Hungary Magazine

What can feminism look like in Hungary? Meet NEM!, the women for each other movement

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Budapest, Hungary –If you’re a Budapest local, NEM! may already be familiar to you from the stickers and menstrual product donation boxes in the toilets of your favourite bars and community spaces, but the movement’s campaigns extend to the online sphere and the streets of Budapest too. 

In the lead-up to “I Only Asked For One Thing!”, a Feminist Festival held at Auróra between 12-18 December, Lazy Women asked NEM! A few questions about feminism in Hungary, reactions to their campaigns, and their involvement in the festival. 

Could you briefly introduce NEM! to those unfamiliar with your work? How did it all start, and why?

The Women For Each Other Movement was founded in the summer of 2018 by a wide circle of friends. We started to self-organise because we were fed up with constantly having to deal with various forms of patriarchal oppression in our immediate environment and in our own lives. The organisation was born out of the realisation that we share a common experience, and the belief that we can empower each other and others to challenge oppression.

What feminist issues should be given more emphasis in Hungary?

In Hungary, there currently isn’t a big scene for the left-wing feminism critical of the capitalist patriarchal system that NEM! represents. In our campaigns and the issues we address, we try to highlight the inequalities and contradictions arising from global capitalism, especially the exploitation of women. 

As our convictions are rooted in the criticism of the system, we believe that to understand the situation of women, we need to look at the roots of oppression and the mechanisms that force women into certain social positions. The exploitation and oppression of women is a fundamental part of the functioning of capitalist patriarchy. It is therefore important not only to look for solutions to remedy the symptoms of the system but to criticise the system itself as well.

How does NEM! address these issues?

When the organisation was founded, we ran several projects at the same time: we organised feminist reading circles, made zines and raised awareness about menstrual poverty. Later, we started to work on different issues and problems through campaigns. This way, we can better use our resources, as everyone in NEM! is involved on a voluntary basis as an activist. Our first campaign was a feminist criticism of porn, entitled “Porn is not sex, porn is violence”, where we drew attention to the fact that although porn consumption is widely normalised, the porn industry is not only incredibly exploitative but also has terrible effects on its consumers. You can read more about this in our series of articles (in Hungarian).

Our next campaign, Make it visible!, focuses on reproductive and domestic work, drawing attention to the fact that these jobs are much more often done by women, are often unpaid or underpaid, without which it would be impossible for the capitalist system to survive. We launched the campaign with public action.

We are currently working on a follow-up to this campaign on the issue of paid reproductive and care work. The devaluation of these jobs under the current system is also clearly visible through the current teacher protests. It is the very professions and workers that the system treats as unimportant that are the ones who are in fact the foundations of our society. We can also recommend our series of articles on this topic (in Hungarian).

You can watch the public action launching the campaign here.

What difficulties have you encountered during the campaigns so far?

We have received the most backlash for our campaign criticising porn. Unfortunately, the normalisation of porn has led many people to interpret watching it as a “natural” part of their sexuality, and when we criticise porn as a phenomenon and an industry, they perceive it as a personal attack. It is essential to separate the two in order to develop a genuine discourse on the subject. It is also worth considering why the porn industry, which makes huge profits, can have such a powerful effect on individuals – by causing addiction, transforming sexual tendencies and habits, or normalising violence against women.

NEM! will also participate in the upcoming feminist festival in Auróra. What are you planning?

In line with the topic of our current campaign, we are preparing a workshop on reproductive work on Monday, but we will also have many other programs on offer. There will be a lecture in English on feminist movements in Hungary, a discussion on porn criticism, a joint panel discussion on women’s political mobilisation in cooperation with the Szikra Movement, and a discussion on bell hooks and her theories in cooperation with TEK. We hope to see you there!

You can find the full program of workshops and ‘non-conferences’ that NEM! and other organisations are hosting during the Feminist Festival here, and more information about the festival and its events here.

The festival is organised by: Auróra Közösségi Ház, Lazy Women, Marom Egyesület, NEM! – Nők egymásért mozgalom, Polémia Intézet, Szájensz Szeánsz, Szikra Mozgalom and sponsored by: Heinrich Böll Stiftung

This article was written by Johanna Ács and first published by Lazy Women, a Kafkadesk partner.

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.