Ákos Kovács – A Hungarian pop icon’s jaw-dropping sexism

Ákos Kovács is one of contemporary Hungary’s most established singers and songwriters, with over two decades of experience and fame under his belt, not to mention a prestigious Kossuth Award from the Government of Hungary. Ákos – as he is simply known in public – is also well-known for his conservative political and social views and there is nothing necessarily wrong with that. Musicians and other artists, like anyone else, are entitled to have a worldview and in some cases, public reflections on them, or indications of an underlying ideology or belief system can be refreshing, especially in comparison to the so many vapid “stars” of our time.

Yet what the otherwise talented musician said on one of Hungary’s major cable news networks – the right-wing Echo TV – revealed him to be an egotistical misogynist, with a terribly warped view of freedom of speech.

Ákos was featured on a cultural show hosted by Endre Kadarkai, who much to my surprise (I have a very low opinion of the often racist, anti-western and conspiracy theory-riddled Echo TV) did a commendable job with this interview. Mr. Kadarkai pressed Ákos on previous sexist statements that he had made, but in this interview he crossed a red line that even surprised the show’s host.

Ákos explained his views on women like this:

“Today it is forbidden for anyone to utter this. We live in such a free world, that it is simply impossible to call a spade a spade. I believe in something called normalcy. And I have also learned that what is outside the scope of normalcy is not normal. We are living within the context of a two thousand year old culture, or on the ruins of this culture. It is not a woman’s task to earn the same amount of money as a man. Their job is to fulfill the female principle, namely to belong to someone and to give birth to children for someone.” (The full interview is available here. The relevant section starts at the 9-minute mark.)

Ákos Kovács during his Echo TV interview.

Ákos Kovács during his Echo TV interview.

In addition to the raw sexism on display in this interview, another familiar narrative rears its head, namely that of socially liberal, politically correct “dictatorship” in Hungary, the “fear” and “oppression” that “Christian conservative” Hungarians must face at the hands of the “liberal media.” HFP’s readers are probably scratching their heads right now, and wondering if there is, perhaps, some other piece of land in this galaxy, also called Hungary.

Máté Kocsis, the Fidesz party’s national communications director and Mayor of Budapest’s 8th District, was among the first to chime in with this narrative:

“What they are doing to Ákos Kovács is disgusting. They lie about him, drag his name through the dirt and they label him. This is an old tactic against those who don’t say what the liberal fascists want to hear. They also want to dictate and set the boundaries of freedom of speech, as well as who has the right to enjoy this freedom.”

There were others who envisioned a new wave of liberal-fascist oppression and seemed largely unmoved by Ákos’ views on pay equity and the role of women in society, which in his mind is defined by little other than their relationship with a man. András Stumpf of the conservative Mandiner site wrote this on his Facebook page:

“It’s amazing how the opinion-terrorists have opened fire on the Kövér-speech and on Ákos’ statement. The closed, mendacious, freedom-denying and out-of-touch environment represented by our opinion-terrorists is simply unbearable. This is the liberal-fascist way, where an opinion does not result in a statement simply saying that one does not agree, but rather the nastiest personal attack…and in fact, not about what was actually said, but that which was never actually stated; that which is inserted into the original statement. This not only discredits our gender-nuts, but also all intelligent discourse.”

I sent Mr. Stumpf a note shortly after I read his Facebook post. (Every couple of months, we exchange messages.) What serves as a real turn-off in what Ákos had to say, is not only his rant against women, but the fact that this forty-something man vainly purports to have the world and society figured out, he allows for no nuance and no possibility that he may be wrong and that he may still have room to grow and change, in terms of his worldview. He sounds to me like a conceited, out-of-control, arrogant Eastern European nouveau riche, with a sense of entitlement, no filter and no sense of boundaries.

If we view freedom of speech from the perspective of complete and undiluted libertarianism, then one can say whatever one wants, with no regard for who might be hurt or made to fear by these statements. Hungarian misogynists can argue that women are mere belongings, who need not strive for pay equity. Romanian racists can freely note that Hungarian minorities in Transylvania should not strive to ever get hired in the local civil service or be represented in the police force. Minority Christian populations around the world should accept that in the name of free speech, the majority can discuss how to take away their rights and how to dehumanize them, just like Ákos dehumanized women.

But the foundation of a free and democratic society is responsible free speech. In a democracy, the views of individuals matter and these views often carry a certain weight. The words of some carry more weight than others, especially cultural icons, like Ákos, whose messages can be shared very widely. Freedom of speech has boundaries within which a safe and free public discourse can thrive. And ideally these boundaries are not set by government, but arise organically from society itself. Society rejects hate speech and applies pressure on the perpetrator of such speech to change his/her language, at least in public.

In Hungary, the German telecommunications giant Telekom, which is Ákos’ main corporate sponsor, has decided to distance itself from the singer. As well, I was pleasantly surprised to see how a pro-government news site, run by Modern Media Group Zrt., responded. “If you think that the only task of women is to belong to someone, then your only task is to play music. Don’t talk, just sing. That’s your role. Any maybe write a song about humility,” wrote the 888.hu site.

With a little humility and sense of personal responsibility for the public discourse, perhaps a more livable country could be created in the Carpathian Basin.



  1. Avatar Hungarian Free Press says:

    UPDATE: Hungary is officially a mickey mouse country. The Orbán government has cancelled all of its state mobile telephone and internet contracts with Telekom, as a show of solidarity with a pop star who made a fool of himself on national television.

  2. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    The musician’s mysoginistic, sexist nature is well known to anyone who comes into contact with him. I met him in 1992, when he wanted some help to gain access to sponsors. A young Canadian female colleague of mine, who happened to be in Budapest at the time enthusiastically volunteered to help him. Shortly afterwards she came to me crying, that she wants off the case because Ákos treated her in the most spiteful, bullying, sexist manner. We promptly severed all contact with him.

    Sexism is not a political flaw but a personality disorder. It’s male cowardice, a fear of equality between the sexes, that turns to hatred upon being called out. Sexism transcends political boundaries. Ákos happens to be the political troubadour of the FIDESZ-JOBBIK fraternity and does what His Master’s Voice commands. He fetches. He is amply compensated for his obedient, servile behavior towards the menfolk at the helm of Hungary’s ship of state. The menfolk at the helm do not care if their underlings hate women. For them “happiness is a warm gun”. (John Lennon) As long as the troubadour obeys, and sings the praises of the leadership, nothing else matters. I’m sure the singer is in line for another high state award. Budapest rocks….

  3. Maybe it’s wishful thinking or Jubilatio Praecox, but these relentless signs of wackiness from Orbanistan, compounding daily, are beginning to sound like the prelude to the inevitable implosion that all these Orbanistas have long been courting and so richly (sic) deserve. And maybe it’s been a good thing, too, that the loathesome cultural pathology that prevails in Hungary has been channeled into and by the one homunculus that runs the show. When he takes the fall, maybe the nation will be weaned at last from its own moral incubus. The only other option seems to be the rest of the world being transmogrified according to the dictates of the magyar self-delusion. Wouldn’t that be an absurd endnote to world history?

  4. One might add: if we view things “from the perspective of complete and undiluted libertarianism”, then Kovács would be free to say what he likes, but the media and others would be free in turn say whatever they like about Kovács, and his sponsors would be free to terminate contracts for whatever reason they like. So the claim that Ákos Kovács is the victim of some kind of “oppresion” or “dictatorship” because of the reaction he earned is not only false, but laughably inconsistent with its own assumptions. It is unlikely that Fidesz officials have made such remarks in good faith – they simply don’t think the Hungarian public are educated or smart enough to smell the stink of bullsh*t.

  5. well Akos is only saying what the average hungarian man and woman thinks, unfortunately. Of course I am generalizing, there are many exceptions, but generally speaking this is the attitude. Feminism is a dirty word and even though since the 1950s women go out and bring home the bacon, they are still expected, in fact they find it’s perfectly natural that they shoulder all the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing and dealing with the needs of ageing parents and inlaws. Of course this is also how many people feel things should be in the West as well, but the general consensus in the West is that women are equals.

  6. Deutsche Telekom is doing business in apartheid Israel. The discrimination of an oppressed people does not bother it there. Free Palestine, and resist the occupiers!


    Much to my surprise, based on watching the whole video, I found Akos szimpatikus, intelligent, thoughtful and sincere.

    I completely disagree with him about that one sentence that everyone is rightfully troubled by, but I do not think he deserved to be so vilified for it. He did not say it in such a way that he wanted to force it down everybody’s throat. There were many other anomalous things he said too — for example, about his antipathy for the fans who want to take selfies with him for their facebook pages when he is trying to be with his children for a soccer match or when they want to share their belief in UFOs with him: That did not sound arrogant at all. Rather, one felt sympathy for him. There was sense and sincerity in what he said, and I don’t think he was play-acting that he does not have an inflated opinion of himself, despite his popularity and success.

    The whole conversation sounded competely sincere. The way he stated his personal feeling that “traditional values” are “normal” — and his feeling that their rejection is not — was that he knows he is in the minority about this, and that he would feel the same way even if he were the last one on earth to feel it.

    His attitude put me more in mind of a decent, hard-working peasant — not a wife-beater — who simply can’t imagine any other way of life.

    Even the part about the man’s shoulder width and the woman’s hip width, and their respective purposes — the closest he came to falling for a vulgar, simplistic cliché — sound, in retrospect, again more like the beliefs and ethos of a simple but becsuletes paraszt rather than a male-chauvinist rock-star.

    I’ve often said that I do not share — with those who consider freedom of expression to be a value that trumps all others — the attitude that, even when it comes to hate speech, “I disagree but I will defend someone’s right to say it.” I don’t, and I wouldn’t.

    But based on that video I would defend Akos despite totally disagreeing with what he said (about women).

    I’d also like to test with someone who saw it — and who also understands the Hungarian language and style well enough to detect the nuances — my own perception of that much condemned pronouncement: From the accent and tone, what I heard was not the equivalent of “women don’t deserve equal pay,” nor that “they have not business wanting it.” The infamous “nem az a dolga” sounded to my ears as if what he meant was that they shouldn’t have to feel that that’s what they want. That’s just the righteous, Christian peasant again, unable to imagine otherwise.

    Now an anomaly is that Akos is clearly not that simple-minded. But maybe it’s his faith — another thing I would utterly disagree with him about — that makes him see things in that blinkered way. He is certainly nothing like Kövér, who really is a vile and vacuous villain.

    But there is one fact — if it’s a fact — that would completely overturn my interpretation of it all, and make me see it all as an act: If the rumour were true that he is on good terms with Orban (rather than that Orban is merely a big fan of his, the same way he is a fan of soccer). Because Akos is clearly far too smart not to see through Orban — if is realism and sincerity are real rather than feigned.

  8. A Bosszú Népe

    I withdraw my benign diagnosis.

    It is evidence of the weakness of my command of the Hungarian language (for which, under the circumstances, I hardly feel any regret) that although I understood every word of the Hungarian original of this jaded jingo jingle by Akos Kovacs I did not really appreciate the full force of its loathsomeness until I had translated it into English (stilted, so as to match the original: no effort at prettification here).

    Note the three lines starting with *asterisks, added to obfuscate, or on the advice of attorneys, or as yet another symptom of how deeply this vicious, paranoid delusion has wormed its way into the Hungarian psyche. To find the people of vengeance they need go no further than their mirrors.

    A bosszú népe — The people of vengeance

    Ákos Kovács

    A bosszú népe — The people of vengeance
    Úgy tenne jégre, — Would dispose of you
    Hogy ne is vedd észre, — So you did not even notice
    Hogy elpusztít — They were destroying you

    A lélek üressége, — Emptiness of spirit
    A mérce kettőssége, — Double standards
    Egy bosszúálló isten — A vindictive god’s
    Torzult tükörképe — Distorted image
    E szorgos nép, ha perbe fog, — This industrious people, if it pursues you
    Téged elevenen tűzre dob, — Throws you alive into the fire
    A harag réme, a béke vége, — A reign of terror, the end of peace
    Tombol a bosszú népe. — Wreacks the people of vengeance

    A bosszú népe — The people of vengeance
    Úgy tenne jégre, — Would dispose of you
    Hogy ne is vedd észre, — So you did not even notice
    Hogy elpusztít — They were destroying you

    Ne szabadkozz: Te szabad vagy, — Don’t beg pardon, you are free
    A hatalmad magadnak akartad, — You wanted the power for yourself,
    Hát szabad-e hagynod, hogy fúrja-tépje — So why should the people of vengeance be free
    Hazádat folyton a bosszú népe? — To tear and shred your homeland?
    Félnek tőled, rettegnek, — They fear you, they cower,
    És inkább elevenen esznek meg, — And rather eat you alive
    Csak nehogy el tudd mondani végre, — Just so you should be unable to tell
    Hogyan gyűlöl a bosszú népe. — How the people of vengeance hate you

    A bosszú népe — The people of vengeance
    Úgy tenne jégre, — Would put you on ice
    Hogy ne is vedd észre, — So you would not even notice
    Hogy elpusztít — That you were being destroyed

    A gyűlölet rabja — The slaves of hatred
    Majd kiforgatja — Will turn upside down
    Minden szavamat és átkoz — My every word and will curse
    *Mert aki brancsoknak tagja, — Because those who are members of the branch
    *Az ukázba kapja, — Are trained in the Ukase
    *Hogy üssön, ha nem tartozol a párthoz. — To beat you if you are not in the party.

    A bosszú népe — The people of vengeance
    Úgy tenne jégre, — Would dispose of you
    Hogy ne is vedd észre, — So you did not even notice
    Hogy elpusztít — They were destroying you
    Dúdold ezt a dalt, — Hum this song
    És aki gyűlöl majd érte, — And those who hate you for it,
    Az lesz a bosszú népe! — Those are the people of vengeance!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *