letter difference) was said by someone else. He only claimed that the first sexist comments were made by LMP members, and he only joined in later. (And I am not trying to defend him in any way – but facts are facts and “biasing” them is not nice…)

    http://zagyvagyula.hu/hir/osztolykan-hazudik-es-gyava

    21st February, afternoon: Gábor Vágó replied on his webpage. He claims that Zagyva is not just a boor (thanks for the word! :D) but also a coward. Vágó wasn’t even in the parliament when the incident happened.

    There is also an update at the end of his post. He claims that he has met Zagyva in person, and Zagyva has apologized for his baseless accusations. End of story on his part.

    http://vagogabor.blog.hu/2013/02/21/nemcsak_taho_hanem_gyava_is_vagy

    As of now – to the best of my knowledge -, we still haven’t heard anything from Gábor Ivády, András Schiffer, or any of the other potential LMP “culprits”. The fact that Osztolykán didn’t say anything about the MPs making the original sexist comments suggests that they weren’t from Fidesz or Jobbik – for the exact same reason that I mentioned in my previous comment. 🙂

  28. @ Eagle Eye. This is the type of nitpicking we know from apologists of the Orbán regime such as Hungarian Voice. What they have in common is the refusal to see the whole terrible picture and the continually worsening situation of Hungary and its (political) culture. The topic was “How women are being treated in the Hungarian Parliament.” And apparently that is so appalling that it really doesn’t matter who said what in singular or plural or if quotation marks are missing or not!

  29. Karl Pfeifer :
    Jean P since not everybody gives his own name, it is practically impossible to give the sex ration of commenters

    Let’s give it a try anyway. Some commenters use a girls name and some use a boys name. If we assume that a person is likely to chose a name which corresponds to her/his own sex, then it should be possible to make an estimate of the sex ratio with some statistical significance.

    I have counted all comments given in the period 7.-18. February inclusive and found that 28 male named commenters have made 234 comments, 6 female named commenters have made 57 comments and 58 commenters with ungendered names have made 185 comments. So, 37% of the commenters have hinted their sex , 18% of those who have hinted their sex are female. If the further assumption holds that the sex ratio of those who give no hint of their sex is the same as the sex ratio of those who do, then 18% of all the commenters are female. This number is similar to the sex ratio of the Hungarian Parliament during the communist regime and considerably higher than that of the present one (tappanch comment #10). I don’t know what would be a correct conclusion.

    The purported males have produced on average 8.4 comments each, the purported females have been slightly more productive at averagely 9.5 comments whereas the commenters whose sex cannot be guessed, have been much less productive at 3.2 comments on average. This is a surprise or maybe it is not. The most productive commenters are the least anxious to hide their sex.

  30. @Jean:

    Beautiful analysis! (Should have done this myself as a mathematician …)

    The really bad thing is the non-representation of women in Hungarian politics – 10 % women in parliament is really shocking!

  31. Jean P, but there are people from many nations here on the blog. You will need to find out first who is Hungarian and then divide the sexes, otherwise the comparison with the quota in the Hungarian parliament is not really meaningful :-).

  32. wolfi :

    @Jean:

    Beautiful analysis! (Should have done this myself as a mathematician …)

    The really bad thing is the non-representation of women in Hungarian politics – 10 % women in parliament is really shocking!

    Yes, worse than in some Muslim countries

  33. Eva S. Balogh :
    Yes, worse than in some Muslim countries

    Ooouuchh, Eva. I find that kind of offensive towards my Muslim friends.

    Here’s a bit about the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-03/08/c_13767098.htm:

    Even though the parliament allocates 30 percent of representatives for women, Indonesia now has only 18 percent women legislators or 109.

    “We hope that in the general election 2014, our parliament could be proud to have 30 percent of women legislators.”

    And here’s a list of women legislators throughout the world. Hungary ranks 117 out of 139:

    http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm

  34. Thanks Paul and all the others for your response to my comment. I’m a newbie on this site,and I don’t know if going back to that topic of chauvinism etc..is okay given that the new stories have been commented on. It’s just great to get some feedback since I don’t get to meet many ex-pats in the little village where I live. And cultural differences is a fascinating subject. Regarding your comments,Paul,yes it is pretty rare to meet a Hungarian man/English woman pair,I only know of 2 others. And,yes,I do get into funny situations with my M.I.L. as we have radically different ideas about practically everything,especially regarding our children! It’s funny,the same qualities which appealed to you when you arrived in Hungary are the very same which appealed to me. For example stronger family values,the higher level of education,more emphasis on culture,the arts, and tradition,to name a few.And great food! And let’s not forget the fact that in the Summer,the sun shines! I basically felt that Hungary was way better than the U.K. in many ways. That’s why we returned to Hungary to raise our children. Having said that,there are 2 sides of a coin. The same qualities which I found endearing I sometimes struggle with! Strong family values can often mean constant interfering from in-laws! (I have a photo from our wedding 20 years ago,where I am standing with my husband and in-laws. My MIL is holding on to my husband for dear life,with an anguished look on her face! It really sums up their relationship. She has never cut the apron strings!)High level of education can mean too much stress and pressure on young children to do well academically. Culture and tradition can mean you feel pressure to conform,especially with regards to sexual stereotypes. But I still feel these are lovely values,and I would never be able to re-settle in the U.K now. I guess the secret is making the most of what you love,while staying true to yourself. And regarding your other point,Paul,about women here wanting to return to ‘normal’ – Yes,I can see what you mean,and I can also understand why,from their point of view. Women here definitely overdo things,and often,as I’ve seen,they get really burnt out. Holding down a full time job,often while having to do all the household stuff,raising children,etc..is exhausting,even unfeasible. Then spending all weekend cooking and cleaning! Maybe a contributing factor to the high divorce rate? (although we have a high,if not higher? rate in the U.K.) Also,it’s a pity there are not more part-time employment possibilities here. Many of my friends have said they would work part-time if they could,so they could spend more time with their children. Going back to the issue of gender,it seems that women here are still under a lot of pressure to do things as their mothers did,despite the fact that society has really changed in the last 20 years or so. I have many divorced friends here,and one recurring theme in their stories is that they wanted to do things differently,to be less rigid or traditional within their marriages and family life,and to expect more help from the husbands. Yet the husbands still had these old-fashioned notions of the perfect housewife,and still clung to these unrealistic expectations of the ‘Super woman’ (as they had seen their mothers do) . So there seems to be a big ‘gap’ between the old and the new,and I think this is also another contributing factor. Anyway sorry this post is scatty and long-winded,,and very long,but I really enjoyed reading all your comments,and hope to read more in the future.

  35. Kirsten :
    Jean P, but there are people from many nations here on the blog. You will need to find out first who is Hungarian and then divide the sexes, otherwise the comparison with the quota in the Hungarian parliament is not really meaningful .

    Nurture and nature are both important but not equally important. You seem to give priority to nurture (nationality) while I give priority to nature (gender). Therefore I dismiss the nationality issue in my statistics.
    I appreciate your smile.

  36. Nicky – an interesting post, thanks. To me the idea of being a Brit stuck in a little village in Hungary under Orbán is the stuff of nightmare. And even more so as a woman. I get away with a lot being a man, my behaviour and attitudes are regarded as amusingly eccentric, but women are supposed to toe the line far more. Also, our Hungarian home is in a suburb of Debrecen, just 5 minutes from the centre, so we don’t suffer too much from ‘village’ attitudes.

    How old are your children? As I posted elsewhere, it was my dawning understanding (and horror of) the Hungarian education system from 7 onwards that finally decided me to stay in the UK (and the minor matter of Fidesz-Jobbik being elected…).

    As for the sun/summer, I often wonder how much a part this plays in people’s attitudes/decisions. I know it seems trivial, but when the sun is shining, and the weather is hot, who worries about Orbán? All thoughts turn to the next day off and the sutni szalona and cold beers to come, or the strand and a tejföl lángos (and a few more beers!).

    As a Brit abroad for the first time, I was astonished at how badly maintained houses appeared in places like Greece and Spain, but I soon realised that in that sort of climate, where the sun shines almost all the time and people virtually live outdoors, values are very different. After all, our idea of democracy is supposed to have begun in Ancient Greece precisely because of the climate – people tended to meet and talk outdoors. No such idea could possibly have evolved in Britain, where everybody stays indoors 11 months of the year!

  37. Hi Paul
    Thanks for your reply. I’d assumed you were living in Hungary. So you went back to the UK? Do you feel that the education system is too strict or rigid here? How old are your children? We have our 2 oldest kids (aged 11 and 8) at a Waldorf school,and the youngest one attends the village ovi,which is a lovely place. She’ll start Waldorf school in September. I don’t know if you know much about this type of education,but there is much less pressure on kids academically,although they do learn a lot,just in a different way. There is much more acceptance and tolerance (of children’s various strengths and weaknesses),and the whole environment is generally more nurturing. Also a lot of the parents whose kids attend this school are pretty open-minded forward-thinking people..having said that,I do feel a bit ‘eccentric’ (like a female Mrs Bean) when I’m out and about the village! Not sure the villagers know what to make of me!! Yes,you are spot-on about the weather,and I think the fact that the summers are so hot here mean that people seriously know how to chill out and have fun. The mere mention of those words ‘tejfol langos’ makes my knees weak! Don’t you miss all that? I definitely don’t miss the UK weather,just Indian curries and the seaside!

  38. Nicky, you must be really lucky to have your children at a Waldorfschule though some of my friends would say: These schools are for those who wouldn’t make it in a standard German gymnasium …

    To make everybody envious:

    Yesterday my wife invited the German side of the family (we’re in Germany right now, but will be back in Hungary for March 15) and friends to langos – not only with tejföl but cheese, bacon and a side salad. Everybody was really happy …

    Re Hungarian villages:

    The people in the village where we live in Hungary are even more friendly now that they’ve realised we’re a “mixed couple” – but strangers usually take my wife for a German and have often complimented her on her knowledge of Hungarian …

    She obviously looks and behaves “German”, not like a Hungarian “asszony” or felesége …

  39. A good idea would be to inject into the Hungarians of open mind, to think of charity for others.

    Hungarians do not speak or practice charity.

    Think of charity to Romanians, Serbs, Slovaks….Romas, and Jews, too.

  40. Hi Wolfi. We lived in Germany for a while,and saw many Steiner schools around. I had friends who had attended Waldorf schools there,too. In Germany,I felt it was more acceptable,whereas here in Hungary it’s considered ‘alternative’ – but this applies to many other things,too,such as home-birthing,not vaccinating,etc..all of them considered ‘informed choice’ in Germany,but radical here in Hungary. How is your Hungarian,Wolfi? I think the language is beautiful,but definitely not the easiest! Hope you enjoy your time in Germany,and get to enjoy some good German food and beer (Kase Spatzle is something I miss!)

  41. Hi Nicky!
    Thanks for your kind words! My Hungarian is, well … I know a thousands words (can understand any supermarket advert …) – but I’ve given up on the grammar, my excuse is simple: being 70 years old now, my brain is just no longer fit enough for this complicated mess …

    Re: Käsespätzle etc – which is an original Schwab dish.

    My wife hasn’t done them herself (yet), but you can buy the spätzle everywhere here in Germany (cooled, not frozen) and it’s not too complicated to heat them and add the cheese and bacon/ham and maybe a little bit of tejföl …

    So we’re having them maybe once a week and we’ll also be taking two packages at least to Hungary – we’re supposed to cook for the young ones over Easter and they can ear enormous amounts of spätzle or whatever …

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