Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Why the neighbours are furious with Hungary’s pre-World-War 1 map display

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Prime Minister of Hungary, Victor Orban | Source: European People's Party via Flickr

In the first week of May, 2020 the Prime Minister of Hungary, Victor Orban, conveyed his best wishes to the students appearing in history examinations. He may or may not have anticipated that his facebook post would create such fierce reactions in the neighbouring countries.

The controversial image, posted on Facebook, showed European countries of Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia within the borders of Hungary These countries came into existence when Austro-Hungarian state lost the World-War and signed the Treaty of Trianon in June, 1920 which envisaged the breakup of the empire.

Zoran Milanovic, the President of Croatia, was quick to respond to the post which persuaded the students of his country against posting such maps of Croatia which might ‘irritate’ the neighbours. “In our closets and archives there are numerous historical maps and maps that show our homeland much bigger than it is today … Don’t share them and put them on your profiles” he said.  

On the other hand, Ludovic Orban, Prime Minister of Romania, retorted in a very ironic manner. “The sparrow dreams of the dough” he said, referring to a Romanian proverb which means that Victor was just trying to put Transylvania, now in Romania, back in the Hungarian territory.

It is important to note that Romania is home to a large group of ethnic Hungarians and the loss of Transylvania is still a highly poignant matter for Hungary.

Daniel Bartha, from the Budapest-based Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID) thinks that there probably was no dual meaning rendered by Orban’s post. He said, “If there was a message in this, it was not intended to send it to other countries but it was a message to Romania… it is kind of a response to the ongoing clashes with Romania over the minority rights of Hungarian people living in Romania.”

Borut Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia said. "It is understandable and right that the recurring postings of maps which could be understood as an expression of territorial claims are met with rejection and concern by the democratic public and politics, including me as the president of the republic" .

Sebian Member of Parliament, Aleksandra Jerkov, called upon Aleksandar Vucic, President of Serbia, to lodge a protest against Orban regarding this issue.

It is worth mentioning that such controversial maps were displayed earlier as well by Victor Orban. In June, 2019, Orban’s office tweeted a picture of a similar map to celebrate Hungarian Day of National Unity, the day on which the Treaty of Trianon was signed. In December 2019, a Facebook photo posted by Orban showed a meeting of his party in progress under the same map.

The use of controversial map by Victor Orban fits perfectly well in his time tested strategy of using ultra nationalistic symbolism for solidifying his support base and continue to rule Hungry with an iron fist.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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