To be or not to be feminist?

Piros Photography

This article was published a few years ago in the English edition of ‘The New Presence’ – an interesting political/social/cultural journal in Prague, Czech Republic, wich has long history.  They publish a Czech and an English version. Later a Russian Feminist organisation re-published it on their website. (I have re-edited it recently). Originally I wrote it when the editor asked me to write about ‘Feminism and Hungarian women’. I told him I did nto have a clue. I emigrated to London in 1978, and even if I was still living in Hungary I may not know the opinion of more than a handful women. Instead I wrote down my own story in relation to feminism – and he said he loved it so it was published, despite being ‘subjective’. In fact I can not be anything else than subjective. Plus I want to be honest.

When I was a child…

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To be or not to be feminist?

This article was published a few years ago in the English edition of ‘The New Presence’ – an interesting political/social/cultural journal in Prague, Czech Republic, wich has long history.  They publish a Czech and an English version. Later a Russian Feminist organisation re-published it on their website. (I have re-edited it recently). Originally I wrote it when the editor asked me to write about ‘Feminism and Hungarian women’. I told him I did nto have a clue. I emigrated to London in 1978, and even if I was still living in Hungary I may not know the opinion of more than a handful women. Instead I wrote down my own story in relation to feminism – and he said he loved it so it was published, despite being ‘subjective’. In fact I can not be anything else than subjective. Plus I want to be honest.

When I was a child, about 5-6 years old, I was occupied with death, and with the question, what happens after death? I used to ask my mother about it. I did not admit that understanding death itself was my painful subject, I just used to ask her about what happens after death. She used to say, that there was a Heaven and a Hell waiting for people, and we, the members of our family, and all our friends would definitely end up going to Heaven.

My next question was: is there a ‘ringlispil’ in Heaven?

Ringlispil is the Hungarian word for a special swing, although the word comes from the German language. This amazing swing takes you high up in the air, and it turns you round and round making large circles. You can find them in Hungarian fairs. Those days I was living in Budapest, and was lucky to grow up on one of the Buda hills, called Gellérthegy. A part of Gellérthegy is known as Tabán, and when the fair arrived there once a year, for me it was as special as Christmas. Because of the central position of Taban overlooking the Danube and the historical centre of Budapest, if you were riding the Taban ringlispil, you had the most amazing views. Depending on the actual position of your swing while turning round the large circle, for a few seconds you could see Central Pest, then the Danube, then the eastern of western end of the town, then the park and trees around you. I could not imagine anything more beautiful.


I wanted to know if I could continue riding the ringlispils after I die. My mother honestly answered, that she thought there were no ringlispils in Heaven. She said, the body did not go to Heaven, only the soul.

I decided I did not want to go to Heaven. ‘Ringlispil’ was for me the symbol of happiness, a happiness of mind and body together, calm ecstasy. Of course, I did not put these words together when I was a child. The experience meant for me the ultimate joy of life. My mind melted from the feeling of highness, speed, dizziness.

Later on in my life I forgot this question. I have never been as much occupied with the question of death, as I was when I was a young child. I forgot my other ‘metaphysical’ questions too, like what makes me, or any human being into an individual? Does the universe have and end? And so on.

In my teenager years I kept the idea of the ‘ringlispil’ without using this word. Instead, I started to admire people like Janis Joplin, and was dreaming about sailing through the world on a motor-cycle. So ‘ringlispil’ offered the type of experience which I wanted (at least occasionally) from life. I did not want to be a hedonist, going on this or that type of ringlispil every day or every hour of my life, but I wanted to have a life and a type of personality, which is able to enjoy this type of experiences. Enjoy it, create it, and offer it to others. In other words, I did not want to become a bore. That was my worst nightmare: to have a boring life, and a boring self.

It was clear for me when I was about 14-15, that marriage was boring. It was also clear for me that I did not want to become a type of woman whom men hate. Listening to jokes – ordinary jokes told on trains, on the TV, read in joke-papers, it was clear: men hated wives. So I decided that I would never become a wife, and would never marry. I wanted children, but I thought I would live together with other young people in some type of commune. I wanted to be attractive, but I was convinced I was very ugly, and I had this intellectual up-bringing which taught me that my worth was measured by the number of books I read, so I was reading day and night. I thought, my prince would find me if I become very clever.

At the age of 16 I met a woman called Julia Veres, who had read lots of American feminist books and articles and she wanted a collection to be published in Hungary. She wrote a few pages summary in order to present it for publication. This was in 1972. She told me, at several publication houses in Budapest the editors laughed at her. No one published any of the material that time, as far as I know. Those days, even your best female friends tended to laugh at you if you just mentioned the word ‘feminism’.

I became so enthusiastic about her summary that in my Secondary School during our special History seminar, I asked for a chance to introduce these ideas, and for my surprise the (male) teacher offered one of the classes for me to talk about these writings. Despite his positive response it was clear for me that I was potentially making myself a target of ridicule by others. However I remember that during the classes (other classes, e.g. maths or language), me and my friends used to read the pages and we passed these to each other secretly under the tables and chairs. At least while they were reading the summary my school-friends were completely immersed in it. – For me, these pages gave me the first words and theories to describe and justify the gut feelings I had against marriage, against living under the power of a man, against all the hypocrisy which was well known.

During the next few years I became a bit mixed up, due to my participation in the soul-killing social life of the young opposition and young cultural underground world in Budapest. The sexual relationships and the partnerships were usually destructive, and people were virtually forcing each other to accept the morality of the ‘sexual revolution’ – which I tried, but I never fitted into it. The political opposition around the mid-70’s was asleep in Hungary, many of it’s members were depressed, emigrated or committed suicide, in large numbers. Hungary (with Japan) was leading the World- statistics in suicides those days. There was almost no action, and the atmosphere was suffocating – at least that is how I experienced it. I decided to emigrate, to escape a slow death.

I arrived in England in 1978, age 22. In England I was among the very-very few Hungarians who emigrated on their own. I have only ever met three others who came alone. Most Hungarians arrived with friends, partners, or they came to the UK to marry some English hero or heroin. And emigrating on your own is a completely different experience. It is a psychological suicide, as a friend warned me on my arrival. It also throws you into the deep water – the few of us who arrived alone got to know the English/British scene better, and we all happened to prefer the radical edge. We all got involved in squatting for awhile (living in occupied flats).

I only had a short association with Hungarians. During the first month I was living in the kitchen of a small house occupied downstairs by about six Hungarians and upstairs by about 10 New Zealanders. Even that kitchen was shared between another woman and me. They sent me on my way soon, and I also felt it was time to start to avoid Hungarians, so looked for English people and foreigners. I was ready for adventure, was hungry for experience and learning. About half year after emigrating I became pregnant and I decided to search for my ideal commune. Not finding any decent commune in London I travelled to Wales, Scotland and Ireland to find ‘my people’, whom I would instinctively like, and who would be living together in the way I dreamt about. I visited at least fifteen communal set-ups, and did not like them. Eventually I accepted my defeat, and settled down on my own with my baby-daughter in a council flat.

During the first years I got to know academic, religious, socialist, pacifist, anarchist, right-to-work, right-to-not-work etc crowds. I did not find anything convincing or attractive about any of these groups, I was getting increasingly disappointed. I found their ideology lacking (in just about everything). \on s human level there was no warmth or spontaneity. Even the anarchist groups felt too formal. Finally by accident I found a few feminist lesbian women who wanted to set up a home-made small nursery (crèche) in their own house, and I wanted to join them.

For about a year we were running the crèche together. We had five babies, we paid an extra worker and we all worked in the crèche one day/week. Through these women I was thrown into the middle of English feminism, how it was, at the beginning of 80’s. Despite the fact that I did not become a lesbian, I started to get involved in conferences, newspapers, parties – where just about everybody else were lesbian. A large number of these women were ‘separatists’, which meant they wanted to avoid men altogether. Although several of them had sons, they said, they were happy to bring up their sons, because their sons would become the example of men-kind (kind-men). These children were often the products of earlier relationships, although some of the kids were created by artificial insemination. My new friends did not allow adult men coming to their house, and they tried to work in women’s environment. They said that the whole society was arranged in a way that women had to spend all their energies ‘looking after’ men, worshipping and serving them, tolerating their stupidity, their violence, taking humiliation – and they wanted to spend their limited energy on, and with women. This was OK for me.

One evening I was in the living room of my friends baby-sitting for their children, and I opened a book. Suddenly I saw that I was damned: it said, I was ‘sleeping with the enemy’. I was shocked. I never thought, and would never accept to think that the men I slept with in my life were my enemy. I slept with them, because I loved them. Why on Earth should I think about them individually, as my enemy? But at the same time I felt really awkward. I imagined that these women always thought about me that I was betraying them. I felt I would not be able to face them the same innocent way as before. I also feared that I could not argue against their argument, because logically speaking they were probably right. If men oppressed, exploited and humiliated women (even if not all of them did), then the choice of heterosexuality exposed me to the blame that I was maintaining that oppressing system.

A mental battle began. I felt I had to prove them wrong. I started to write, first just to clear my mind. I wrote something which I still keep, which is a bad writing, but it was my half-successful attempt to safe my soul and my heterosexuality. By that time a number of women approached me, and I started to feel strong attraction and love towards a woman, although nothing ever came out of it. But that experience convinced me that the type of sexuality we have is the produce of social-learning and expectations. Anyone’s could change. I always thought that we were all basically bi-sexual, or have bi-sexual tendencies, but for some reason we are being pushed in one or another direction (with a number of people choosing both sexes).

My main argument against my friends was, that there were many types of oppressions and exploitations, and there was no reason why we should choose women’s oppression as the most vital one. My writing aimed to attack any movement that tried to decide, which was the most important oppression, usually by generating a hate-campaign against a specific group of people or institution. The socialists claim the devil is Capitalism; Trockists claim it is Stalinism; anarchists claim it is the State; feminists claim the problem is Men; certain anti racists claim it is White people as such; pacifists might claim War. I was arguing that feminist women created a pathetic ethos, claiming that they “loved” ALL women – while in reality there were many reasons why they might belong to different groups who oppress or exploit each other (e.g. social class, privileges). A rich feminist woman can live off the work of another woman, if not hundreds or thousands of other women – so why claim she “loves” them? I also argued that women, inc. feminist women might have lots of reasons to compete with each other, e.g. trying to prove who is MORE feminist.

Gradually I moved away from them, as I have disappeared from every other political or other movement, big and small group, which made me curious for awhile in my life.

My feminist-lesbian friends also felt disappointed in me, because even after years of friendship I kept myself different. I constantly broke the rules of engagement, and I argued with everyone. Even worse, I moved together with my long-time partner who was a man, and soon gave birth to two more children, both incredible beautiful and lovely boys. I was told off for “selling out” by one of the women (who had a child by artificial insemination and was living together with another woman in a traditional marriage-like-suffocation, which I used to experience in their house several times weekly).

My last involvement with feminists happened through the peace movement. One day in the middle of the night, an old hippie friend knocked on my door. She wanted to know, if she and about ten other people could sleep in my flat, as they were going to create a peace-camp the following day in Jubilee Gardens, in the heart of London. I let them in and next day I went with them. I thought politically they had not much to say, but they were a very nice bunch of people. The peace-camp was good fun, there was tasty vegetarian food cooked together. I almost felt I found my dreamt-about communal life. My daughter also loved the playful lively village-atmosphere, as there were many other children around and many nice adults to give attention to little children. This was the time of the Greenham Common Women-only peace-camp. Things were different, and many people had this feeling of optimism, that they were changing history. Unfortunately at the Jubilee Gardens Peace-camp the idyll was disturbed when skinheads attacked our camp, they tried to stab some of the sleeping people from the outside of a tent. We moved back home.

From these pacifists I heard about a meeting organised about ‘East European women and the peace movement’. That made me curious. By that time (1982) I started to forget the fact that I was from East Europe. I hardly sew any Eastern Europeans for years. For the ordinary English feminist women whom I knew earlier, it was absolutely meaningless that I came Hungary. I was a woman, end of story.

So dying with curiosity I went to the meeting, which took place in a University. There the women decided to organise a whole day conference on the same subject. I offered to help, but I felt funny. I did not know why. During the organising process I felt over-powered by the perspectives of the English women, including women who told us their parents were from Eastern Europe but they were born here. I could not find anyone to identify with, but I was not yet able to articulate what was bothering me.

The conference took place. I don’t remember details, apart from loosing the drink-bottle of my daughter in the crèche. And I remember I absolutely awful during the whole time of the conference. Like an alien. I did not feel the discussions were relevant to me at all.

It took me years to understand why. And also, to understand why I don’t want to be a ‘feminist’, while I am a feminist. Now it is simple. But those days, it was agony.

Last year I went into a bookshop, and I noticed a large book on display. It had something to do with women all over the world, perhaps “The end of feminism”, or something similar. I opened it. I looked through the chapters and among the about 20 subjects I managed to find one concerning Eastern Europe. The rest was about (and written by) women in England, USA, Africa, Ireland, Asia, the situation of Muslim women etc. A woman with an English name wrote the only chapter about Eastern European women. I got very upset, just seeing her name. Then I looked at what she had to say. It started with the usual cry: Why women in East Europe don’t want to become feminists?

I became red with anger. I shouted with them inside my own head: “You big-headed, patronising, cultural-feminist-imperialists, WHY CAN’T YOU ASK US TO SPEAK IN OUR OWN NAME?! How come you can ask Black women, Asian women, Irish women? How come, when people talk about having disabilities, having Aids, being gay, being transsexual, being Muslim, being anything – they can search for, at least, a token person from that community? But NOT when they are talking about US!” We don’t really exist! Not even for the women. Or especially not for the feminist women! It hit me that I felt SO ALIENATED when I was friendly with those feminist-lesbian women. Because they showed the LEAST interest about me, about my background – and they expected me to become a ‘club’-member. SOMEONE WHO IS LIKE THEM AND WHO LIKES THEM. They wanted me to adapt to their values, their way of dressing, speaking, being with each other. (I remember one of them, a psycho-therapist became red, and they all looked at me with a shock, when I told her in a party, in front of several others that I liked her face. This honesty was not part of their games. But she did have a lovely clown-looking face, with a good smile printed on it.) They ‘tolerated’ my heterosexuality (at least for the time being, hoping I would eventually give it up), but they did not tolerate my different personality. I remember, once one of my super-intelligent lesbian friend told me, when I told her half-jokingly that I was ‘very unique’, – she said that was a dangerous idea. I half-knew what she was trying to say. I thought she felt I was trying to distinguish myself by putting down ‘other women’ when claiming to be so unique. As if others were not. The message was: be like any other women, we are all OK and loveable. They also got very upset when one evening I went to see them with my small daughter, without pre-arranging it. They explained me that in the future I should phone several days earlier if I wanted to visit them. The appointment-booking social life of the English people never attracted me, but it took me years to “accept” that even many young people need “appointments” to meet up with each other. I tried and tried to do it without appointments, encouraging people “just to turn up”, but I will never forget the face of my lesbian friends when I “just turned up” to see them because I felt like it. Perhaps this was the final straw for me.

After finding that book a year ago, I knew exactly what I hated about the whole English feminist attitude. THEY SIMPLY TAKE IT FOR GRANTED THAT THEY CAN DEFINE WHAT FEMINISM IS. AND THEY WANT TO DEFINE WHO A FEMINIST IS. THEIR ANSWER IS SELF-EVIDENT FOR THEM: THEY ARE feminists, and feminism is whatever they believe. Similarly, how DEMOCRACY is being defined in the West: democracy is what we have. Democratic is, what we are. Or ‘civilisation’. And so on. So I realised, the whole question: Are Eastern European women feminists? or really, for that matter, Is anyone in the world a feminist? Or Should we be feminists? – all these questions are red herrings. Nonsense. In it’s present form this type of question, as far as it originates in West Europe or in America, means: DO YOU WANT TO BE LIKE ME? – And now, put a picture of a ‘typical’ English feminist next to the question. The typical English (or American) feminist is the one, who would like the rest of womanhood to become like her. She is the example. I could call her feminist-imperialist, if it was not cheap. And I have met hundreds of them. (OK everyone is an individual, there are differences, still, many looked the same with short hair, ugly clothes – the image advertising the message:

I am not going to please men!”

So, I do not, did not and will not join their club. I am not going to become ‘one of them’. Even if I wanted to, I could not, my instincts are different.

I also remembered, that my writings about the situation of the women in Hungary (and in the ‘socialist’ countries) were rejected by the feminist papers and journals I turned to – during the early 80’s when I was desperately interested to address these issues publicly. Despite the fact that one of the best known feminist women from Russia contacted me after her emigration to France, and she wanted to work with me. She was so much promoted, that even Simon de Bouvier wrote about her. When she asked me to go to Paris or Vienna to work with her, I wrote to her, that I didn’t have enough money to get to Victoria Station, let alone to buy a ticket to Paris or Vienna.

During the 80’s I wrote to several English Feminist Publishers asking them to donate copies of unsold books and one copy each of the main feminist papers and journals so they could be sent to Hungary and Poland, as from both countries a few individual women and small feminist groups asked for it. However, I received no reply. I wrote again, repeating my request. Eventually I got one answer, which was negative. – So I realised, that all the cry about the “lack of feminism” in East Europe was hypocrisy, as important organisations failed to help.

And again, there was the whole issue of the ringlispil. As a child I decided not to go to Heaven because there was no ringlispil there. Then I decided not to marry, because I feared me and my life would become boring. It is the same trouble with the English feminists. I do not see much ringlispilling among them, despite some forced ‘fun’, laughter, and claims that they are enjoying themselves.

And in any case, English people have simply NO IDEA how much more free, beautiful, clever, creative, tough, honest, autonomous, spontaneous and self-reliant, self-determining (relatively, relatively) we are, Eastern European women, or many of us, then they have ever been or ever will be. It is not part of their culture. Sorry folks. And of course, I am only writing generalisations. If a Western person goes as far as putting into his/her hands this article, this newspaper, than perhaps, he or she belongs to the exceptions.

But we, Eastern European women, need to learn to be proud of our own qualities. And we have to start our own analysis, setting our own agenda. So far the discussion about ‘us’, about feminism as such, was set by the agenda, the values, norms, definitions of Westerners. The discussion had a West–East-West direction. We could break free from this, and start an East-West-East dialogue, in which they would be measured by us, and they would have to answer our questions. And, among ourselves, if we respected ourselves enough, we could even have East-East dialogues. For me, I perhaps said what I wanted to say. I guess I will look for my next ringlispil.

Piroska Markus

The mundane and the profound

The mundane and the profound




  1. lacking interest or excitement; dull.

    “his mundane, humdrum existence”

    synonyms: humdrumdullboringtediousmonotonoustiresomewearisome,prosaicunexcitinguninterestinguneventfulunvaryingunvaried,unremarkablerepetitiverepetitiousroutineordinaryeverydayday-to-dayquotidianrun-of-the-millcommonplacecommonworkaday,usualpedestriancustomaryregularnormalMore
  2. of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one.

    “according to the Shinto doctrine, spirits of the dead can act upon the mundane world”

synonyms: earthlyworldlyterrestrialmaterialtemporalsecularnon-spiritual,fleshlycarnalsensual


“the mundane world”




  1. (of a state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense.

    “profound feelings of disquiet”

    synonyms: heartfeltintensekeengreat, very great, extremesincereearnest,deep, deepest, deeply felt, wholeheartedacuteoverpowering,overwhelmingdeep-seateddeep-rootedferventardent More
  2. (of a person or statement) having or showing great knowledge or insight.

    “a profound philosopher”

synonyms: wiselearnedcleverintelligent, with/showing great knowledge,knowledgeableintellectualscholarlysagesagaciouserudite,discerningpenetratingperceptiveastutethoughtful, full of insight,insightfulpercipientperspicaciousphilosophicaldeep

“a profound analysis of the problems”


Poor London, Elephant & Castle area, 27/05/2015


Lewisham Colours – the swimmingpool from the outside

To connect and disconnect: the soul and oppression

I have noticed the disconnectedness of people more strikingly when I moved to England. Mostly among English people. Thankfully, not all.

I believe it is less true about others, for example African, Asian and South American, Arab, Jewish people or Mediterranean Europeans. More typical of men than women. Perhaps it is essentially a West European male problem, which they have exported into those parts of the World they occupied and tried to Europeanize.

What happens in the heart and soul of the person who perceives other humans as inferiors, in need of his (or her) rule? This is my question.

If in any country an individual wants to enjoy – with a clear consciousness – the benefits of belonging to a privileged class they need to justify it to themselves intellectually and politically. In addition they need to distance themselves from those living in poverty who create their riches by types of work they do not know. They need to remove something from their soul in order to achieve that they will not feel the pain of those under them in the hierarchy. The class system has it’s psychological consequences and background for everyone involved. Those on the top created ‘charity’ to calm the pain they may still feel, and to try to convince themselves and others that essentially they are good people.

In order to colonize other countries, the individuals taking part in the process had to cut off some of their natural human feelings towards those human beings they started to rule over with even more cruel methods than practiced at home with the ‘lower classes’.

How could any man oppress, exploit and especially enslave another, if he feels the pain of the person whom he is abusing or enslaving? He must make his victim look essentially different, less of a human as himself. How could anyone force children into factories in their own country, or colonize another country if he perceived those whom he subjugated to be his equals? (I am using the term ‘man’ consciously because women were not creating this situation, although middle and upper-class women in the ‘mother-countries’ would have clearly enjoyed the financial benefit and the prestige of being the wife or daughter of rich people, belonging to the ‘masters’).

I imagine the individual men involved in the process of ruling ‘lesser classes’ at home and enslaving other people abroad, in order to cope with the task psychologically, were forced to alienate that side of their soul altogether which could potentially perceive all humans as his equal. This was perhaps relatively ‘easy for men’, or for the ‘normal’ men, as men have already practiced (all over the world) how to subjugate women. But after colonizing other countries their psyche must have become even more cut off from their heart (if we can assume that everyone is born with a pure human heart). This in turn would have affected their relationships with their own family, with their wives, mothers and children, with other white men, and may have spoiled their relationship with their own selves.

Man in white coat

Through the European worship of rationality white men have developed the art of over-justifying what they are doing, even if they feel it is wrong. They developed racist theories for the justification of the subjugation of people whose skin colour happened to be different. But when economically beneficial, they easily transferred the racist ideas to other ethnic groups, whose skin colour was the same as theirs, for example against Irish people, whom they also sold as slaves for many years. Our history books don’t often talk about this. In the last few decades racist ideas are used against Eastern European immigrants and ‘guest-workers’. However even in this context white West European people find it easier to start a hate-campaign when the skin-colour is different, see the hostile press against East European Romas moving to West Europe.

I always thought that men’s domination over women distorts the male psyche more than it distorts the female psyche. I think it is also true about white men’s domination over other people generally. Frantz Fanon, in his famous book ‘White Skin Black Masks’ was perhaps the first to give a thorough analysis of the psychological damage colonization caused in the psyche of the colonized people. What I am thinking about now, is the psychological damage it has caused in the psyche of the colonizing rulers, and their descendants, among who I am living now in England.

If people try to liberate themselves by copying the distorted psyche of their oppressors, e.g. women copy men, black people try to behave like white people, then the whole world will be as fucked up as the ‘normal’ people are in this part of the world.

I think there is a growing number of beautiful English men and women who are different, who are not described by the above. However normally they make special efforts to distance themselves from the ugly past and the ugly current British colonization efforts in various parts of the World.

As usual, the colonization going on currently is called something else. Hundreds of years ago they were ‘spreading Christianity’ to ‘save the souls’ of people, they were ‘civilizing so called barbarians and primitives’. Now Western and American foreign wars and occupation is carried out in the name of ‘spreading democracy’, ‘humanitarian aid’ ‘development’, even ‘women liberation’ (in Afghanistan apparently). And my lovely English friends who oppose these, may be perceived as ‘mad’, ‘bad’ or ‘odd’ by their neighbors or in some cases even by members of their own family if they don’t hate those people (with brown-skin-colour) who are officially identified as the ‘enemy’ right now.

Most importantly, many English people have re-structured their psyche and became more relaxed, a bit like the African or Latin people who do not distance themselves from others the same way as West European people have been distancing themselves for hundreds of years. They are able to connect with others, hear the perspective of people who come from all over the world, feel their pain and joy and listen to their stories.

Piroska Markus

(P.S. I found the children-photo which appears above this essay on Facebook, unfortunatley I don’t know who took it so I am unable to credit the great photographer. The other photo – of the man crossing the road – was taken by me).


Brighton. Exploring the night. May 2015