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Opinion

Misogyny and Hypocrisy – The Mocking of a Female Opposition Politician

Senior socialist politician Ágnes Kunhalmi is an attractive woman. She is feminine, dresses well, and is all smiles most of the time. Her views and statements aside, she is not repulsive to look at and listen to, whichever side of the political spectrum we belong to. Perhaps surprisingly to many, she is also human. She has embarrassed herself publicly on various occasions, for example when she famously could not stop giggling at a press conference. She also turned out to have serious issues with Hungarian spelling at one point. To her credit, however, she is also capable of laughing at herself, and also being professional and collected in public speeches and interviews.  

This is clearly too much for liberal online news portal 444.hu. In an article posted on 1 August under the headline ‘For God’s Sake, Look What a Wonderful Life this Influencer Has!’ 444.hu mocked Kunhalmi for her posts on social media, showing her looking good in happy settings, such as being overjoyed about eating fish and chips, cheering on the Hungarian water polo team while waving a Hungarian flag, or hugging her little lapdog. According to the website’s ironic captions to Kunhalmi’s photos, her posts are somewhat incompatible with her sharp criticism of the Hungarian government’s policies. But it transpires Kunhalmi as such an irritating person to the author, who scathingly comments on a picture of the politician picking a book from the shelf at a book exchange station: ‘Not only is she pretty and happy, she is also well-read!’

So, folks, the message is that a woman can be smart, can be pretty (although the latter one is somehow not okay,) but she cannot be both, and she certainly cannot be genuine. Of course, conservative female politicians on the right fare are even worse in the leftist mainstream media and on social media with haters being unable to stomach public figures like Katalin Novák Minister for Family Affairs, or Judit Varga Minister for Justice, happily married mothers of three. It seems to be unforgiveable that Novák is not only good-looking, athletic and intelligent, but can and does knit, cook and bake! Or that Judit Varga is not only a brilliant minister, but also an excellent violinist. Unheard of, isn’t it?

Picking on Kunhalmi is also interesting because DK “strongwoman”, not-so-attractive Klára Dobrev is never singled out in memes or nasty articles on the left for the glaring discrepancy between her visions of a poor and miserable Hungary and the fabulous wealth of her ex-Communist family. While another (also attractive) female socialist politician’s since deleted Instagram post on her luxury vacation on the Greek island of Zakynthos was deservedly remarked on by 444.hu and has become the subject of countless articles and memes of the right, the strong suspicion that DK president and ex-PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, Dobrev’s husband, has a drinking problem is never mentioned in the leftist media, including would-be-hip 444.hu. As opposed to that, the apparent misstep on her social media channels by Kunhalmi got disproportionately highlighted by the news website, an all-boys club where a mere 26 per cent of the reporters are female. And if they are so progressive, and lament the small proportion of females in the Hungarian parliament and the alleged sad state of women’s equity in Hungary, how come they treat female politicians the way they do and why do they have so few female journalists? 444.hu also never comments on the fact that despite the alleged total lack of media freedom in Hungary and the brutal repression of dissenting voices by the evil Orbán government, they have a sizeable editorial board of 38. (A side comment: the other flagship outlet of the progressive end of the media spectrum, Telex, has a massive board of 67 (!) journalists, of which only 31 per cent are female.) So, the question arises: if it is an issue that Kunhalmi loves dogs, selfies with sunflowers and good food under a repressive Orbán regime, how does 444.hu explain the fact that the liberal news media is clearly thriving?

On the other hand, the implicit rebuke behind the 444.hu reporting on Kunhalmi’s social media activity is not only problematic because it is misogynistic. What it also does is that it reinforces the idea that our happiness depends on the government. Kunhalmi cannot and should not be jolly under Orbán’s autocracy! This absurdity has taken a deep root in our divided, secularized and politicized society. Many have come to believe that there is nothing they can do about the quality of their life because Orbán, while people across the board fantasize about moving abroad if the “other” side wins, or subscribe to Armageddon-like scenarios in case of a victory by the hated adversaries. 

I certainly hope that there will be a conservative government in power after 2022, but I will most definitely not fall into deep depression should the other side win the elections. Naturally, many measures that can be expected from a potential left-liberal (plus crypto-fascists; see Jobbik) government would affect me directly or indirectly – for instance a rise in the personal income tax, just to name one. But my personal happiness and fundamental outlook on life does not depend on who is governing the country. My family, friends, homeland and faith will not go away, no matter who is in power. And I promise I will be posting about the happy moments in my life, and dare look good and feminine, in those posts whatever happens next spring. 

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