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Dispute over gender studies

August 13th, 2018

As the government proposes to cancel the accreditation of gender studies university degree programs, left-wing and liberal pundits accuse it of ideologically driven interference in higher education. Conservative commentators are divided on the proposed ban.

On Thursday, the Ministry ofHumanResources circulated a draft decree that would withdraw the accreditation of gender studies MA programs. Universities were given 24 hours to comment the draft., Gender studies programs are currently offered by two universities, ELTE and CEU. The Ministry of Human Resources said that gender studies education is economically not justified, and there is no public need for it anyways. The ELTE has announced that it accepts the ministry’s decision and comply with the new regulation. Government politicians have claimed in the past that gender studies should be regarded as ideological indoctrination rather than meaningful university education, and their core doctrines are contrary to the government’s values.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Dávid Dercsényi accuses the government of shutting down gender studies for ideological reasons. The left-wing liberal columnist contends that the move is motivated by the  government’s drive to express its commitment to traditional Christian values and underscore its anti-multiculturalism and anti-immigration stance. Dercsényi speculates that the government would also ban abortions in the name of Chrstian values if it did not fear public uproar.

On 24.hu, Attila Kálmán interprets the draft decree as a weapon in the government’s cultural warfare. By vilifying gender studies and feminism, he suggests, the government is creating an imaginary enemy against whom it can claim to defend Hungarians from disruptive Western progressive ideologies. The left-wing commentator characterizes this strategy as a common feature of populist right-wing parties.

“I hope all this is fake news,” Gábor Bencsik comments on the draft decree on Facebook. The conservative pundit believes that it is scholarly relevant and socially important to study the role of biological sex in society. Without learning the implications of gender, it is not possible to boost the birth rate and restore family love. Bencsik admits that some gender studies departments follow radical feminist and extreme liberal ideologies, thinks nonetheless that most gender studies departments are valuable. He calls on Christian conservative intellectuals to ‘protect the government from an ill-advised decision’.

Pesti Srácok’s Tamás Pilhál welcomes the government’s plan to ‘sweep universities clear of gender-agitators”. The pro-government blogger thinks that gender studies should not have been accredited in the first place. Pilhál disagrees with Bencsik and likens gender studies departments to ‘Satanist sects’, noting that gender studies are unlikely to help us ‘regain our reproductive capacity’. He adds that gender studies is a ‘fashionable Western stupidity’. Citing gender studies scholars, Pilhál notes that gender studies education does indeed try to facilitate the social acceptance and toleration of homosexuality and even of sex reassignment procedures.

168 Óra’s Győző Mátyás finds absurd the suggestion that gender studies want to advance transsexual norms. The left-wing columnist contends that gender studies is the scientific investigation of the construction of gender roles in society. Mátyás, however, acknowledges that some contemporary radical feminist activists including Andrea Dworkin and Judith/Jack Halberstam advocate ‘hair-raising’ ideas and use gender studies for ‘dogmatic’ political purposes. Mátyás thinks nonetheless that strong open societies can tolerate the discussion of such ideas, and only authoritarian regimes want to ban them.

In a Facebook comment, András Stumpf finds the government’s plan to ban gender studies nauseating. The conservative pundit finds transgender identities ridiculous, and describes the suggestion that biological sex is fully socially constructed as an absurd proposition. Nevertheless, he warns against what he calls a ‘Bolshevik tradition’ of infringment with institutional freedom in education.

Fruzsina Skrabski agrees with the government that culture and science are dominated by a liberal minority ideology. But the conservative columnist also finds it undesirable for the government to change liberal hegemony by deree. Instead, Skrabski calls for an open discussion between conservative demography scholars and gender studies professors.

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