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"I'm done"
August 1, 2013 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Hugo Schwyzer announces his retirement from feminist punditry. Schwyzer cites his declining mental health and a recent extramarital affair that tarnished his "brand," as reasons for his retirement.

A professor at Pasadena City College, Schwyzer has previously (1, 2, 3) been discussed on Metafilter. Schwyzer is controversial; he has boasted that his role in organizing L.A.'s Slutwalk amounts to "herding sluts", admitted sleeping with his students, and tried to kill his girlfriend and himself. Some have said he has no place in feminism, and that his "work on feminism reeks of continuing exploitation." Juicy purported tweets and messages (NSFW) from his "off-brand" affair can be found here.
posted by Unified Theory (148 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Schwyzer was, if nothing else, wrong like clockwork (he was also, like stopped clockwork, right about twice). But it got to a point where if I was reading a piece and suddenly began to feel a) condescended to, and b) kind of dirty, chances were more than good it was a Schwyzer piece.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


a recent extramarital affair that tarnished his "brand,"

Is that what the kids are calling it these days?
posted by yoink at 1:16 PM on August 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Writing on his personal website, the Pasadena City College professor of history and gender studies said that he needed a hiatus in order to prioritize his “fragile” mental health

"I have 'goes totally incommunicado citing vague (or inaccurately described) illness' in the Shit Hugo Schwyzer Will Do Next pool, by the way"
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:23 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


While Schwyzer was a less-than-ideal figure, considering his own ideals, I credit him with really, truly thinking hard about feminism and himself, and trying to do something with those reflections--it would be great if more men did this. There's lots of reasons to shit on him, but the graceful thing to do is to let him go dark, and hope that the men who continue in this vein do better by standing on his shoulders.
posted by fatbird at 1:26 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have always had a problem with the extent of the hate that Schwyzer has been subjected to. He had his problems but I generally found his writing to be earnest, interesting, and challenging in a productive way.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:26 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the way he described his affair was rather odd. And the "oh no, the mean ladies they have said mean things to me and now I want to kill myself" is, well, maybe true (that he is suicidal), but it also sounds exactly like emotional abuse and fiction.

There have been a number of interesting responses to his leaving.
posted by jeather at 1:27 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah somehow I don't think this retirement is permanent. It's sure getting him a lot of attention, though!
posted by troika at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


I once knew two straight guys who went to beauty school because that's where the women hung out. They were pretty up front about it.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:36 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have always had a problem with the extent of the hate that Schwyzer has been subjected to. He had his problems but I generally found his writing to be earnest, interesting, and challenging in a productive way.

Well as long as he's earnest while reflecting on his attempted murder-suicide then.
posted by Jairus at 1:38 PM on August 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yeah somehow I don't think this retirement is permanent.

'Brand New Day' forthcoming!

This guy's website weirded me out the last time I saw him on the Blue (the Good Men Project post linked in the FPP) and that's all I knew about him. Reading this, the guy seems like a bit of a mess, and in a desperate search for validation. No doubt you're right and he will be back. For me the website is still the kicker: it looks like it's about him, not feminism.
posted by Hoopo at 1:43 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The "This guy Chris" that Schwyzer mentions is Canadian writer Chris Randle, who talks about it here at the Hairpin.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:45 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some have said he has no place in feminism...

This is what I hate. Kinda like the "we want vegan pizza, and please don't let the carnivores eat our pizza" kinda club. When this kinda shit gets broadcast, the message behind the group doesn't. The only thing happening is the mixing of the political message with exclusivity. Its not "hey, eating vegan might be an alternative that works for you? Want to try a slice of vegan pizza?", it becomes "Since you aren't a vegan, you don't get to have our pizza. Go back to eating your cow piss".

As for feminists...wouldn't it be awesome if truck drivers and politicians and cashiers and douchebags and speeding violators and thieves and philanders and songwriters and geographers and even the homeless could be considered "feminist" without anyone batting an eye?

That would be awesome...but then you have to stop making it about exclusivity, and more about "Isn't it a normal thing for women to be paid as much as men for the same work? Well of course everyone agrees, its not like there's an ethical alternative".

Yeah.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:46 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I give it six months before he's back on the internet. He strikes me as someone who can't possibly stay away, who loves attention more than love, and who needs to know what people are saying about him.
posted by jenlovesponies at 1:47 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kinda like the "we want vegan pizza, and please don't let the carnivores eat our pizza" kinda club.

Well, no. "We want vegan pizza, and please don't let the guy selling pepperoni pizza call his vegan" is more accurate.
posted by jeather at 1:50 PM on August 1, 2013 [32 favorites]


As for feminists...wouldn't it be awesome if truck drivers and politicians and cashiers and douchebags and speeding violators and thieves and philanders and songwriters and geographers and even the homeless could be considered "feminist" without anyone batting an eye?

This isn't about his class or about his employment. Let's be absolutely clear that this is not about him being blue-collar or having the wrong kind of job. I don't know enough to know everything it IS about, but it's not because of that.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:51 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, no. "We want vegan pizza, and please don't let the guy selling pepperoni pizza call his vegan" is more accurate.

Schwyzer is more like the guy who eats ALL your vegan pizza, while simultaneously talking nonstop about how fucking awesome it is to kill and eat animals.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:52 PM on August 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


Off-brand ... as in out of character?
In that I’m supposed to be reformed. The affair was with someone in the same circles that you and I move in, so I have to protect her. But there’s a lot of gossiping. It may reach you. Don’t be surprised.
x

I'm sorry, is this not begging us to try to guess what feminist blogger he slept with? These are not the words of someone trying to keep this under wraps.
posted by jenlovesponies at 1:56 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well as long as he's earnest while reflecting on his attempted murder-suicide then.

He was earnest when reflecting on his attempted murder-suicide, which I respect unreservedly (the earnestness, duh). He was very clear that he was at the absolute depth of his addiction when that happened. You are part of a long line of people who reference the event without the context and it really really bugs me.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:02 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm yellow-bellied, so I'm surprised more people who experience lots of hate and rage on the internet don't just bow the fuck out as soon as they can manage. I'm particularly struck by the fact that many women, especially feminists, face far more vicious and threatening attacks all the time with much more courage. But then, I suppose it's the difference between being hated by knuckledragging thugs who you and all right-thinking people disdain and being rejected by people whose side you were meaning to be on.

Anyway, I'm not a fan or follower of Schwyzer's writing, but the accusations made against him usually strike me as overstated and tellingly under-described. I don't believe that, under the actual circumstances, so many people's assessment of him would be "attempted murderer, case closed" if he didn't just rub them the wrong way for other reasons. And I think part of that is sheer resentment at his various privileges, which I sort of get but can't really get behind, if it is even indeed the case.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:03 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are part of a long line of people who reference the event without the context and it really really bugs me.

The context was someone had talked about feeling bad about letting a dog loose and he compared it to how he felt bad about having tried to murder his girlfriend. I do not agree that he was earnest about the post, except that he was earnestly looking for attention.
posted by jeather at 2:04 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the comments on the NY mag piece are fairly insightful in their criticisms.
posted by Aubergine at 2:05 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The more I see the more I think troika has it. This guy is trying to make people feel bad for him with this stunt. I think we're all supposed to go something like "YOU MADE HIM QUIT THE INTERNET, HAPPY NOW, FEMINISTS?" but I have no idea who he thinks is going to take up his cause.
posted by Hoopo at 2:06 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't mean "sheer resentment" dismissively, however, if that's how it sounds. I don't even think it would be that unfair a reaction.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:08 PM on August 1, 2013


The context was someone had talked about feeling bad about letting a dog loose and he compared it to how he felt bad about having tried to murder his girlfriend. I do not agree that he was earnest about the post, except that he was earnestly looking for attention.

You're conflating the context of his telling and the context of the actual event. I agree that the telling was ham-handed — as he himself agreed to, later. But your slippage from criticizing him for attempting a murder-suicide to criticizing him for poor framing of that story is intellectually dishonest.

Schwyzer is sloppy and that's a problem. A serious problem in his case — a white man talking about feminism needs to be careful for legitimate reasons. But I find that most criticism of him moves quickly from recognizing the specifics of his follies to trashing him for perceived fuckups that are really not there.

One quick example: he wrote about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, saying that "In art as well as life, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl ideal exists because too many men remain intimidated by women who will not revolve their lives around our needs and our growth."

Emily Keeler wrote a rebuttal in the National Post, criticizing Schwyzer for personally using the woman in his story as just another trope and not seeing her full humanity. Which is EXACTLY what Schwyzer himself was criticizing in his piece! Precisely, on the nose what he was saying — that men also suffer from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl ideal. That men believe it and so fail to see women in their lives who fit that ideal as full and complex humans.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:22 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


This dude has been getting my rage up like there's no tomorrow for years, so I'm finding it especially hard to use my words. Suffice it to say 1) good fucking riddance, however woefully temporary his absence will be, and 2) it's a real testament to the patriarchy that Hugo Schwyzer was ever allowed a seat at the grand table of feminism to begin with.

Would a woman who tried to kill her ex-girlfriend ever be so publicly and passionately lauded as a valiant defender of womens' rights because hey, look, she's totally great and trustworthy aside from that whole pesky "attempted murder" thing? Or are we meant to sweep unsuccessful attempts at murder-suicide under the rug when they're committed by people -- which is to say, men -- who struggle with drug addiction or mental health issues? This is explicitly gendered violence, to say nothing of his utter contempt for the woman with whom he had his terribly "off-brand" affair.
He makes sure to explain that he feels the need to protect her, presumably by keeping her name and occupation under wraps, but also makes sure to note which social circles she runs in so the omnipresent vultures can pinpoint her identity and he can still play dumb -- "Hey, I just said I was trying to protect her!" The mind reels at how much slack he's been given by the press and public at large. He's so hungry for pity, so desperate to martyr himself.

From the vile NYMag interview (accent his!):
Look at me. I mean, who would want to be me? If you look at the men who are writing about feminism, they toe the line very carefully. It's almost like they take their cues from the women around them. Men are afraid of women's anger. It's very hard for men to stand up to women's anger.
Heaven forfend! He had to deal with a hailstorm of criticism on the internet for writing about feminism? Poor guy. To pull-quote The Hairpin, "Is it possible that he is actually that unaware of the tone and nature of the comments women receive online on the regular for merely existing?" Also, taking care to point out how very afraid men are of women's anger is just rich. My heart bleeds for him.
Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, "We're afraid of being killed."
posted by divined by radio at 2:23 PM on August 1, 2013 [37 favorites]


It's almost like they take their cues from the women around them.-Schwyzer

How dare those male feminists ever stop to listen to an actual woman before spouting off a bunch of sloppy, poorly-researched bullshit. HOW DARE THEY.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:25 PM on August 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, man. This guy used to be my professor* and my partner is currently up to his ass moderating a shitstorm on Pharyngula over this. The kindest thing I can possibly say about Hugo is that some quiet time away from the public eye would be a very good choice, indeed.

*Well before this shit broke publicly and it's kind of shocking to see him implode like this.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:30 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been aware of Hugo ever since the Feministe debacle. From my perspective, he is a self-identified feminist who continually did and said shady shit and seemed to refuse to absorb any earnest criticism about it from the people he claimed to respect and on whose behalf he claimed to work - women and feminists.

There are other men writing about feminism - he even names some of them in the NYMag article - who do not get the same treatment. That is not just a lucky coincidence. That is the result of those men doing the work to carefully consider their own privilege and place in feminism, and to gracefully handle criticism when they (inevitably) make mistakes.

Hugo repeatedly seemed to the be the kind of person who said one thing, yet consistently did another. He reminded me of nothing so much as the emotionally abusive boyfriend who claims to love you, but continually disrespects you in minor, and sometimes major ways - then when you call him out on it, he cites his hurt feelings as the reason he cannot take in your request or change his behavior. Ultimately, it's YOUR fault - somehow - if he's disrespectful of you. He can't HELP it. Yet, you must understand, he is still the authority on your experience and must be given space to express himself.

He wrote articles and made statements, repeatedly, that many people felt were disrespectful of women, and he did it under the guise of promoting feminism, which made it doubly offensive.

He comes off as someone with a savior complex, not someone seriously engaged in the self-examination and hard internal work that being an ally requires.

This latest move is just more of the same - it will get us arguing about him while he compulsively Googles himself. His supporters will come out in force, and his detractors will be even more angry because this is a classic manipulation move. He can't just take a step back, take a break, or go silent without going to a major media outlet and explicitly blaming mean-girl feminists for bullying him off the internet - the same feminists who, by virtue of existing online in any capacity, regularly receive violent death and rape threats - while also handily slipping in sexy, gossipy references to his irrepressibly sexy sexiness. An affair is "off-brand" for Hugo? The guy who wrote an article on a feminist website about fucking his students? Seems pretty on-point to me.

I do not doubt one bit that he has some serious mental health issues, and I sincerely hope he gets treatment for them. That does not mean that feminists are obligated to give him space or respect, or that they are being mean or unfair for sniffing out a manipulator in their midst and calling him as they see him. And, yeah, the criticisms got pretty mean after a while. Anger tends to escalate when someone shows a complete lack of consideration, repeatedly, over a long period of time, of the criticisms he is receiving.

Many of the people he claimed to be speaking for, or with, or alongside, did not want him speaking for them, and they said so. Repeatedly. In many ways. There is always a risk, in being an ally, that you will speak over the people you are attempting to help. That's why listening and, yes, humbling yourself somewhat in those relationships is so important. So that you don't keep accidentally perpetuating the thing you are actively trying to dismantle.

After a while, a series of such "accidents" can only be interpreted as something else.
posted by Ouisch at 2:50 PM on August 1, 2013 [34 favorites]


All else aside, I just want to say - since it seems to me that this isn't discussed often enough - that it's spectacularly crude to announce publicly that one has had an affair. When you cheat on your spouse, that's a lot of shit for them to deal with, if they choose to deal with it at all. The least you can do for them is offer some discretion so they don't have to face the weird "did your husband really...?" conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances. Yes, I can imagine situations in which the cheated-on spouse demands that the cheater come clean publicly, but this sure as hell doesn't look like one of those situations; it doesn't sound remotely as though he even talked about revealing it with her before he said it in the interview. And the way he puts it - cloaking it in this "I have marriage troubles" phrasing, to say nothing of the gross "off-brand" remark.

Most of all, it's gross to reveal this and then hint strongly at who it might be that he cheated with. Now not only are people going to talk about it openly, he's encouraging them to speculate on exactly what happened. I've never really been cheated on, but I can only imagine what kind of weird shit that brings down on his wife, who has to put up with hearing people guess who her husband might have cheated with. Not to mention the person he cheated with, who made a mistake but who really shouldn't have this brought down on her too. Ugh.

This is a thing politicians often do, and it's always pretty awful. I get the feeling it goes hand in hand with the kind of narcissism that leads people to become public figures and to chase that kind of attention. It's this sort of twisted perversion of true confession - the nonchalant announcement of one's indiscretions, made as though the announcement itself absolves one of one's sins, when really it's just gives a little thrill to force others to listen to the shitty things one has done.

When we do terrible things like betray the trust of our spouses, we aren't supposed to indulge those thrills. It is painful to live with a secret and know that it would hurt people if anyone beyond our spouse found out; but sometimes that's what's necessary to make it right. It's just so tawdry to skip over all that and give in to one's impulse to talk about it, forcing those around us to deal with the consequences yet again.
posted by koeselitz at 2:51 PM on August 1, 2013 [18 favorites]


As someone who grew up around a lot of Evangelical Christianity, I have to say that this behavior of becoming a leader of a trusting, uncritical community as a vehicle toward self-promotion, despite holding zero qualifications, is regretfully as old as time.

I would like to think that the main reason occupy wall street declined to create a cabal, aside from guaranteeing their destruction, was that the people who want to be our leaders are so very frequently the people who are the worst possible candidates.

It doesn't help my existential angst at the voting box that this has been Political Problem #1 since well before Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 2:59 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Along the lines of what divined by radio said, Schwyzer's claim that it's unreasonable to expect men to survive feminists' anger is infuriating.

He wrote a blog entry several years ago about teaching, in which he rightly pointed out that male students often joke about being afraid of women's anger, like prefacing a shitty misogynist comment with "Oh, don't hurt me for saying this, but..." He described it as a maneuver not only designed to shut down valid criticism, but also completely missing the reality that women generally have much more to fear from men's anger than vice versa (as divined by radio's Margaret Atwood quotation also points out).

So Schwyzer knows full well that claiming censorship due to fear of women's anger is a shitty privilege-preserving move, and on top of that, here we've got a man who tried to murder his girlfriend claiming that women's anger is fatally dangerous to men.

I'm going to leave off textual representation of the incoherent rageful noises my brain is currently making.
posted by jaguar at 3:15 PM on August 1, 2013 [21 favorites]



One quick example: he wrote about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, saying that "In art as well as life, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl ideal exists because too many men remain intimidated by women who will not revolve their lives around our needs and our growth."

Emily Keeler wrote a rebuttal in the National Post, criticizing Schwyzer for personally using the woman in his story as just another trope and not seeing her full humanity. Which is EXACTLY what Schwyzer himself was criticizing in his piece! Precisely, on the nose what he was saying — that men also suffer from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl ideal. That men believe it and so fail to see women in their lives who fit that ideal as full and complex humans.


If I may - I believe the criticism from Keeler was not that Schwyzer treated "Bettina" as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the past and then wrote about it, but that in the way he wrote about her and told her story, he reproduced the exact same error in that very article. And seemed completely unaware of doing so, despite having enough education and experience with feminism to really know better.

"Bettina" was not only the one-dimensional MPDG of his youth, but he casts her yet again as the one-dimensionally tragic suicide whose death has helped him see the light - rather than being a full-fledged woman with a story in her own right, who he could have taken the trouble to research further and write about in more depth. Instead, voila, she plays the same role for him in death as she did in life. A hastily drawn supporting character, formerly of his brooding youth, currently of his performative feminism. See?

He even goes on to say that men who write stories need to have more lead characters who are women...and yet, in this story which affords him the perfect opportunity to do so, he centers himself. Again.
posted by Ouisch at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2013


Serious question can anyone who ever tried to murder his girlfriend be a feminist at some point later? I agree that Scheyzer isn't worth listening to, but it seems weird to say domestic violence in the past forecloses any chance of being feminist in the future.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:48 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]



Would a woman who tried to kill her ex-girlfriend ever be so publicly and passionately lauded as a valiant defender of womens' rights because hey, look, she's totally great and trustworthy aside from that whole pesky "attempted murder" thing? Or are we meant to sweep unsuccessful attempts at murder-suicide under the rug when they're committed by people -- which is to say, men -- who struggle with drug addiction or mental health issues? This is explicitly gendered violence, to say nothing of his utter contempt for the woman with whom he had his terribly "off-brand" affair.
He makes sure to explain that he feels the need to protect her, presumably by keeping her name and occupation under wraps, but also makes sure to note which social circles she runs in so the omnipresent vultures can pinpoint her identity and he can still play dumb -- "Hey, I just said I was trying to protect her!" The mind reels at how much slack he's been given by the press and public at large. He's so hungry for pity, so desperate to martyr himself.


It is worth noting that feminist icon James Tiptree not only tried to but actually did kill her husband. It gets spun as "he had a terminal illness", but he actually did not - he was disabled. She decided for him that he was too miserable to live, based (IMO) on her own depression manifesting itself in ablism. She shot him and she killed herself. And yet feminists don't talk about this and the Tiptree award is given every year at Wiscon.

Personally, I think that Tiptree was a troubled woman who struggled with a lot of really difficult and painful stuff. I think she did a terrible thing, and I think she is also a great feminist SF writer. I don't think she is a monster, because I don't think very many people are monsters. She was a troubled and ill person who did a terrible thing. Sweeping that fact under the rug is wrong, but so is using it to discredit her. (And Tiptree came from a really privileged background too.)

Hugo Schwyzer? I think of him like this. Let's say that being a fairly good feminist ally, hoorary, is called "Being At Ten". Let's say that your average straight white dude who has not considered any feminist things at all is "At Zero". Hugo Schwyer, IMO, started out "At Minus Ten", what with the various personal struggles, and has worked pretty hard to get to zero. I think he's sincere. I also think he's pretty fucked up. He shouldn't be any kind of "feminist poster boy" or movement leader.

I read the suicide/murder attempt as mostly being about drug addiction and mental illness. I read his account of it as a flawed attempt to tell something that must be really fucking hard to tell.

I've done some things I think are bad - most of them revealed at various times here on metafilter, nothing secret, but things that really trouble me when I look back on them. I have not always been graceful or self-decentering when I've told about those things, partly because my gut impulse is to pretend they never happened, and just telling about the goddamn things is humiliating and awful. When I read Schwyer's account of his suicide/murder attempt, I read it in that light.

I think stepping back is precisely what he should do - I think he does not belong as any kind of public feminist figure. I think it's quite possible that his flawed character will not permit him to step back gracefully. If he has to flounce a little to get himself to step back, I am okay with that.

I also think that movement folks should consider why we relentlessly elevate people to hero status. Why do we need a "poster boy" authority figure? Schwyzer and his flaws aren't all of the equation - lots of people were linking, interviewing and talking him up for years, people I respect and do not think are stupid or awful. What's up with that? We need to learn to stop seeking out these...well, really, these father figures, these "good men", and giving them authority.

And lastly, here is what I suspect: men who grow up under patriarchy, whites who grow up under white supremacy - we are all always going to be kind of fucked up along our axes of privilege. I think that if he hadn't been held up as a super-awesome-authority-figure-in-feminism, Schwyer might have had some things to say that could have resonated with other men and been useful in that way, and I think those conversations would still have been difficult and unpleasant for women to hear. I am often struck, in fact, by how even my really valued straight cis male friends can have really awful, painful, discomfiting assumptions in their heads about gender - guys I think are feminist, guys I know have my back, guys who will fucking bounce you from the scene if you sexually harass someone, guys who will babysit because they love kids. Those guys are still fucked up. And I bet that I'm still fucked up about my own privileges.

This is not an apology for Schwyzer. I think he's troubled and creepy. But I also think that there's a lot of unexamined stuff amongst movement folks.
posted by Frowner at 3:57 PM on August 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


I read his account of it as a flawed attempt to tell something that must be really fucking hard to tell.

I misread "tell" as "sell" at first.
posted by rtha at 4:09 PM on August 1, 2013


Serious question can anyone who ever tried to murder his girlfriend be a feminist at some point later? I agree that Scheyzer isn't worth listening to, but it seems weird to say domestic violence in the past forecloses any chance of being feminist in the future.

Keep in mind that we are talking about Schwyzer not only as a person who seems to have done reprehensible things in his personal life, but also as a public figure.

There is a difference between being a feminist, believing in or working toward feminism, working personally to repair the wrongs you've done and dismantle the oppressive beliefs you internalized...and being a professional, paid, publicly feminist writer, speaker, and teacher. A feminist celebrity of sorts, in other words.

I don't know if there is ultimately one right answer to your question, but I do think it's fair that many feminists apparently think that, no, if you abused women in your life, you don't get to be a paid feminist celebrity, or even a publicly outspoken self-identified "feminist," and receive all the feminist cookies. Should you believe in gender equality? Of course you should. That's just being a decent human 101. Should you act consistently with that belief? Yes - that's not being a hypocrite 101. But do you get to wear the Mighty Feminist Badge of Courage and expect feminists to listen respectfully when you speak or write or teach about feminism? Perhaps not.

It's a judgment call, and some will disagree, but it is a valid position.
posted by Ouisch at 4:16 PM on August 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Hugo Schwyer, IMO, started out "At Minus Ten", what with the various personal struggles, and has worked pretty hard to get to zero.

This is a pretty good characterization, I think, though I would put him a couple points above zero because I think that what gets lost in discussions like these is that he did a pretty decent amount of basic feminist pick-and-shovel work. While I've heard lots of (justified) criticism of his interactions with feminist blogs and communities, I've never heard that his courses where he did Feminism 101 weren't well handled; and his blog was full of basic "men, check your privilege" stuff alongside the other entries that made him a divisive figure.
posted by fatbird at 4:27 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is worth noting that feminist icon James Tiptree not only tried to but actually did kill her husband. It gets spun as "he had a terminal illness", but he actually did not - he was disabled. She decided for him that he was too miserable to live, based (IMO) on her own depression manifesting itself in ablism. She shot him and she killed herself. And yet feminists don't talk about this and the Tiptree award is given every year at Wiscon.

Yea, but how is she considered in the disability advocate world? That would seem to be more equivalent.
posted by jacalata at 4:33 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner, while I agree with your general point (people's actions and how it relates to the value of their work can be complicated and should be treated with some nuance), there is a serious difference between someone like Tiptree/Sheldon and someone like Hugo.

The former became an icon as a reaction to her work. She was elevated by other people. She wrote fiction (with strong feminist themes). She didn't have her own name and face attached to it until someone else figured it out. She did something that was probably terrible.

Schwyzer fashions himself as a male feminist essayist, but with the continued protest of an awful lot of feminists...including other men. He writes essays about gender and sexism from a place of authority that many would (and do) contest.

If he just wanted to write about being a man in today's world, and the complexities of reconciling manhood with wanting to be a good person, I don't think he'd get half the shit he does.
posted by menialjoy at 4:35 PM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Jezebel hasn't said a peep about this and they aren't exactly reticent about clicking POST before they've collected their thoughts.
posted by basicchannel at 4:42 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


As for feminists...wouldn't it be awesome if truck drivers and politicians and cashiers and douchebags and speeding violators and thieves and philanders and songwriters and geographers and even the homeless could be considered "feminist" without anyone batting an eye?

If they hold and act on feminist beliefs, I can't imagine why anybody would bat an eye at any of these people being considered feminist. If you're asking for people to be considered feminist without beliefs or actions to match, that's ridiculous.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:51 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


There actually are serious questions to be asked about the intersection of other oppressions (like ableism, transphobia, and notably racism) with sexism and misogyny, and how much white, middle-class feminism has failed to fight, or even acknowledge, those oppressions in theory and practice. That is where the example of Tiptree deserves relentless scrutiny, but Tiptree is not a great example of gendered violence, which is the charge against Schwyzer.
posted by Ouisch at 4:51 PM on August 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Argh, the affair(s?). I believed.
posted by zeek321 at 4:52 PM on August 1, 2013


Jezebel hasn't said a peep about this and they aren't exactly reticent about clicking POST before they've collected their thoughts.

I wonder if the fact that Hugo Schwyzer's articles are often posted there might have anything to do with them not saying anything yet. Not that they're the end-all, be-all, one true voice of feminism on the internet or anything.
posted by palomar at 5:31 PM on August 1, 2013


Why in the world would anybody bat an eye at a truck driver, politician, cashier, speeding violator, thief, songwriter, geographer or homeless person being called a feminist? What do any of those have to do with being or not being a feminist? That's one of the most nonsensical things I've ever read. Now, the douchebag, the philanderer, those are often cases of gendered awfulness (hey! Like Schweitzer! He qualifies for both!) and I can see them being things that would make people doubt your feminist cred.

Me, I think he's just trying to pull a freeze-out on feminism.
posted by edheil at 7:29 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kinda like the "we want vegan pizza, and please don't let the carnivores eat our pizza" kinda club.

No, it's the "we want vegan pizza, and please don't let the attempted murderer eat our pizza" kinda club.
He's not been rejected because he's a male commentator on feminist issues. He's been rejected because he's a manipulative abusive dirtbag who's been peddling his story of redemption since it occurred to him he could make something off it.
posted by gingerest at 8:17 PM on August 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


That redemption narratives piece is brilliant, gingerest. I hope everyone reads it.
posted by Ouisch at 8:44 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skipping the comments will go back to read:

(Never heard of the guy previously.) Is that a real interview? Because, I'm just a garden variety feminist, but (solely based on the interview) I think we'll be fine without him. blink blink is it about you much blink
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:04 PM on August 1, 2013


Wow (having read comments), great discussion.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:16 PM on August 1, 2013


I've never really felt strongly about Hugo. I'm not a superfan, occasionally he makes a good point. Mostly I think what Frowner said: "I think he's sincere. I also think he's pretty fucked up." I usually think, "God love him, he's TRYING." He started out as a total asshole and has made it pretty clear that he was one and is a recovering asshole. I wouldn't make him out to be the male feminist expert of all time and I am surprised he has the job he does, but he's still trying more than a lot of other douches out there. And I give a fair amount of mental bonus points to folks who are trying to not be asses, because those are few and far between.

On the other hand:
(a) dude is most definitely an drama llama attention whore, and the giant "I quit" and immediate interview is pretty damn attention-whorey. If I ever stomp out and quit the Internet, I will turn off the communication devices and not respond to anyone because I actually mean to quit the Internet. Just saying.

Also, HE has been the one telling people that he did drugs, attempted to kill his girlfriend, and slept with every student he could grope back in the day. Technically speaking, he brought that shit way down upon himself and I don't know why he's shocked and surprised that a lot of people think badly of him for doing that stuff and think it hurts his feminist cred. Now, it's entirely possible that as an Internet-famous person, someone could have gotten the idea to do some research on him and outed him for all of that, so maybe he was just pre-empting the inevitable. But...dude, what did you expect? The Internet isn't all cat videos and you post shocking things and topics that get everyone arguing.

(b) despite his "brand" of being a recovered and happily married man, he's well, not. I thought the "I ruined my brand" thing was pretty hilarious--dude, your priority that you should be thinking of should be your poor wife, not your "brand." And I especially find it telling that despite his scorning "dirty old men," there he went, being a cheating married dirty old one.

(c) I think he is mentally ill and really needs some help there.

He may feel strongly about feminism, but he isn't in the shape to be its front line male advocate.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 PM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I found Hugo's blog a long time ago (could it have been 2003?), when he mostly talked about religion (his transition from evangelical to Mennonite to Episcopalian) and teaching at a community college and, honestly, not that much about feminism except discussing the women's studies classes he taught. I liked his stories about being a youth group leader at his very liberal church, and as a future professor, I liked how he described community college life.

Over the years, as he went from some dude with a blog to this guy with a "brand", I became increasingly turned off and then eventually really uncomfortable with his persona. The stories he had always told about himself fell away into stories about addiction and affairs that almost felt boastful. When his first kid was born, his narrative about that was also weird and uncomfortable, where he alternated between giving tiny, intimate details about his personal life and insisting that he needed to protect the privacy of his wife and child. And, while all of this was going on, he launched his career as a "branded" feminist blogger, guest-posting on feminist blogs, booking speeches and presentaitons, presenting himself as a (or possibly THE) voice of men in feminism.

I think it was about the time of the site redesign where his photograph takes up a large portion of the screen that I began to realize that this is not a guy who has become "odd" or "unpleasant" but rather that this is clearly someone with severe mental illness. And I do feel bad for him. I enjoyed the blog he used to write, and I even liked the guy who wrote that blog, but I have come to feel that this persona he presents now is one he is actually happy with, all protestations aside, and he has no real intention of changing or healing.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:20 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Posted by Hugo Schwyzer yesterday: "Goodbye Part Two: The Unpublished Story of the Attempted Murder-Suicide" – in which he happily offers up one of the women he slept with, whilst holding on to admit there were multiple affairs this time, and then gives a lovingly detailed and fun-filled account of his murder-suicide attempt, apparently to add savor to his "I will commit suicide because you were mean to me" threats, although who knows.
posted by koeselitz at 7:30 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I find that most criticism of him moves quickly from recognizing the specifics of his follies to trashing him for perceived fuckups that are really not there.

I'm pretty sure that the sleeping with students, attempted murder and current affair are really there. And describing in fairly good detail -- certainly enough detail that people who know him or "Kerith" could identify her as well as the wife he all but ignores in this story -- the attempted murder and this woman's very difficult time without her permission is pretty fucked up. He seems happy that he didn't kill either of them, but not particularly regretful about this part of his story, presumably because it makes his redemption just that much more impressive.

See, I don't think he's trying all that much, because he never learns or changes. I think a lot of his public persona is just that -- a persona he puts on to get attention.
posted by jeather at 7:48 AM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


If he's truly unwell and in hospital and all, I hope he gets better. I just don't actually know that I believe that he's as unwell as he's making himself out to be, because "the mean feminists drove me crazy" is not actually a believable argument.
posted by jeather at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


As commenters on part two readily observe, he's already failed his "get off the internet" vow. Yeah, he's in the middle of some kind of "peak narcissism" breakdown, I'm pretty sure.
posted by fatbird at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think gingerest's excellent link gives us the key to what Schwyzer is doing here:
When I was starting college, I told my Uncle Bobby (who is a pastor turned professor) that I planned to major in theology/philosophy. As was typical, he asked me what I planned on doing with my degree. I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I felt called to some kind of ministry.

“Well, you know what you gotta do,” he replied, with a slight smile, “Is you’ve gotta take a couple of years off, go get really addicted to heroin, and then come back to the church. You gotta have a good story.”
Sin followed by redemption is the centerpiece of the evangelical narrative, and Schwyzer was originally an evangelical.

Ideally, the redemption would be once and for all, but in practice that devolves into a continuing cycle of sin and redemption more often than not.

Schwyzer has sinned by having these multiple affairs, is now confessing his sins, and will soon expect redemption in the form of being accepted back as a significant player in the feminist community.

I'd imagine he'll make his bid in the new year, possibly in early Spring, but he'll need to have made some kind of progress in his life story in order to move past his critics and also to conform to the evangelical model, in which these cycles of sin and redemption are typically superimposed upon a gradual upward trend.

He's talking about his family .... my guess is he'll reemerge as a champion of feminist fatherhood.
posted by jamjam at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Good. Peace out, creep.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:20 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, that "Goodbye Part Two" thing is fucking wretched.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, uh, wow, that Goodbye Part Two really is a piece of work. To call it "lurid" really doesn't do it justice:

The lovemaking was as desperately hot as it was desperately heartbreaking. We were both so thin, so battered, so covered in both fresh and aging scars. “We look so beautiful,” Keri said, catching a glimpse of our bodies in the mirror as she rode me. “So sweet,” she whispered as she came, “so sweet, so sweet.”

What a pathetic guy Schwyzer is.
posted by Unified Theory at 11:52 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reads like a Neal Pollack parody.
posted by steinsaltz at 11:54 AM on August 2, 2013


My Name Is Hugo Schwyzer And I Would Like You To Know For The Record That I Have Had Intercourse
posted by Greg Nog at 12:03 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The lovemaking was as desperately hot as it was desperately heartbreaking. We were both so thin, so battered, so covered in both fresh and aging scars. “We look so beautiful,” Keri said, catching a glimpse of our bodies in the mirror as she rode me. “So sweet,” she whispered as she came, “so sweet, so sweet.”

Did he write this down in his journal? I mean, this was 1998 - I'd say that I remember certain elements of important conversations from 1998 but I certainly wouldn't write an account of a conversation from 1998 except as an approximation unless I made it clear that I was lightly fictionalizing.

Although that is a quality that HS shares with Tim Wise and Derrick Jensen - the apparently magical ability to recall long-ago detailed conversations with women who say things that support his narrative.

Honestly, in this aspect I feel sorry for him - he can't stop talking. The only cure for any kind of realization that you are a privileged asshole is to get off the internet/hang up the phone/stop texting/etc - share those conversations with your nearest and dearest maybe and with a therapist certainly, but not with the world, because it's very hard to control the impulse to use the stories you're telling.

(Also, "lovemaking" is one of those ick words that I thought only appeared in the most terrible kind of unrealistic slash fanfic.)
posted by Frowner at 12:09 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, if nothing else, Goodbye Part Two certainly made clear that this guy is really not okay. "I've said my goodbyes, I'm broken and a fraud and heavily medicated and my marriage is hanging by a thread, so... here's a more salacious version of the story that I like to blame all of my current troubles on. Enjoy!"

Whatever treatment program he's in, I hope it involves really and truly disconnecting from the internet for a good long while. It sounds like he most likely won't be able to stay away under his own power.
posted by palomar at 12:26 PM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow, Part Two sets off all the alarms. The way he is romanticizing and justifying what he did in that story, embellishing with tasty details, makes it seem like that wasn't actually his low point after all. If attempted murder isn't your low point, what is?

He definitely needs to step away from the mic and start trying to be a good person by deeds instead of being a total shitball compensating with fraudulent public righteousness.
posted by bleep-blop at 2:51 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The way he is romanticizing and justifying what he did in that story, embellishing with tasty details

When I went looking for a "humblebrag"-type term to address the matter of a person confessing their sins in a way that is clearly meant to soak you in every tantalizing detail and make you reflect on how cool said person is (cooler than you, for sure!), someone on twitter supplied "stumblebrag."
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:26 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or scumblebrag.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:41 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The embellishment of the story is off-putting, as are several terms used in weird contexts – "white knight," for example. But the worst thing in that story to me is the fact that he even feels as though it's okay to tell it. Did he talk to "Kerith" before publishing this? Odds are he didn't; he says that he never saw her again after the moment in the hospital room when he revealed that he'd tried to kill her. And why tell add all these details? One can extrapolate a lot of disturbing things by asking that question. For instance – what gives him the right to tell everyone about her rape – or, I guess, speculate publicly that she had been raped? I don't believe he had a right to tell that stuff – nor does he have the right to tell us that "Kerith" was a drug user, etc – but why does he tell us? I think that's pretty clear: in order to provide the reason for why he did what he did, to contextualize it. It's supposed to help us understand why someone in his position would end up believing he was doing the right thing.

But it should be easy to see the danger there: giving us "reasons" for why he'd do it can sound an awful like rationalizing what he did. Saying why you did something doesn't necessarily mean rationalizing it, I know, but he says enough to make it seem pretty strongly as though he is doing just that. Take this odd and particularly disturbing paragraph, for example:

“I’d attempted suicide twice before; Kerith had tried perhaps half-a-dozen times. We’d talked often about ODing together, but by grace our timing was always off. I wanted to die when she wanted to live, and vice versa. Now it’s time to be strong for both of us. I could finish all of her pain and all of mine, I realized. Perhaps we’d be together in the next life. At least neither of you will die alone.”

He's vague about how many times she'd tried committing suicide (that's another detail he probably had no right to reveal, frankly) but he mentions this apparently to make it clear that she'd had a history of being suicidal. Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. In the next sentence he says they "talked often about ODing together" – what exactly does this mean? It's vague, too. Maybe they were just talking about what would happen if they did. Maybe it was just a comment: "geez, I hope we never OD together, because nobody'd be there to pick up the pieces." And were her suicide attempts really suicide attempts, or were they ODs that he is conveniently reading as suicide attempts here? He's taken these vague revelations and read them in the light that makes it easiest to portray himself as having just followed the signs to assume she wanted suicide that night.

And then, of course – he takes it all back later!

“Attempted murder. His words – coming as they did in concert with the wearing-off of the benzodiazepine haze – left me gasping and dizzy. For the first time, I understood that there was a name for what I’d tried to do. As self-destructive as Kerith was, she hadn’t wanted to die on that particular Saturday night. I had – and out of a mixture of cowardice and misplaced tenderness, I’d made the unilateral decision to take her with me. As incapacitated by depression and drugs as we’d both so often been in our two years together – and as often as we’d cheated on each other — we’d always practiced a kind of fierce solidarity. 'You and me, kid, against a cruel world' had been our motto. And in what had falsely appeared as a moment of both exquisite clarity and tender kindness, I’d done the cruelest thing imaginable.”

Misplaced tenderness? "As self-destructive as Kerith was"? See, it was just a mistake. He was trying to be nice, and in the haze of drugs he just got confused about what being kind actually means – that "false clarity" can really get you.

It's hard not to read in this a whole lot of rationalization and a lot of ignoring of more worrisome details. Did he really do this without any malice toward anyone? Did he really do it out of "tenderness"? Can a person really have a moment of such "clarity" that he remembers every tiny detail of the entire night until he turns on the gas, then completely forgets a bunch of stuff like calling friends and leaving messages on their answering machines?

Most of all – I can't help but think of what "Kerith" is going through. Somewhere out there, she has to read this shit, has to read this guy rehearsing yet again in a very public way the details of the night he tried to kill her – telling the world yet again that she was an addict, that she was suicidal, that she was raped, that she totally acted like she wanted it when he tried to kill her. And if I were "Kerith," I know that I wouldn't give a good goddamn that he'd changed my name to something weird and ridiculous and improbable like "Kerith" ("Keri" for short). It would still anger me, it would still bother me. Especially if it were framed as a confession that this guy was kind of relapsing right now.
posted by koeselitz at 3:55 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


OMFG, can somebody put this guy in a Faraday cage already? This is just awful. His poor wife, those poor kids. UGH.
posted by Space Kitty at 3:56 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


(And I feel for his current wife, who gets to read a nice lurid sex story about how the lovemaking between her husband and his ex girlfriend was so intense and so emotional they couldn't even do it if they weren't on drugs. On preview - yeah, what Space Kitty said.)
posted by koeselitz at 3:57 PM on August 2, 2013


Did he really do this without any malice toward anyone? Did he really do it out of "tenderness"?

Did he really do it at all? Like I said the last time this dude came up on MeFi, I get a James Frey vibe off of him.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:05 PM on August 2, 2013


re: Part Two; This is indeed an odd thing to post publicly when he *just* got finished lamenting feminists not liking him.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:15 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know, kittens for breakfast. Lying would pretty "off-brand" for him.
posted by koeselitz at 4:16 PM on August 2, 2013


This is indeed an odd thing to post publicly when he *just* got finished lamenting feminists not liking him.

He's hit the logical end of addiction to attention, where he eats himself to keep an audience around for just a little longer.
posted by fatbird at 4:29 PM on August 2, 2013


Schwyzer's narcissistic self-laceration reminds me of nothing so much as something Michael J. Nelson posted the other day (very easy to imagine in that mild Midwestern voice of his): Kids, despite what you're being told, it's ok to have a bad self-image if you are, in fact, horrible.

As a person who struggles with major depression and anxiety disorders, I should really be more sympathetic. But when I was a child, I was socialized to turn my pain and emotions inward, and not inflict them on anyone, whereas Schwyzer clearly learned to turn them outward, particularly towards women. I wonder how come that might possibly be.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:48 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ahem.

Schwyzer has contacted the media to let them know he attempted suicide yesterday.

Just take a moment to fully appreciate all the verbs in that sentence.
posted by Ouisch at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


He's on a 5150 hold but he still managed to contact the media to let them know about it? That's... impressive, I guess.
posted by palomar at 5:08 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's it. I take back what I said yesterday. Now he's just SAD. It's reminding me of the whole Britney meltdown now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:16 PM on August 2, 2013


Oh, wait, he is on a 72 hour hold RIGHT NOW and yet he can call the media?!?!?

That's it, I call bullshit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:22 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, my understanding is that for the first 24 hours you're generally not even allowed to call the family member who checked you in, let alone the press.

Also, I call bullshit on the part of the story where a psychiatrist prescribed him Klonapin, a drug that he has mentioned was one he used to abuse.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:32 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hugo Schwyzer really, really needs to learn to accept that people are going to disagree with him and even dislike him. That's rough, it's not fun, it's not a cool thing to have to do. But when you're lashing out at people by harming yourself in an attempt to make them feel bad for making you feel bad, you've crossed a line, and you need to learn to retreat and cut off the relationship.

This is actually a common dynamic in really dysfunctional relationships. It becomes this unhealthy cycle feeding on itself: you feel hurt, so you hurt yourself more just to prove to the other person how much they hurt you - that is, to hurt them. Hurting yourself in order to force others to feel something on your behalf is one of the most essential and problematic forms of emotional manipulation.

What makes this more difficult and frankly remarkable is that Hugo Schwyzer isn't reenacting this dynamic with a partner; he's reenacting it with the internet. It's still a form of emotional manipulation, this self-destruction with something to prove, but I would have hoped that the odd imbalance would have made him realize how futile that was. I guess I've never been a well-known internet personality; it must be maddening not to be able to control the narrative of your own life, I will admit. But this is the furthest thing from a healthy way to deal with that.

I genuinely hope that Hugo Schwyzer's life works out here, that it steadies out. He's taught courses in a lot of things, and he has tenure. He could go back to just teaching history, quietly and without fanfare. Or he could leave entirely and find a new line of work. People do that. He's right that he isn't a very good representative of male feminism right now; I'll just hope (improbably) that at some point during those 72 hours wherever the heck he is he'll snap and decide with disgust that he doesn't want to deal with it anymore for even one second. For his own sake, I hope that happens.
posted by koeselitz at 12:58 AM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I also think that movement folks should consider why we relentlessly elevate people to hero status. Why do we need a "poster boy" authority figure? Schwyzer and his flaws aren't all of the equation - lots of people were linking, interviewing and talking him up for years, people I respect and do not think are stupid or awful. What's up with that? We need to learn to stop seeking out these...well, really, these father figures, these "good men", and giving them authority.

Oh, I think this is a good question, and I think your last line is the answer--because if we find "good" men to elevate, we don't have to give up the structures of patriarchy after all.
posted by liketitanic at 6:33 AM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


This whole thing saddens me greatly. I've been reading Hugo for almost a decade, and I've listened to a couple of classes he's taught. I believe he was doing vital, beautiful work for a long time. And then people went into HIS writings on his addictive past and picked a horrifying mistake to hang him. And a lot of other people jumped on the bandwagon, and his spirit broke -- and now he's devolving full speed.

To me, it seems like a random thing that could happen to any of us. There are many things in my past that one could use to characterize me, but none of them would tell the whole story, and I don't believe they would tell you who I am today (or, in Hugo's case, who he was before he began to break down).

I have a lot of gratitude for things that he's written, and I wish him well.
posted by MeiraV at 8:56 AM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


What a sad and interesting story. I spent hours last night down the rabbit hole of reading his essays and reactions to them.

I sympathize with him with regard to the mental illness--oh boy do I--but on the other hand narcissism, as a part of that, is a really hard thing to feel compassion about. The self-regard combined with desperate need for affirmation is such a destructive combination. I know someone like Schwyzer, down to the personal charm, the serial offenses, and the redemption story and it's almost shocking how they act according to type.

His poor kids. Does anyone know how old they are? Dealing with a dad who's had multiple breakdowns plus public controversy and excoriation would be hard enough, but added to that he has to put online all the sordid details of his past? And the sexting scandal doesn't help either. Honestly, reading about that little love triangle is like watching 7th graders acting out their ridiculous, immature, self-absorbed drama on a world stage. Only these are freaking adults...ugh.
posted by torticat at 11:26 AM on August 3, 2013


I do actually hope he redeems himself, only for real, with the actual self reflection involved to see why the reaction people are having to him makes perfect sense given his behavior. I'm not a fan of trying to demolish someone's self worth with words-- words and psychological warfare can truly be destructive to human well being and I don't think his reaction of having a mental health episode or intense emotional reaction to having his world turned upside down and his source of affirmation and purpose being removed from him is any different than when it happens to others. Usually when people don't go around acting like Hugo, we call treating someone the way he's been treated bullying. I saw what was said about him and yeah, I would expect plenty of people to have a mental health episode after that even people who hadn't ever had one before, let alone some with past mental health/addiction issues and a vulnerable sense of self worth and belonging.

That said, when someone has been behaving badly, it's hard to figure out how to remove their power to keep influence the world in the wrong direction without using the power of words (which is what he's been using to create his "brand", earn income, and secure the admiration and support of others) to remove his sense of security that the words he's using are correct. Since they are NOT particularly reflective of the goals of many women's activists and his brand includes marketing himself as a feminist theorists and educator-- this response was inevitable. People have nicely tried to point out the problematic elements of this writing, theory, and lack of education, accuracy, or insight behind his theory- and his overall lack of awareness of what the problems facing various populations of women are and how to really address them with the use of his social educating power.

That didn't work so the crowd turned monstrous against him. Psychological warfare is real and it really does destroy many people. But I believe in self defense and am not sure there was a peaceful way to bring to light the problems of his writing and the problem of many outlets such as jezebel who wanted to ignore those problematic elements of his writing because he had made friends with and appealed to the sympathy of various publishers and readers on the net.

He's a believer in God, and his Christian faith has buffered him from accountability that the real often holds people to for being abusers or harmful to others. Christianity and many forgiving religions have had this problem of empowering dangerous people to go on "forgiving" and "understanding" their problem behaviors without facing the natural repercussions of people who want to defend themselves or keep themselves and their loved ones safe from those behaviors. I want love and kindness for all beings myself- but not at the cost of empowering harmful people to go unchecked in order to spare their feelings or even well being.

It's kind of a complex issue to me, because I've known so many character similar to Hugo and I feel sympathetic to them while I can also see directly the harm that results from their inability to see clearly how their actions, words, and beliefs affect those around them-- and their lack of ability to gain insight into what it's like to be people other than themselves with different experiences and needs. I don't know that it's his fault but he never was a candidate for feminist hero icon that he managed to garner and I hope those who fueled and fed the beast will also learn something from this. I hope he is not given the kind of spotlight he was previously (though I imagine he will not let go of it easily or without some more desperate acts) but I hope that something more wholesome and good for him (and others) can replace what he was getting out of that. Probably, a return to practicing his religion froma place a humility without expectation of adoration or praise or even basic respect from others might help. Or just lot's of therapy. I don't know, if I did I would be trying to get those supports to people like him everywhere. There are a lot of people like him in power, as they gravitate toward it, and very few face the scrutiny that he has been given. He made the mistake of building his brand on the backs of a social justice movement that is not interested in mercy for abuser, but on empowering the abused. He could have become a hero for orphaned animals and gobbled up all the praise and ego feeding he wanted and would likely have been able to be the same person with the same issues but liked just fine by people around him. (Though he might have still been a shitty partner as a result of his lack of true insight or concern, or ability to maintain and act reliably on such concerns- for the long term welfare of those around him.)

He would likely not have faced this sort of personal attacks that are causing him such pain and inner turmoil right now. But, if he is truly a religious man, I hope he can see that the gift of facing your own lack of empathy or awareness, even through a lot of pain and inner destruction, may be a more meaningful gift than living a live of self centered awareness without ever experiencing deeper relationships that reflect the experience of more than the self. I hope he gets whatever help he needs to make that sort of transition and shift his life from attempting to reconcile this (which can not be reconciled, he chose a crowd that does not forgive abusers and is trying to change them to be more "christian" and it's not going to happen for good reason).

Even if there are good reasons to have mercy for the predators among us, that is different than giving all predators and clean slate to become powerful people when it may not be for the good of those around them to have such power given they may to prone to instincts of abuse of that power- or of unhealthy addiction to that power that misguides them in their use of it.

Sorry for the length, I saw this a few days ago and have been reflecting on it as I think it's an issue that hits on many different areas of our cultural awareness that I would like to see more understanding and better responses to. I don't even know that I have any useful answers, I just hope to see more people come up with them and I'll certainly try my hand at thinking of some.
posted by xarnop at 9:23 AM on August 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Schwyzer's Saga Continues

which links to this oldie but goodie:

Unsexed by Eirasexuality
posted by Unified Theory at 10:14 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


He phoned the newspaper again to tell them the affairs were true, he won't be teaching for the first two months of the semester. He claims now that he quit the internet because he was being attacked for his affairs, though my understanding was that he admitted to them only upon quitting.

Given the personal attacks that Hugo gave, I can't feel very sorry that he's received the same ones. He put a lot of things out there and, when he didn't accept gentle critiques but doubled down on his sexist and racist and classist and abusive talk from multiple positions of power, well, the responses stopped being gentle.
posted by jeather at 6:07 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's having a Twitter rant as of the last hour or so. Man. I feel for his family, he's just...incapable of stopping.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:45 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, rant is maybe not quite the right characterization. "Extended public self-flagellation session" may be more accurate.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:47 PM on August 9, 2013


He clearly does not know the meaning of "done."
posted by rtha at 12:54 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. Holy shit. Wow. Having watched several friends have manic episodes on Facebook and Twitter, this is not fun at all. Just awful. I hope somebody gets him off the computer and encourages him to take his meds.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:03 PM on August 9, 2013


On Twitter, he's saying that he's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well as borderline personality disorder. Having a manic break online and in public is painful. I hope he gets the help he needs.
posted by jaguar at 1:05 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy cow, that was a mess. Seems like he's done now - last tweet was about an hour ago. At this point, I really hope he's okay. He has a lot of stuff to work through.
posted by koeselitz at 2:06 PM on August 9, 2013


There's a huge blowup on twitter again about Hugo, mostly under the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen, complaining about how a lot of the sympathy for Hugo ignores the history of harm he has caused to women of colour (and his students, and other women), and secondarily how "oh, he couldn't help himself, he has [whatever]" stigmatizes people with mental health issues.

It's interesting, but hard to follow in the way that twitter conversations always are.

His manic break struck me as possibly carefully calculated, but I tend to be suspicious of him.

Relatedly, his now-cancelled porn class was going to feature him having sex with a porn star in front of the class.
posted by jeather at 10:58 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a huge blowup on twitter again about Hugo, mostly under the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen, complaining about how a lot of the sympathy for Hugo ignores the history of harm he has caused to women of colour (and his students, and other women), and secondarily how "oh, he couldn't help himself, he has [whatever]" stigmatizes people with mental health issues.

For me, I have had some trouble finding the set of interactions with women of color bloggers since this was several years ago (apparently) and there's been a lot of Hugo Schwyzer on the internet since then - I imagine that people who came late to this whole HS situation or read his essays in isolation might not have been aware of those. It does change things quite a lot, in my view.

As far as the internet line of reasoning of "mental illness doesn't let you off the hook because not all people who have a mental illness do awful things"...well, a beloved relative of mine actually did do some awful, cruel and out-of-character things when she was in the grip of a really terrible bout of mania. I would hate to hear someone say that her actual, non-ill character was just a sham and that we could not attribute her cruel and extremely unexpected remarks to me (for example) to her illness because that "stigmatizes the mentally ill". Surely mental illness is a complex enough set of conditions that some folks actually do kind of shitty things when they're sick and some people don't, and we can acknowledge both. I don't feel, for instance, that I am insulted (I have an anxiety disorder) if someone remarks that my relative said and did bad things because she was having a really bad manic episode.
posted by Frowner at 12:01 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Upthread someone mentioned that they hadn't seen any coverage from this on Jezebel. They've addressed it today, albeit in a somewhat oblique fashion.
posted by palomar at 12:32 PM on August 12, 2013


There's a really interesting question about the intersection of responsibility and illness. If you once do a single thing that is out of character while ill, that's one side of the spectrum. If you consistently do horrible shit all the time while you are also ill, that's the other side.

But I don't think the argument is that Aunt Frowner did a terrible thing while sick and therefore she is a terrible person and anything else she did was horrible. It's that Aunt Frowner did a terrible thing and even though she was sick, she has to take responsibility for it. And what Hugo did wasn't a one-off (like, say, the attempted murder-suicide) -- he did a lot of crap consistently.

I don't want to accuse your aunt of anything. Even people who aren't sick sometimes do horrible shit. But I've known addicts, too, and none of them tried to kill their partners. I've known people with different mental illnesses, and they didn't sleep with their students. The twitter breakdown sounded to me a lot more like "I'll say what they want me to hear and how horrible I am so that everyone feels sorry for me now" and not anything like remorse. If it is actually remorse, we'll probably never know. If it isn't, we'll see it again soon when he reappears online, because "abusive man threatens suicide when caught out being abusive" is not exactly an uncommon story.

I don't even remember most of the WoC stuff he did -- I remember he claimed that the racist pictures in Amanda Marcotte's book were not racist and people were mean to say otherwise, and similarly when Amanda Marcotte took a lot of content from WoC bloggers. There were a lot of direct attacks then. I'm sure there was more -- his regular posts about how other cultures were just so much more full of machismo and sexism than his own (better) WASPy one come to mind.
posted by jeather at 12:54 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the first time I remember taking note of Schwyzer was in the lead-up to brownfemipower shutting down her first blog (link to Feministe overview) in response to the arguments that sprang up after Amanda Marcotte published an article that covered a lot of the same territory as bfp's (and others') blogs without crediting any WOC bloggers working in the same arena.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:51 PM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's totally fair to say that he's both abusive and mentally ill, and to be sympathetic about the illness without letting him off the hook for the abuse. (And the abuse certainly includes using his mental illness to manipulate others.) Psychiatric medications are pretty much guaranteed not to fix the abusive parts of his personality, but they're fairly likely to keep him from killing himself, and as a human being I'd like him not to hurt himself or his family any more than he already has.

It'd be even better if, once he got psychologically stable, he was able to actually address the abuse problem, as well, and not in a "Poof! I'm magically reformed!" way, but in a thorough, slow-going, accepting-responsibility and admitting-current-faults way.
posted by jaguar at 1:59 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Porn Professor Hugo Schwyzer Comes Clean About His Twitter Meltdown and Life as a Fraud

Not anything new or super-surprising, but worth adding to the reading list, I guess.
posted by jaguar at 2:19 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was unaware, to my embarrassment, of HS's interactions with women of color and how abusive and basically horrible he was in that regard until I read something Flavia Dzodan wrote about it in the midst of this blow-up. More has been coming out, and I'm glad it is for those of us who didn't know, but it is really upsetting. His history of violence toward his partner is pretty well-known, I think, but I wish the major (white) voices in feminism had made as much of an effort to spread what a racist POS he was too. In that regard, I completely understand the #solidarityisforwhitewomen thing.
posted by Ouisch at 2:36 PM on August 12, 2013


(Just a heads-up, jaguar's link is blocked by my employer's network for "drive-by exploit", so that may not be the safest link to click on.)
posted by palomar at 3:02 PM on August 12, 2013


(Interesting. It also has "porn" in the URL, so it's probably not a great link for work, either.)
posted by jaguar at 3:21 PM on August 12, 2013


Interestingly, I was asked today if I could be an internal candidate for a managerial opening in my workplace, and I passed it up because I know that the demands of that particular position would interact in bad ways with my personal crazy.

Very little of this is actually news. One meltdown is a bad month of managing your symptoms, getting caught repeatedly at it is something of a habit. Personally, I thought he was a phony during the whole flamewar over brownfemipower, when he charged into the discussion bossing the women around with his academic and publication credentials. Now, it turns out that I have better credentials than he does, and I wouldn't dream of being a feminist talking head or women's studies guy in an academic department, mass media, or new media. I'd punt to my former mentor first.

Which is where I see the problem. The repeated self-revelation that he had a bit of a problem with boundaries WRT women somehow never translated to the realization that maybe he should take a back seat for his own personal good, and punt to the women he was competing against.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:40 PM on August 12, 2013


He's on twitter again (but he's going to leave the internet again soon) saying that WoC are being abusive for using his racism as a way to start talking about racism in feminism and he's super special and not an example of anything because he's a very awesomely talented sociopath. I'm less and less inclined to believe his claims of suicide or anything, really.

I know all these posts about him just feed his ego, but I find the way this intersects with a lot of important stories just fascinating.
posted by jeather at 8:58 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please, please, can someone TAKE AWAY THE MAN'S WIFI?!?!?! Seriously, disconnect his net access, put him on a deserted island, something to stop him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and while we're at it, someone also stop him from calling up every reporter he can find, too?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:02 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is, he doesn't even have the insight to realize that it wasn't only his actions toward feminists of color that sparked #solidarityisforwhitewomen, but more the fact that white women feminists allowed him a platform despite his obvious callousness toward women and feminists of color. (Notice how the hashtag specifies "women," Hugo?)

Again, he tries to make it ALL ABOUT HIM when actually the hashtag is about the damaging complacency and white-centric attitudes of many white women feminists. Racism has been an issue in white feminism basically since forever. This is just the latest of many necessary arguments about it. He literally cannot see any big controversy, story, or issue as not having him at the dead center of it, and then trying to somehow take credit for it, and try to co-opt and manage the narrative.

There is not enough STFU and GTFO in the universe.
posted by Ouisch at 9:25 PM on August 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


"... even more so than despising his ideology, I despise the culture that enabled him. I despise the TMZ of feminist media that “reports” our issues and sells us a lip gloss version of our politics and gives space to people like him so that he can shit on us and tell us how we should take it in the face while he puts Women of Color in “their (our) places”. This is how White Supremacy works and I am pointing all my fingers at Jezebel and xoJane and The Atlantic and every other publication that paid him to publish his repulsive opinions. The shame is on each of you and not merely on his cock shots or pathetic sexting. The shame is on every editor that thought selling women like Blackamazon or brownfemipower (or even my fucking self) for page clicks was a worthy trade off. Each and every one of those editors that knew what he was, how he acted and how his misogynist racism operated behind the scenes has played a part in this. And you get to “represent” feminism. You are the filters of who gets published and who doesn’t. You are the ones that hold the doors and set the agendas. The dick pics are also on you. You helped create the monster, now I hope you enjoy the money shot."

-Flavia Dzodan
posted by Ouisch at 10:08 PM on August 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ouisch, that entry from Dzodan is powerful. Thank you for sharing it.
posted by jaguar at 10:26 PM on August 12, 2013


A response to the (in my opinion, crappy) Jezebel piece:

"You have met this person and talked to him at length; you respect his honesty and like his approach to ideas, even if you don’t always agree with him. You believe in his intentions and you want to work with him." from brownfemipower. Her front page has a lot of links detailing the 2008 fuck-up with Schwyzer and Amanda Marcotte dismissing women of color's objections to Marcotte's work.

And another piece reminding us to keep the victims of Schwyzer's abuse in mind:

When Will We Stop Talking About Hugo Schwyzer? Whenever His Victims Want To Stop, Damn It.

All links found via Bitch Magazine's Social Commentary entry We Need to Talk About Hugo, Race, and Feminism.
posted by jaguar at 11:19 PM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also worth reading: An Open Letter to Big Feminist Media Regarding Hugo Schwyzer
posted by jaguar at 12:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Relatedly, his now-cancelled porn class was going to feature him having sex with a porn star in front of the class.

Cite, please?

Because that's just fucking crazy.
posted by Unified Theory at 6:43 AM on August 13, 2013


Those BFP posts are really very, very damning.

I don't know how I missed all of this, because I know I was reading her blog for a while before 2008 (and I think she's great, and did not know she had a current blog since she had taken a break after her past one and I'm really excited about this) , and I remember how terrible the Amanda Marcotte/Seal Press thing was, but I don't remember the Hugo Schwyzer piece of it. I think I hadn't read him at all then because I think I started reading him when he was linked from Alas, A Blog around 2009-2010 because I remember that I was in my current job... Yuck. Definitely he should not have had any credibility after that, and while I am on the fence about some of the mental illness and sexting aspects of this, no one who tells marginalized people that they "just need to work harder" should be given the time of day. Totally repulsive and unacceptable.
posted by Frowner at 7:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Discomfort is not divisive, on the #solidarityisforwhitewomen story.

Cite, please?

See here, here, here. (The last link is from a rather icky Game/MRA-style website, but includes screen captures.)

Possibly he was just discussing it as a fantasy and realised that this would actually get him fired, but it's hard to be sure either way.
posted by jeather at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013



Hugo Schwyzer? I think of him like this. Let's say that being a fairly good feminist ally, hoorary, is called "Being At Ten". Let's say that your average straight white dude who has not considered any feminist things at all is "At Zero". Hugo Schwyer, IMO, started out "At Minus Ten", what with the various personal struggles, and has worked pretty hard to get to zero. I think he's sincere. I also think he's pretty fucked up. He shouldn't be any kind of "feminist poster boy" or movement leader.


I wrote this above, and I'd like to say that now that I realize that he was involved - and how he was involved - in that whole Amanda Marcotte book situation, and just how he treated a lot of really great women of color writers who are gifts to the blogosphere, I totally take this back. He's not at zero, he's at minus one million, and I regret that I didn't realize it sooner.
posted by Frowner at 7:23 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


There was an fpp about the bfp/Marcotte thing. Can't search/link as I am walking to my car to drive to work, but it had good links as I recall.
posted by rtha at 7:26 AM on August 13, 2013


rtha: The FPP about the bfp/Marcotte thing was here. 2008-vintage Metafilter seems to have been heavy on the ugly "feminists are so tedious" mojo.
posted by koeselitz at 8:00 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It sounds like he was discussing it as a fantasy. But it's still creepy as heck. If you're in an academic position, there are a number of people you shouldn't talk about fucking* including:

* your students
* your boss
* your publisher
* people you supervise
* your clients
* your research sources and participants

That's almost as shocking a breach of ethics to me as having sex with his students. It's especially egregious because strict professionalism is necessary to get many marginalized groups even in the door for an interview or class discussion. It taints his own writing, and possibly that of his institution as well. From what it appears, he should be suspended on ethical grounds rather than health ones. How many different types of ethical misconduct does the guy need to get caught at before the institution cuts him loose?

(* Unless you're saying, "Help me set up some reasonable boundaries before I do something really stupid.")
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:02 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


CBrachyrhynchos: “How many different types of ethical misconduct does the guy need to get caught at before the institution cuts him loose?”

Indeed. And, as a side-note, although I know this is kind of a minor thing in the grand scheme, I find it incredibly weird and off-putting how many times Hugo Schwyzer has said "well, at least I didn't sleep with my students." Tip for him: if you find yourself saying this many times, that in itself is creepy, even aside from the fact that it's just an attempt to explain away real problems.
posted by koeselitz at 10:28 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgive me if I've mentioned this before, but a friend's wife teaches at a university in Manitoba, where another professor with tenure was regularly fucking students on his desk during office hours. The only complaint that got anywhere was a noise complaint because it was disturbing the classes across the hall. But, so sorry, he's got tenure. My own experience had a professor tear a stack of papers in half like a telephone book while screaming about his manifest incompetence; later, the papers were handed back very carefully taped back together, with every torn page carefully annotated with "I'm sorry, a madman did this." But, so sorry, he's got tenure.

This is all to say that, while this episode is (and should be) just totally career ending within the larger world of feminism and women's studies, don't expect anything to happen to his tenured position. Besides the fact that his obvious mental illnesses likely trigger ADA issues, from the perspective of the university's admin, this is not a terribly bad or important scandal. If Judith Butler can get away with nailing her own students, so can Schwyzer.
posted by fatbird at 12:26 PM on August 13, 2013


don't expect anything to happen to his tenured position

This varies a lot from institution to institution. I know of at least one professor where I teach who was fired for having sex with a student. This guy was a pig and I'm pretty sure he'd slept with others, but so far as I know there was only one formal complaint against him and that one stuck. The problem, of course, is that if the student doesn't bring a complaint then there's not much the administration can do, even if rumors are swirling about the place.
posted by yoink at 1:51 PM on August 13, 2013


It's a good question: In all the mess, I'm not aware of an actual student who's bringing a complaint. Is there?

The more comparable situation, I think, might be Ward Churchill, who's bad PR got so bad that the university found any reason at all to revoke tenure. But that was an absurdly extreme situation.

I suppose a sort of permanent disability leave might be a convenient way out for all if Schwyzer plays ball. But from my first example, a prof who says "screw you, I've got tenure" (which they guy did), really can't have much done about them.
posted by fatbird at 3:29 PM on August 13, 2013


Ward Churchill, who's bad PR got so bad that the university found any reason at all to revoke tenure.

Amply documented plagiarism and other grave acts of research misconduct are a pretty long way from "any reason at all."
posted by yoink at 3:42 PM on August 13, 2013


As the jury in the civil trial found, absent the political controversy, he would not have been fired; thus the judgement in his favor. It was overturned on appeal on grounds unrelated to the substantive complaint on which Churchill won.

In Churchill's specific case, the point is that he wasn't really hired as a scholar, he was hired as a prominent activist to give heft to a new and fashionable department. The shoddy scholarship of celebrity hires is usually overlooked as long as they serve their function of drawing in students, which Churchill did. When he became a liability, suddenly his academic practices became a convenient way to rid the university of a problem.
posted by fatbird at 3:53 PM on August 13, 2013


It's a slightly different, but potentially bigger deal if he's sexually harassing sources he's using for teaching or publication research. That's another area where the feds have the discretion to wield the funding banhammer if they think an institution or department is being lax. Given the sensitivity of the subject, questions about exactly how he was approaching sex workers for interviews, his ethics in interviewing them, and what he was doing with the interviews might be relevant.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:58 PM on August 13, 2013


As the jury in the civil trial found, absent the political controversy, he would not have been fired; thus the judgement in his favor.

The jury were not asked to rule as to the facts of his academic misconduct; they made a determination (based on a rather poor understanding of academic norms) that because his academic misconduct was only explored by the university as a result of the controversy over his political statements that the University had fired him for speech that should be protected.

The facts of the case are stark, however. Churchill was a serial plagiarist and conducted truly abysmally fraudulent scholarship--fraudulent scholarship that had been recognized as such by qualified critics who had attempted to get the university administration to pay attention to this for a long time. It is true that the university failed shamefully prior to the political controversy to pay attention to this appalling record, it is not the case, however, that they simply invented convenient grounds to dismiss him once he became a political hot potato. The grounds for his dismissal were rock solid and should have seen him dismissed long before he became a widely controversial figure.

The shoddy scholarship of celebrity hires is usually overlooked


Shoddy scholarship is frequently overlooked in celebrity hires, true; outright plagiarism and deliberate falsification of sources is not. And in those rare cases where it is, it is shameful that that takes place.

If Ward Churchill were a controversial right-wing figure no one on Metafilter would question for a second that he should have been fired. I find it deeply depressing that people simply ignore intellectual and ethical standards that they would normally hold to be very, very important simply because it is one of "their team" who happens to have flouted them.
posted by yoink at 4:21 PM on August 13, 2013


If you're perceiving leftist favouritism from me, then you're mistaking the roots of my disdain here. I'm not saying the university invented grounds for firing Churchill, I'm saying (and you agree) that they were indifferent to the quality of his scholarship in hiring him and employing him, and I'm further saying (and the jury agreed) that they only bothered firing him when politics necessitated it. In a perfect world, he shouldn't have been hired and he should have been fired; Schwyzer should likewise be fired. I doubt it'll happen because academia and the institution of tenure are deeply corrupt.
posted by fatbird at 4:46 PM on August 13, 2013


I'm further saying (and the jury agreed) that they only bothered firing him when politics necessitated it.

Except that they wouldn't have fired him if they'd examined his research and found it to be sound. Sure, they only (finally) started paying attention to the (many) complaints about the quality of his research when the political controversy brought those complaints to the fore. But it's untrue to suggest that the University's response went: "OMG, people are angry with him, we must find a pretext to fire him! Quick, let's troll through his writings and see if he every had a typo in a footnote. He did? YAY, we can sack him!"

Had the controversy around Churchill been solely the political unpopularity of his views the University would have ignored it (actually, they'd have rather liked it; academics by and large like the cachet of having "controversial" faculty). But that wasn't how things played out. Yes, you had the "we hate his views, how dare you let him corrupt the Youth of America!!!" idiots out there, but the real problem for Churchill was that the people who hated his views went off to Google "Ward Churchill" and discovered that there were decent, diligent scholars out there who--long before he became a major political figure--had been complaining about his deeply unethical scholarship. So what made the university sit up and take notice was not the "OMG, we hateeeee him" crowd but the fact that they could brandish plagiarized articles and say "why are you employing this clearly fraudulent pseudo-scholar?" That, in turn, made it impossible for them not to institute a scholarly review of his work, and the findings of that review made it impossible for them not to sack him.
posted by yoink at 4:55 PM on August 13, 2013


I'm not sure where we're disagreeing. We seem to agree that the reason he was fired was that it became untenable to continue employing him in light of his bad scholarship being pointed out by conservatives; prior to conservatives raising the issue of bad scholarship (and making noise about cutting the university's funding), they were content to ignore what you characterize as egregious academic misconduct that was being raised as an issue within academia.

How is this not the university firing him because the politics necessitate it? I'm not claiming the grounds for firing him weren't legitimate; I'm claiming they only exercised legitimate grounds for firing him because he caused a shitstorm for the university.
posted by fatbird at 5:05 PM on August 13, 2013


Why are we talking about Ward Churchill at all?
posted by koeselitz at 5:17 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we talking about Hugo? He's not going to be fired not only because he has tenure but because he's documented six ways to Sunday that his mental illnesses, which include his substance abuse, are contributory to his bad behavior. I am quite cynical about that - I think he's a revolting piece of human garbage who is shifting blame for his own selfish and even criminal decisions to his disorder, never mind what a crashing disservice it is to other mentally ill people to conflate being a bad person and being mentally ill. He knows the difference between right and wrong but he's utterly willing to do wrong whenever it serves his interests.

But they can't can him, because he's basically protected under the ADA. (Which is as it should be - for every system-abusing asshole like him, there's hundreds of good human beings dealing with disability who need to be covered, and it's better to cover the occasional asshole than leave hundreds of people unprotected.)
posted by gingerest at 5:21 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


gingerest: But they can't can him, because he's basically protected under the ADA.

I disagree with this interpretation, because:

"The term "qualified individual " means an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires."

If he's sexually harassing students or guest speakers, then he's no longer performing the essential functions of his position as a teaching professor. Reasonable accommodation does not extend so far as to give an employee a license for criminal conduct or civil liability.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:10 PM on August 13, 2013


I also can't help but think of the Sandusky case. Uncharitable, I know, but slapping a habitual abuser repeatedly on the wrist while keeping him close strikes me as a ticking time bomb. Granted we're talking sexual harassment rather than rape.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:45 PM on August 13, 2013


I'm not a lawyer, so I really don't know, but my impression is that when it comes to substance abuse, reasonable accommodation means that if you show you're doing everything in your power to stay sober and you can feasibly attribute your inability to perform to being high, your employer might well be found liable for a wrongful firing.

But it's not about what I think, whether it's ADA or tenure details - it's about whatever Pasadena City College's lawyer is telling them.
posted by gingerest at 10:06 PM on August 13, 2013


So Feministe has responded to #solidarityisforwhitewomen, which was initiated by Mikki Kendall during a Twitter conversation involving Feministe's Jill Filipovic.
posted by Ouisch at 2:31 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember back in March when I said, and I quote:

"[T]his guy can fuck right off. He doesn't deserve a second chance, because even if he's clean, it's clear that he hasn't truly changed his ways. The bottom line: the guy is still a narcissistic, disgusting, abusive creeper who feels the need to control feminist spaces for his own self-aggrandizement and uses his status to exert power over women in any way he can."

I stand by that assessment and it's clear that this asshole douchebag scumface will NEVER EVER CHANGE. He's a racist, sexist sleazebag predator who uses feminism and women to make a name for himself while doing as much as he can to tear feminism down with his shitty, selfish, narcissistic behavior. I hope he dies in a fucking fire.
posted by i feel possessed at 3:07 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


He is transparently attempting to use mental illness as an excuse for his frankly abusive behaviour, and in doing so is managing to further stigmatize mental illness. In addition to his racist and misogynist bullshit. He really is The Worst.
posted by Ouisch at 3:12 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it's true that Jill has been disallowing criticism of Amanda Marcotte on Feministe, I'm glad she's getting called out in the comments.
posted by lalex at 3:55 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember leaving Feministe because of how protective they were of Amanda Marcotte. It's too long ago for me to remember specifics, but I very much remember a climate of "You're with Amanda, or you're out."
posted by jaguar at 4:14 PM on August 14, 2013


(And by "leaving" I meant "stopped reading"; I never contributed more than an occasional comment.)
posted by jaguar at 4:16 PM on August 14, 2013


You know what allegedly feminist media source has been noticeably terrible through all this? Jezebel. Jessica Coen wrote a whole piece about Hugo that centered herself, addressed only her emotional response, and didn't so much as mention any of the women he hurt. Erin Ryan wrote about #solidarityisforwhitewomen without crediting Mikki Kendall (they added an update at the bottom) and without addressing the fact that the precipitating event for the tag was women of color pointing out that white feminism and white feminists ignored the whistle-blowing from feminist women of color for years.

I know I shouldn't think of Jezebel as feminist. It's just another Nick Denton money machine. But Lindy West works for them, and I wanted them to do better.
posted by gingerest at 8:59 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I forgot to add a link: Kirov's "What Jessica Coen Should Have Said", from the reader-generated section of the site ("Groupthink"), is really good.
posted by gingerest at 9:01 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another knock-out from Flavia Dzodan: Yes, This Is About Race
posted by jaguar at 9:33 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hugo did an interview with an MRA blogger. It's so gross and sad.
In our first conversation on Saturday, Hugo talked at length and without much interruption or prodding from me about his poor mental health. This was after his family had taken his Twitter account from him. He told me that he lied to his parents when he took my call by telling them that he was talking to a medical professional of some kind. Hugo went through a lot of the same information he’d already provided to other media outlets he’d reached out to in order to complete his “scorched earth” strategy of tearing down his facade in order to rebuild. He said that, contrary to reports, he didn’t actually try to commit suicide because “I know how to commit suicide.” He said he wanted and to be put in the hospital but didn’t want to sit through the boring committal process. So he went to sleep with the help of about 30 pills and woke up a dozen hours later. Hugo said that an L.A. Weekly reporter called him while he was in a haze and it was then reported that he’d tried to kill himself.

[...]

Our conversation Monday settled a few questions – if you want to believe him. “I’m definitely clear I want a divorce,” he said adding that his wife with whom he has two children is torn between reconciliation and divorce. I asked then, if she wanted to forgive him, why wouldn’t he let her? “I’m just not cut out for monogamy,” he said, [...] He finally laid everything on the table and told her that she needed to go get tested for STDs. “The fact that she might still want to be with me, I don’t know if she’s masochistic or what,” he told me.

[...]

Hugo wasn’t worried about those types of criticisms from non-feminists like me. “The ones who do see [the deeper flaws], you can marginalize them. You can just roll your eyes at them.”

[...]

And then the bombshell for me: “It’s about having Game.” “I took Game to the feminist world,” he said at one point. Hugo said he made fun of Game as presented in the “Manosphere” because he was a natural at it.

[...]

Jezebel’s Coen let Hugo go in April 2013 because, as he said, “I wasn’t getting the page clicks I was before.”
posted by nooneyouknow at 5:33 PM on August 15, 2013


And according to Lesley Kinzel at xoJane:
Inside info: Hugo Schwyzer has emailed me directly to offer suggestions for how I should write about what a monster he is. It made me want to throw up. Actually, I won't tell you what it made me want to do, because my kneejerk reaction was incredibly violent, for some triggering reasons I won't go into here.

[...]

Because I personally believe that Schwyzer is now trying to construct a new redemption narrative that he can rebuild some semblance of a career on, I am extremely resistant to do what he has literally asked me to do and play along by writing up a piece about how terrible he is and how he totally "fooled" me, thereby keeping him at the center of the conversation and sustaining his media frenzy.
Ick.

I do wish I'd paid more attention to this guy's blogging career before this point. I remember getting an icky feeling off him years ago, back when he was still mostly blogging about religion, because something about him reminded me of a very bad-news character from my own past - and then dismissing that icky feeling on the grounds that this blogger clearly wasn't that person, wasn't doing anything disturbing himself, and probably I was just tarnishing him by association because of a few superficially similar interests, how totally unfair of me!

And yet, so much of the stuff he's pulled or revealed about himself since then has been right out of that guy's playbook, right down to the plans to kill an ex-girlfriend in a murder/suicide deal, the manic breakdown broadcast to as many internet readers as he could reach, and the "I am a TERRIBLE FRAUDULENT MONSTER who has FOOLED YOU ALL! (but wasn't I good at fooling you, though? Wasn't I the most convincing liar you have ever ever seen?)" attempts to control the narrative. Maybe I was picking up on something from Hugo back way back then, or maybe it was just a coincidence that made me more likely to dismiss the warning signs later. But I really wish I hadn't been so keen to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, because it meant ignoring my own usually-reliable warning system and, worse, because it meant ignoring all the voices of all the people who clearly had seen him for what he was and were trying to get others to listen to them.

Willing to bet that whatever his next step is, it'll involve either going over to the MRA blogosphere and a ready-made audience over there, or a long and tearful confession that half the stuff he confessed to was lies and the addict ex-girlfriend he tried to kill never existed. Or both.
posted by Catseye at 3:43 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It just goes to show that I was, frankly, completely fooled. I read the occasional short piece by HS (and I still think that some of them are actually pretty insightful), but it seems pretty clear to me that if I'd been reading him regularly his creepiness would have been much more apparent, and I should have realized right away when this broke that a chorus of "he is creepy, no really, he is creepy" from tons of people could not be dismissed.

I mean, the stuff that's happened in the past week seems so dramatic and so close together and so, so ill-advised even from a scheming-sociopath standpoint that it is hard not to feel that the guy is having a genuine public mental breakdown - but I realize now that it's obviously a public mental breakdown that reveals what was there already.

It gives me pause to realize that I made judgments about this guy's work based on insufficient familiarity with it, which I should not have done. I also felt that there was a certain element of internet-hate-machine at work, because I spend a lot of time on tumblr and I know how bizarre things can get in certain circles there (where everyone is very young and still trying stuff out, communication tends to be bad and there's a lack of a common language), and I applied this inaccurately to a grown man with a long and public internet career whose beliefs and practices are solidified by time and practice. Just because people on tumblr tend to oscillate between "you are the greatest thing ever" and "you are history's greatest monster" does not mean that the baseline for internet critique should be "this is excessive and it's about splitting".

I should have known better and it's something that I'm going to remember.
posted by Frowner at 7:20 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's interesting to me is that I had more or less figured all serious feminists had written off Schwyzer at least five years ago, since I stopped seeing any of his stuff except in (dismissive) passing. What seems to have actually happened is that there was a big rift, where Schwyzer thoroughly demonized those who dismissed him, and where those who dismissed him thoroughly ignored him (places like Feministe making it a conscious policy, women of color getting so fed up that they threw their hands up after a while). And then along the way, anyone who did piece together Schwyzer's history would get demonized, so that he kept carving away any parts of the internet where he hadn't fooled anyone, so that he and his supporters could pretend they didn't exist.

So now his insistence in these interviews about what a successful manipulator he was is just... stupid. Because it's not true -- huge giant ginormous swathes of people were fully aware he was an abusive manipulative asshole -- and because it's just another way for him to try to claim power over those few places he still had it.

Ick. It's gross. I feel like I need to go shower.
posted by jaguar at 12:55 PM on August 16, 2013


The Hairpin: A Chat with Mikki Kendall and Flavia Dzodan about #solidarityisforwhitewomen
I think the phenomenon around Schwyzer’s popularity should be looked at from a prism rather than a single lens. For a start we have what I call “corporate feminism,” which is corporate media that is more interested in page clicks and viral content than in long-term political change or political organization. This is a relatively new phenomenon (probably Jezebel was the first site to start this trend). Up to that point, feminist blogging was part of or a companion of political activism or people interested in women’s studies so there was always a political component associated with blogging/publishing.

With the advent of “feminist mass media” (meaning sites that use feminist ideas or politics but target a wider audience than the initial niche), the main goal was never change or political action but profits. Schwyzer fit very well in this environment because he was inflammatory and “polemic” in the sense that he sold himself as “controversial,” which is like the holy grail of page clicks and publicity. So of course these commercial outlets embraced him. It didn’t matter whether they agreed with him or not, he brought in page clicks and that’s their main purpose: to make money out of page clicks.

Second, he is white, cisgender, male and affluent. All of these conflate to make him the “expert” in whichever field he picks. It’s not just that he has the influence to insert himself into spaces but his entire culture socialized him (and us) to accept him as an “expert.” This is at the root of what feminism has ALWAYS critiqued, the patriarchy! He IS the patriarchy and he infiltrated feminism because we are socialized to accept that white men “deserve” to occupy spaces.
posted by Ouisch at 3:13 PM on August 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


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