In an attempt to justify the ban of gender studies from Hungarian Universities, State officials claimed that differences between men and women were purely biological. Hence there was no need to do research or to teach Gender in Hungary.
Gender or Diversity-inclusive practices sometimes create backlash when they are perceived as implicit criticism or as a threat to existing privilege. Interestingly, reactions as well as narratives appear to be quite similar across sexism, nationalism, ageism or homophobia.
When already gender-inclusive language is too much
Hungarian State officials and German politicians from the country’s Nationalist party have now become more explicit in their rejection of gender concepts. They follow the narrative of right-wing parties, claiming that gender discussions would challenge the natural order in an unnecessary way. Based on such ideas, a small group of politicians has now demanded a ban of gender-inclusive language so that the generic masculine forms would be used exclusively. Meanwhile, Hungary is introducing a ban of gender studies (i.e. cancelling the accreditation), which are currently offered at two Universities, including the private Central European University (CEU).
Hungary’s profound Gender issue
The CEU, which was founded by US billionaire, George Soros, first started offering double-degree Gender Studies in 2006 and might only be indirectly affected by the ban: They could no longer provide EU degrees and hence no longer participate in the Erasmus scheme. But the anti-Gender attitude appears to be rooted much deeper in parts of the Hungarian system. There are only 10 women in the Hungarian Parliament, which has 199 representatives and the Nationalist Fidez party has only half that gender representation (6/114 = 5.2%). President Orban was reported to have made clear negative gender statements when sending the female Hungarian ambassador (to the U.S.A.) to early retirement. His cabinet has 1 female and 13 male ministers. On this case, Orban has high-level support: Hungary’s minister president, Semién told the Media that the Hungarian labour market didn’t need gender study graduates and hence there was no need to train them. His statement lacked evidence just as much as Orban’s chief of staff, Gulvás, who said that gender wasn’t a societal dynamic and therefore should not be talked about nor taught.
The ugly sexist face of Nationalism and Fascism
He also confirmed that there was no need for any explanation for it was a political decision. This echoes the attitude of right-wing politicians from across Europe and beyond. Blatant sexism and fierce discrimination of women has a long tradition in nationalist systems. Under Mussolini, women’s access to work outside of their home was restricted and during the same era, no female Nazi party member (in Germany) was allowed to give order to a male party member. In the nationalist thinking, it is a woman’s role to bear and raise children to grow the Nation, and hence women are generally considered as sexual and/or political targets that men must dominate. In this context, any feminist or equality tendency is seen to disempower men. To this end, it is the same narrative the political ideology uses to criticise migration, which is – despite opposite economic study results – claims that migrants reduce the wealth of current citizens.
The importance to identify test cases
The ban of gender studies in Hungary may only affect two universities and a few dozen students per year. However, critics say the move could set a “dangerous precedent” for state interference and present a threat for the freedom of education in the country. Others call it „a prime example of the spectacular arrogance that this regime has displayed“, as they only gave the stakeholder 24 hours to respond to the draft legislation – in the middle of the summer holidays.
Five years ago, Erdogan, who was Minister President at the time, had introduced a seemingly small law which restricted the sale and consumption of alcohol in Turkey. The bill turned out to have been a first step in a landslide of legal measures reducing freedom and democracy.
Here an article on how to D&I should oppose Nationalism http://en.diversitymine.eu/di-could-be-a-powerful-alternative-to-nationalism-if-pitched-effectively/
and one about humour and science as a weapon against Nationalism http://en.diversitymine.eu/latest-examples-fighting-nationalism-with-comedy-or-science/