Subscribe to Bitch—an award-winning, 80 page feminist magazine. Image Map

We Need to Talk About Hugo, Race, and Feminism

Hugo Schwyzer is a narcissistic blowhole. This week, many of the women whom Schwyzer attacked and villified online over the years have successfully pushed the media frenzy around his recent admission that he's a fraud and an abuser into a bigger, more important discussion about the role that race has played in progressive, feminist media's support of Schwyzer over the years.

Take time to read through all the tweets on #solidarityisforwhitewomen, a hashtag started by Mikki Kendall, where people are posting all sorts of insights about how avowed white feminists can ignore and dimiss people of color—including the years of harassment Schwyzer inflicted, but also on other issues like the wage gap and media coverage. 

tweets from the #solidarityisforwhitewomen feed

Trudy of Gradient Lair collected many tweets on Schwyzer into a Storify, many of which point out that he should never have been allowed to become a prominent voice on feminist issues, including being a tenured professor and a paid writer at progressive magazines like The Atlantic and feminist websites like Jezebel. "Imagine Hugo Schwyzer as a Black man," Trudy writes. "You cannot. He would have NEVER been accepted by mainstream White feminism or any of those publications/universities."

The Storify also highlights @TheAngryFangirl's commentary on how the focus on the discussion around Schwyzer leaving the internet shouldn't be about how he feels on the matter and whether his mental health is suffering but on the mental health of the women he harassed over the years. tweets read (paraphrased): If you want to talk about mental illness, that's awesome and we need to do that. But don't you dare use those conversations as a way to silence people who want to criticize hugo schwyzer.

There is far more to say than 140 characters on this. Flavia Dzodan wrote a powerful piece at Red Light Politics about how progressive media groups have undermined women of color and feminism by supporting Schwyzer over the years. This is just an excerpt, go read the whole piece:  

I despise his ideology. This is no news to anyone. However, here's where things get murky and difficult and not easy to express coherently (mostly because it is difficult to put into words the source of so much of my anger and disappointment): 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. And don't say you weren't warned. Countless others aside from myself had extensively documented his antics, his skeevy politics, his racism, his misogyny. But he brought the page clicks. At our fucking expense. Sisterhood! Yay!

Brownfemipower specifically took on the issue of why editors offered Schwyzer a platform depsite his history: They let personal relationships with Schwyzer outweigh the problems raised by many women-of-color critics. Brownfemipower writes: "doors to resources are open when you go one direction. they are firmly shut when you go another. and for many people—their never even told about the doors, or their violently KEPT from the doors."

Lauren Rankin wrote a post that addresses how feminists should discuss the issue in a way that doesn't give him any support, from her perspective as someone who is white and was never targeted by Schwyzer: 

For those of us who never experienced abuse firsthand from him, now is not the time to rush to cover this up or move on from it. If we're going to speak, it should be in solidarity with the women whom he did target, whose careers he bombed, whose reputations he trashed. If we're going to scold anyone, it should be him, the underlying racism that lingers in so many white feminist spaces, and the culture of clickbait and pageviews that allowed him to thrive. If we're going to shake our heads, it should be at the countless editors who allowed this abusive, manipulative, cis, white man space to write instead of making space for women of color to opine and share.

Here at Bitch, our editors have never wanted to give him any attention, promote his douchey "brand," or publish his work. Bitch exists to be a platform for writers and thinkers whose voices are often not heard and there are thousands of more important conversations to be having than anything this guy could try and make us talk about.

So, except for one interview with him posted by a guest blogger in 2011—a long-regretted oversight—Bitch has been a Schwyzer-free zone since 2007. But there's a problematic flip side to that: By refusing to give him any attention, we arguably didn't do enough to proactively work against his influence in other feminist spaces. Would a 1,500-word Douchebag Decree have kept Jezebel from hiring Schwyzer as a regular columnist, or prevented him from taking his windbag speeches to Slutwalks and college campuses? That's doubtful. More likely, it would have fed his self-admitted narcissism and fueled the narrative that his ideas were far more controversial than they actually were. For raging egos, any attention is better than none.

For our part, Bitch would love to go back to being a Schwyzer-free website and magazine, and we appreciate that many people would probably be grateful to never hear his name again—even those who've only learned it in the past few months. We can't promise that, though—as horrible and destructive as the path he's deliberately razed through online feminist commuities has been, the conversations his flameout has inspired are valuable and necessary. 

 


Want the best of Bitch in your inbox? Sign up for our free weekly reader!

Read and buy Bitch magazine's current print issue!

Want more from Bitch? Good news! Our quarterly magazine, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, is packed with 80+ pages of feminist analysis, reviews, illustrations, and more. Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

19 comments have been made. Post a comment.

defenders

Good piece! This is also an important time to start asking why those like Shira Tarrant (long a defender of Hugo and who often criticized those who questioned him) are given ridiculous leeway to still defend him and not apologize for it.

We don't need to talk about

We don't need to talk about those topics, actually. They are boring and only losers are interested in them!

HI HUGO

HI HUGO

LOL. I have no idea who Hugo

LOL. I have no idea who Hugo is.

A full day of work wasted away...

I was glued to twitter when I should have been working. I'm so glad you guys pointed me in that direction, this kind of stuff doesn't get enough exposure, and this was HUGE.

thankyouthankyouthankyou

Male Feminists

Wow I just read about the whole meltdown and his interview today on Daily Beast (which wouldn't allow me to comment) I do feel sorry for him with the mental illness and all but my god, what a fucking hypocrite. Is Jackson Katz next? It just kind of makes me depressed actually. Like all men really are shits. but again if mentally ill. how can we blame him fully? Or is it a manipulative ruse yet again?
Can't find where Jezebel has commented on it and they should.

>Like all men really are

>Like all men really are shits.

typical feminist response to anything remotely masculine

boohoohoo forever :~;

boohoohoo forever :~;

Considering Shakesville,

Considering Shakesville, which is run by a narcissistic Morrissey fan, is more popular than Bitch I'd say your influence is pretty limited.

And was it a conscious effort by Bitch to keep him out? Or was it just that Schwyzer didn't really give a fuck about appearing here?

Oooooo...

...somebody found piss in his cornflakes this morning! Thx for your swell insights! They really add to the discussion! /WTF

Seriously, though - the avoidance of any critique of this situation because "Schwyzer is mentally ill" obscures the fact that mentally illness isn't a synonym for abusive asshole. I know of no mental illness which forces a person to be racist and sexist, specifically targeting and abusing women of color and young women, while all along posing as a feminist ally. That's a choice he made. In fact, there are plenty of actual feminists who live with mental illnesses, including some of the people that Schwyzer targeted and endangered. They seem to be able to be feminists without being assholes.

Hugo Schwyzer doesn't need the whole internets to participate in his treatment. He is being treated for his illness by health professionals who can actually help him. Yes, it would be wrong for anyone to use abusive language against him, as it would for anyone to do that to anyone. But if he can't listen to legitimate critique of his actions, he has the choice to stay out of these discussions, rather than seeking them out over and over (after he says he will not). Forcing everyone to keep quiet for fear of upsetting the abuser is not a viable strategy.

Not only that, but Schwyzer's mental illness should NOT keep those who enabled his abuse from having a public discussion about how they enabled him, how to keep it from happening again, and how to make amends (if that's even possible in a small measure) to those who were harmed.

Speaking of which: he caused a lot of pain to his targets. When do we get to talk about the pain THEY'RE dealing with? Do his defenders care about that?

I'm a she.

I'm a she.

I agree he

Absolutely should be held responsible for the racism and abuse he has demonstrated over the years, despite his mental illness. I am waiting for Jezebel to address this, this is the site where I read a few of his articles and had no idea about his past and recent past and controversies. I remember a few commenters expressing disdain or disgust like "UGH Hugo Schwyzer" type things but there was never any elaboration, and at the time I lightly dismissed it as some women not liking his male pov.
Now I know WHY they made the comments they did and I was ignorant!

Hugo

Schwyzer admits that he sought, was actually addicted too, public opinion and approval. I think he would have loved to be published and recognized by BITCH.

He wanted a wide audience.

He wanted a wide audience. Bitch's circulation of 10,000 hangers on and another 10,000 college students probably wouldn't have helped him. Hence the Atlantic/Jezebel/Feministe.

"If you look at the men who

"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."

Just learnt who this guy is. It's hard to pick out facts from among the crazy radfem invective, but even if this guy is a bit dodgy, the above is utterly true.

It's easy. Read his website.

It's easy. Read his website.

BFP quote

Hi. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

I did just want to ask: was Blackfemipower asked for permission to be quoted? Her tumblr policy states "academics" must ask for permission to quote her, but I have seen thoughtful folks (like, I think, @graceishuman?) just linking her in order to let her keep her words on her own platform. Given her history with online feminism and the context of the current discussions, it seems particularly relevant to ask (and then convey to readers if allowed) her permission.

H.S.

Couple of observations: The bigs--Atlantic, for example--are retailers. When they contract for a shipment of Hugo, they are confident they will be able to sell it. For money, hits, ad revenue, whatever.
Which is to say, there was a consistent, predictable, useful market for Hugo.
We may well condemn those who retail toxic substances, but they'd be out of business if nobody wanted their stuff.
What do we know about the people who were buying Hugo all this time? Is/should there be something to be learned, or perhaps even done about it? Not just some women, but a college administration.
I used to read him, but his schtick got old. Men are bad. Women are oppressed and Hugo is the only man who can explain things, see through the patriarchy, protect women, is Hugo. Tiring.
He needed women to be weak, frail, fragile, vulnerable.
Back when the knees were up to it, I coached youth soccer. Had a team of girls, 12/13 years old once. They wouldn't have bought Hugo for a minute.
When my kids got into high school and played varsity ball, I met a number of their teammates. The girls' soccer team played in the spring which meant there were no sports requiring cheerleaders, and the latter, being athletic, were about half the team. They'd have dribbled Hugo down to the Interstate and gone out for pizza afterwards, to laugh about it.
Thought about that when, twenty years after I'd been dealing with ACLs on my team, Hugo speculates attention to girls' knee injuries was troglodytes trying to put them back barefoot and pregnant while doing the housework in heels and a frilly dress.
One of our friends was quarterback on the seniors' Powder Puff team. After the game, I saw her drinking from a sprinkler faucet near a four-foot chain link fence. Couple of guys there whose body language I didn't like, so I headed over there. Got there in time to her her say, "'nother word and I'm coming over this fence." Ended the thing right then.
Competent, confident women are a threat t Hugo and his career.
What was Hugo's market and why?

smooth racist criminal

Had I known Schwyzer was attacking WoC, I would have been screaming at Jezebel to remove him instead of asking politely why this mansplaining, condescending, manipulative attempted-woman-killer was being given a platform there to tell women what feminism was. I did ask why other women were even listening to this attempted killer. (Also tried to kill himself? Yeah, where have I heard that one before?)

As for his poor-pitiful-me/look-at-my-mental-illness/twitter-diarrhea episode, it was just more manipulation, more "forgive the sinner", more "I confess to berating WoC so you'll think about ME", "I'll talk about all my meds/handing over my codes/I'm a little suicidal/so you'll all be riveted to ME." If he's mentally ill, help is not on the Internet. And for all those who are saying "don't you see he's *sick*"--that's just the result he wants. He's setting the stage for a comeback. He's hitting the reset button again, after he's gotten his life in a mess, just as he did when he "tried to commit suicide" after murder. He'll come back, all medicated and "cured." Except the real him is the one we've seen all along, the racist, the rapist, the bully, the manipulator who should never have had a forum in the feminist sphere.

Fuck him. He knows just what he's doing. The feminist media that published him owe WoC a major apology. And I apologize to WoC and their allies for not raising a serious stink. I didn't know what he was saying about them, but neither did I raise hell over his general presence in the media that I follow.