Title

Public nuisances: Women's groups and the significance of their activities in post-communist Hungary

Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Advisor(s)

D. Marie Provine

Keywords

Public nuisances, Women's groups, Post-communist, Hungary

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Women's Studies

Abstract

Women's groups form an essential element of democratization because of their engagement in and extension of the public sphere in post-communist Hungary. My study of women's groups in Hungary raises two important, yet seemingly contradictory issues: why so few women are willing and/or able to engage in action to improve their status in a democratic society; and what women can achieve though political action. Both quantitative and qualitative data analysis and interpretation revealed the various economic, social, political and cultural dimensions of women's organizations. I conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews, engaged in participant observations and analyzed women's groups' written materials. I also used international statistical and survey data to establish the impact of changes in the macro-economic situation on women in Hungary. Women's groups have faced many obstacles in post-communist Hungary, such as ambivalence about the communist/socialist past, anti-feminist sentiments and lack of historical awareness. Over 40 women's groups have nonetheless managed to form. I discuss women's actions and focus on the media, symbols, services and efforts to combat violence against women and social welfare cutbacks and reforms. The diversity of the modes and means of participation illustrate the close connection between democratization and empowerment in public and private lives. Through interdependence and interaction between newly emerging institutions of democracy and women's groups, I see women setting foot within the boundaries of democratic public life in Hungary; women's groups are at the forefront of redefining those boundaries. The issues of violence against women and of social welfare policy have provided the gateways through which women's groups are most likely to enter public deliberations. Women's activism has affected governmental decisions on the definition and implementation of welfare reforms; it also has raised public awareness about violence against women.

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