“Fauxminists”, Season 3.

28 Dec

There is a whole internet clusterfuck going on about Hugo Schwyzer (yet again) – and if you’d like to read about it: see Feministe discussions here and here. From my point of view, this is what basically happened:

1. Clarisse Thorn, a blogger who has written, I think, very interestingly about subjects other than Hugo Schwyzer, has posted an interview with him on Feministe.

2. People got angry, because Schwyzer has a, well, interesting history and an interesting present behaviour. As you can read in the posts (because I certainly will not link to Hugo himself), Hugo is somewhat of a (self-declared) poster boy for male feminist allies, teaches gender studies at Pasadena Community College, has his own blog and writes for other blogs (such as the Good Men Project which has been linked here before – definitely need to re-think that, obviously… :/) and is an influential and prominent voice within publicized Feminism™.

Hugo also has a history of sleeping with his female students whilst being their professor (and, well, somewhat bragging about it, I’d say), of being condescending and discriminatory towards women of colour, of trying to intertwine Feminism™ with Christianity (after he’s made a 180° religious turn, apparently), of profiting from a WASP and monetarily carefree upbringing and, oh, last but not least, of once trying to kill his ex-girlfriend who had apparently been abused that same day by another man, and was lying drugged and unconscious on his kitchen floor. When he was stopped by the police, he lied that it was a mutual suicide plan (when, in reality, he had decided for her that both of them should die now…) and, subsequently, never had to face any legal consequences. I was unaware of many of these pieces of information (that he himself revealed, except for the reports of discrimination against WOC…), and so were many other people – consequently, that led to a bit of a shock and rage that this dude is such a central figure, according to some (white) feminists, when it comes to promoting feminist work and his own career (which goes very well, apparently – at least he has tenure and a large fan base).

Hugo suffers from NPD and is vocal about that. That invited speculation about the way he deals with his past. Hugo also is open about his past mistakes and has apologized for some of them. That invited speculation whether this subsequently requires (un?)conditional forgiveness (and if forgiving means forgetting).

If you read his post (linked in one of the Feministe threads I have linked above) about the “incident” of attempted murder, you (well, I ;)) might get the feeling that he doesn’t really understand what the problem is, though… That’s because: he doesn’t. He seems to see himself as the actual victim here, and is now whining about all the rage he encounters because of his past and present behaviour.

Boo Hoo. ‘Tis tragic, indeed.

People have gotten angry with him (and Clarisse for providing a forum for him, yet again) and I am sure he has, as he has said, gotten some ugly and horrific hate mail (and personally think that this is understandable, but not justifiable).

And here’s the But you were sensing: This is not the actual problem. Here’s the actual problem:

1) Hugo Schwyzer’s history and present behaviour.
2) A prominent feminist blog like Feministe gave him an explicit platform to talk about himself yet again (…however: Feministe apologized and gave people the opportunity to talk about it).
3) New shit has come to light (sorry, I couldn’t resist that phrasing), namely, that he has a history of condescension towards POC, and attempted to murder his ex-girlfriend.
4) People were shocked and reacted, maybe not always appropriately but never viciously, to this fucking frightening piece of new information.
5) Clarisse then decided to close down the thread where people were talking about this, officially due to a “tone” argument.

Instead of maybe addressing the issues that people have brought forward, namely Schwyzer’s racist behaviour towards WOC, the abuse of a power structure to get laid, and, last but not least, the attempted murder that he confessed (after checking with a lawyer that he is indeed safe from any legal repercussions, but has a wonderful new purgatory story to tell to his fans and sponsors), some people can’t help but defend him against all these upset, silly women and/or mourn white women’s tears for awesome white dude.

Moreover, and what truly pisses me off: Hugo is now whining about the evil treatment he is subjected to on several social networks.  He also mentions that he was very grateful for supporting e-mails, and then people rush to assure him that the backlash he is facing now is what you get “when you put yourself out there”, and that he is magnificently suited to teach young men about the meaning of being an ally. So this is what he and his apparent fan base take from the various criticisms of his work, behaviour and treatment of people. This is what a great “ally” looks like who should teach other men* how to be one themselves? And not only does he not seem to be able to reflect on what people have said here over and over again, he seems to still see himself as the actual victim (just as the post about the attempted murder implicitly stated, since he is now the one having to live with this horrible guilt and constant fear that his ex-girlfriend’s “very influential parents” – obviously not influential enough to break down his white male privilege to NOT be persecuted for an “incident” like attempted murder, though… – might come after him with a lawyer and all…). Again: boo-hoo.

Yet, some people (who like or admire or have sympathies or whatever for Hugo) try to frame this solely about forgiveness and humanitarian values and paint, well, critical voices (some without doubt over the top, most of them not) as hypocritical monsters with no decency and no respect for this poor dude. Honestly? How can anyone still defend him, reading and seeing this? Where exactly is the line that “feminist allies” cannot cross (and it is so preposterous to have to write that after giving the examples of what Hugo’s past and present stand for)? Why can’t “the line”, for once, be the testimonies of women of colour who report of his discrimination against them (…and could be believed for a change)? Why is attempted murder still not “the line”, since he’s totally filled with remorse (which… he does not seem to be, actually, as people have pointed out – given his interesting comparison of attempted murder of an ex-girlfriend with letting someone else’s dog get away when you’re responsible for dog sitting, for example – and really shouldn’t be the focus of this clusterfuck-evaluation anyway, as so many people also said before)? If Hugo Schwyzer is the poster boy for feminist allies and “reformed men”, I’d rather have none. If you think that a “reformed” poster boy’s self-presentation is more important for Feminism™ than creating a safe(r) space for actual abuse survivors and, you know, for once in your goddamned life, listen to WOC, then I’d rather not have you claiming you’re a feminist.

You really couldn’t make this shit up.

And here are some other responses that I think are very worth reading and express so much more than this rant…:

Midwest Mountain Mama [update: not available at the moment]

The Bitterist [update: not available at the moment]

La Lubu

Radical Hub

Update: Maia on Feministe

8 Responses to ““Fauxminists”, Season 3.”

  1. zweisatz December 28, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Thanks for this post! I didn’t read much of his pieces because … you can do the male ally thing better, but just wanted to say that he resigned from the good men project. The reasons are not very relevant to the points you’ve raised though.

    And in my opinion, NPD cannot be the only excuse, you still have to take part of the responsibility.

  2. kiturak December 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Wow, just finished half of the tab explosion. Great links! I missed all of this completely, and it sounds just awful. (I’m not reading through all of the X comments on Feministe – frankly, I’ve been through enough of their intersectionality messes, racist, ableist, classist, … every once in a while, I stop reading there for some time.)
    Yeah, I definitely think there’s a tendency to prioritize those Who Are Learning (that was The Bitterist – what a name! :D)/”allies” over those who feminism actually should fight for – like you said. And, ugh, this!

    incite! has published or been intimately connected to the publication of various work questioning and building on restorative/transformative justice in context of intimate partner abuse. namely: the revolution starts at home. which oh, wasn’t promoted on any of the big feminist blogs—but hugo’s work was.
    and none of this gets into the work that indigenous feminists have done, chicana feminists, latina feminists, black feminists, immigrant feminists, sex worker feminists, disabled feminists, etc etc etc have done around the prison industrial complex—which we’ve *had* to because so much of our lives intersect on a *daily* bases with prison pipelines and paramilitary type presence of police in our barrios and hoods.

    :D This kind of sounds like I only liked the links, sorry, I didn’t! I just don’t have much to add – you’re completely right.

  3. Tim December 29, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    I was actually suprised to see that people were furious about his attempted murder spiel. I mean it isn’t exactly new information (I read it on his blog a year or two ago) and I had always assumed everybody knew about his past and just didn’t care! The NPD thing is new to me though.

    What I never liked about him was that the rules he made up never seemed to apply to him personally. There always seemed to be an exception specifically made for him. He railed against the idea a woman could not trust him on basis of him being a man and yet promoted the idea that it is only rightful and necessary for women to mistrust all men. He viciously opposes asymmetry in heterosexual relationships, meaning that the man in this relationship is more powerful/richer/older/whatever than his partner. Yet he never saw anything wrong with his relationships with students under his care. Apparently because it was fun and free and innocent and they told him it was super awesome (Again, somewhere on his blog). I could go on for ages, but truth be told, I don’t want to.

    @Zweisatz: The GMP hasn’t exactly been a happy townfest of support for feminism and is not what I would call uncontested ground. It is nice and fun to see different ideologies clash on there, but I don’t think it is a good guideline for being a male feminist ally.

    • zweisatz January 1, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

      Well, I haven’t read there because … I like feminism too much to read there, I guess? For the same reasons accalmie mentioned

      if you dislike someone […] you tend not to follow him closely.

      And what I dislike is “We don’t know as much about feminism as feminist activists do but we get all the credit.” So that’s my “knowledge” about GMP.

  4. Cara December 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Thank you.

    This is just so typical. When will we learn to quit giving men a platform for their misogynistic nonsense within feminism?

  5. accalmie January 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    @Zweisatz: oooh, thank you for the correction – i had no idea (i still saw him in the “authors” list on their homepage – which i scan occasionally, not a very avid reader…).
    @kiturak: hahaha – it’s all good, you’re perfectly within your right to also only like the links ;)!
    @Cara: Thank you – exactly!
    @Tim: …attempted murder spiel…? anyway: if you dislike someone (due to his many other, well, transgressions that have been brushed aside easily before), you tend not to follow him closely. personally, i have only known rumours about affairs with female students, so i decided to ignore him – and, if you try, you can avoid him (even though people are now portrayed as weird stalker who can’t give the guy a break, despite the fact that *he’s* the one who can’t stop talking about himself). i had definitely not heard about schwyzer’s newest pieces of history before, and that seemed to be the case for many people. also, i think people were that furious because a) attempted murder, b) ATTEMPTED MURDER, c)racism and, last but not least, d) some of his fans *still* think of him as a wonderful example of a reformed male feminist, and/or claim that “all the feminists” are just too sensitive again, and suggest that “we” (whatever that means…) must be grateful for every self-identified male ally who can show the girls how it’s done. um… nope… thank you for your comments on his behaviour and the GMP – i really don’t know too much about it, i’m afraid (except for the occasional article i like and, therefore, link) – interesting!

  6. zweisatz January 15, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Uh, I found something shiny (well, the content isn’t shiny). It’s a short summary of reasons why you should not like Hugo Schwyzer, with links.

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