"Hungarian women are killing men". This is how Hungarian neo-populists explain the low life expectancy of Hungarian men. The title of my thesis, Suicidal masculinity: Hungarian Men's Lives, points in an alternative direction. The low life expectancy of Hungarian men is primarily explained by the practices of men and not those of women. I argue that in a figurative sense the masculinity of a large share of Hungarian men is suicidal.
My fieldwork was carried out in Budapest. In the thesis masculinity is analysed with reference to the following four domains: family life, work, leisure and consumption. These domains are of importance for male identity and how masculinity is practised. To exemplify, the position as the family's breadwinner is essential to Hungarian men and their male identity. Being the breadwinner legitimises a man's position of authority. A man unable to support his family is not entitled to exercise the same level of authority as the man capable of fulfilling this expectation.
The competitive aspects of masculinity are essential in my analysis. Men in Budapest compete through engaging in different activities, drinking being one example. The male preserve of the kocsma (bar) stands out as perhaps the most important place for male sociability. Competitive drinking in the kocsma is basically all about measuring male strength. The man who can hold his drink well is perceived as being a strong man. My study shows that Herzfeld's notion of 'performative excellence' is applicable to the Budapestian context. What men do are not as important as how they do it. Put differently, the competition between men is more about 'being good at being a man' than 'being a good man'. Basically, the competition between men is about being perceived as a real man, which implies the successful way of being a man. I use the concept hegemonic masculinity about the successful way to be a man. Of course, not all men are real men or successful as men. Thus, I found it necessary to reveal substructures or subordinate masculinities. In my study I identified homosexuality as a key form of subordinate masculinity in Budapest.