Last week, it was announced that the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is proposing to ban Gender Studies degrees, as employers tend to show “little interest” in the subject. Although this seems like a helping hand for graduates seeking employment, it is none other than a ploy to restrict left-wing mindsets standing up to Orbán’s Fidesz party.
Supporters of Orbán’s newest fad in creating an illiberal democracy criticise the relevance of gender studies in modern Europe, with Bence Rétvári, Minister of Human Resources, saying, “the subject of the discipline goes against everything the government stands for.” There’s nothing quite like a finely constructed hyperbole to illustrate dictatorial, homophobic ideals. This isn’t the first time the government has cracked down on liberalism in universities. Last year, there was a proposal to shut down the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, resulting in mass protests across the Hungarian capital. Eventually, the government refrained from this decision, but Fidesz’s fascist campaigns are still very much alive.
It is none other than a ploy to restrict left-wing mindsets standing up to Orbán’s Fidesz party
So why is Orbán exercising his powers against independent research and academia? Orbán’s newest target is the Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros for his humanitarian attitude towards refugees – conflicting with Fidesz’s fierce defence of “Christian Europe.” Soros has also financially helped the CEU, meaning that the government’s attack on the university is an attempt to vanquish all branches of left-wing opposition. Ironically, Soros also helped to fund Orbán’s and his fellow politicians’ studies at Oxbridge in 1989. At the time, the current prime minister was frustrated with the prevailing socialism he was experiencing in Hungary, and wanted to demonstrate his anger to authoritarian figures intent on silencing his voice. Sound familiar?
Over the past couple of years, Orbán has conducted several attacks on liberal democracy, including shutting down the popular left-wing newspaper Népszabadság – literally translating to freedom of the people – without warning in 2016. More recently, he has made it a crime for NGOs to assist asylum seekers, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó stating in an interview with Emily Maitlis that the current migration policy is “not against European values.” This deep-rooted insecurity of liberalism runs to the point of the party’s ridiculous threat to ban Heineken, purely because of its red star logo. If Dutch lager truly is the elixir of Communism, I’m pretty sure Corbyn wouldn’t be teetotal any more.
A single government, primarily made up of white males, cannot determine every student’s interest, nor can it control and cultivate its younger, much more liberal opposition – tens of thousands took to the streets of Budapest after Orbán won a landslide victory in this year’s election; parties against Fidesz believe the party used illegal funds for its electoral campaign. Many Hungarians also changed their Facebook profile pictures to blank, black squares, envisaging bleak prospects under Orbán’s third term as prime minister. It is obvious that Orbán has noticed this growing opposition of young people, and is desperately attempting to eliminate its liberal thinking, as the xenophobic, anti-Soros propaganda plastered on blue billboards all across the capital city don’t seem to have worked.
The government’s attack on the university is an attempt to vanquish all branches of left-wing opposition
It is true that differences in sexual orientation and gender are still quite controversial and complicated topics in the world – which is why they need to be implemented in education, so that we become a much more tolerant and understanding society. Ignorance of the value of gender studies has clearly taken its toll, with the Hungarian State Opera’s sudden forced closure of Billy Elliot, for fear of the musical turning Hungarian boys gay. This issue must be addressed, and proves only one thing – a gender studies degree in such a homophobic and misogynistic nation is now more relevant than ever before.
Abolishing access to knowledge, be it burning books or eradicating fields of study, is the absolute result of totalitarianism. A government disguising its outdated viewpoints beneath a phoney mask of concern for the employability of its future is a government to be disputed with, and is an insult to all students, especially to the revolutionary student Orbán once was.