Episode CCLXXXVI: Escape from Wisconsin! »« How to free kids of religion

The Schwyzer betrayal

I’ve been rather appalled at the Hugo Schwyzer story that has been unfolding unpleasantly lately, but since Ms. Daisy Cutter brought it up and Comrade Physioprof has a good post on it, I thought I’d throw in a few words to the pigpile.

Schwyzer is a professor who lectures on feminism…he’s also a professor who had sex with his students and who tried to murder an ex-girlfriend. We could stop right there; just those acts alone make him contemptible. But for some unfathomable reason, he now makes money lecturing women on feminist ethics and patriarchal culture; would you believe that the title of one of his lectures is “Holding Men Accountable”? And now many people are arguing that he should be recognized as a useful ally for women, that we should forgive and move on, and recognize him as a changed and better person.

EG at Feministe sums up what I think about that.

The ideas that forgiveness and redemption are things we should be granting, that we have the power to grant, that all they require is confession and repentance, that they are things we have a duty to grant each other–those all seem to me to come out of a system of cultural values deeply invested in Christianity, with its emphasis on redemption and repentance. There is, of course, some good to be said of those ideas, but they are also ideas that should be interrogated, because they can be used as an excuse to celebrate abusers and silencing their victims. There are people whom I feel no need to forgive, both personally and in a political sense. Many people felt no need to forgive Christopher Hitchens. Nobody has a right to forgiveness from anybody, and forgiveness in and of itself is not necessarily a virtue.

(I’ve always found the whole Christian emphasis on forgiveness really strange, given their other emphasis on ETERNAL TORTURE FOREVER in the pit of hell for sinners; the ancient Egyptians just annihilated you if you were found morally wanting after death, which seems far more merciful to me.)

I do not forgive Schwyzer, nor do I feel any obligation to try to forgive. He screwed up unconscionably, he violated trusts once, and right now his work on feminism reeks of continuing exploitation. His confession does not reassure me.

My behavior with students from 1996-98 was unacceptable for a male feminist and, for that matter, an ethical person. The question is whether the penalty for that ought to be a lifetime ban from teaching gender studies, or writing about the subjects I write about. Some feminists feel yes, it should be. I disagree, but only because so many wonderful feminist mentors of mine have encouraged me to stay in this work.

At the time that he was exploiting his students for sex, he also knew that his academic mentors regarded that as an extreme violation of ethics — it’s one of those behaviors that can warrant stripping tenure from a faculty member, and we all know that we have a great deal of power over student careers, power that it would be unjust to take advantage of, yet he went ahead and screwed his students anyway. So now he listens to what his mentors say when they tell him what he wants to hear?

I don’t understand why he still holds a job in academia. I especially don’t understand why he’s permitted to teach in a field in which he’s surrounded every day by women students. If he were looking for real redemption, if he really wanted to atone for the abuse of his position, he ought to remove himself from the profession he violated and try to earn respect elsewhere. Maybe he should be the best plumber he can be, or the very best surfer, or a most excellent construction worker, all respectable professions. But he’s already burned all of his bridges as an academic.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    He is being the best hypocrite he knows how to be. Apparently he’s proud of this achievement.

  2. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    At the time that he was exploiting his students for sex, he also knew that his academic mentors regarded that as an extreme violation of ethics — it’s one of those behaviors that can warrant stripping tenure from a faculty member,

    How did Schwyzer manage to keep his tenure?

  3. Jack Krebs says

    The blues singer Tracy Nelson has a strong version of Lyle Lovett’s song “God Will” on her CD “Live at Cell Block D” which I think is relevant here. Lyrics:

    “Who keeps on trusting you
    When you’ve been cheating
    And spending your nights on the town
    And who keeps on saying that he still wants you
    When you’re through running around
    And who keeps on loving you
    When you’ve been lying
    Saying things ain’t what they seem
    God does
    But I don’t
    God will
    But I won’t
    And that’s the difference
    Between God and me

    So who says he’ll forgive you
    And says that he’ll miss you
    And dream of your sweet memory
    God does
    But I don’t
    God will
    But I won’t
    And that’s the difference
    Between God and me”

  4. davidct says

    He could always try politics.

    I wonder just how useful his courses are. His behavior and presumption to call himself a male feminist, suggest that his ideas are highly questionable.

    Forgiveness is a slippery concept. Growing up I remember that there was an attitude among some Catholic youth that if they confessed and were forgiven on Friday, they could take the sacrament on Sunday and then start a new week of sinning with a clean slate.

  5. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    How did Schwyzer manage to keep his tenure?

    Sometimes other faculty, even the administration, know what’s going on, but without a formal complaint to bring such behavior to the official notice of the administration, it could be ignored. My two cents.

  6. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I’ve been following this on Feministe. I agree with EG there and there were also some other good comments about how this kind of attitude that in a sense forces people to forgive is also very damaging for the victims. Instead of people being on their side, they are suddenly surrounded by people demanding understanding ans compassion from them (and for the perpetrator) instead of for them.

  7. says

    Oh ew. It looks like he’s one of those Iagoesq “I’m one of the good feminists guys, be like me and you can get the femcred without having to actually change all that much”

    Am I the only one who sort of thinks of the Frozen Caveman Lawyer?

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury…I’m just a male feminist.”

  8. says

    Beatrice #9,

    … this kind of attitude that in a sense forces people to forgive is also very damaging for the victims.

    I am a member of a group of ex-missionaries and missionaries’ kids (MKs)dealing with the results of past clergy abuse. This topic comes up frequently. Often the victims are pressured by their counselors to forgive, sometimes out of the blue, sometimes on the strength of an apology (or more often, a not-pology) by the abuser. If forgiveness comes with difficulty, the victim is treated as the new “sinner”, even to the extent that he is blamed for the suffering of the unforgiven perp.

    It’s worse, for those brought up in strict missionary homes, when the pressure to forgive comes in the form of condemning Bible verses saying that God will not forgive those who have not forgiven others. Even if the MK is no longer a believer, these passages have long since been memorized, and ground into the bones. They carry emotional weight even when reason rejects them.

  9. momoelektra says

    @davidct:

    Forgiveness is a slippery concept.

    And a useful one (for some people). Onus gets put on the victim.
    ____

    The discussion on Feministe has been interesting. I never liked the (scarce but in my experience often mentioned, undeservedly) no-men-allowed-feminism, but men in feminism is a rather tender subject, isn’t it?

    “Look, we are right, even a man agrees with us now you have to believe us!”

    I must admit I still am conditioned to accept a men’s position more easily than a woman’s because he is, well, the man. It does not happen often or on all subjects, but it does happen when I am not familiar with a subject.
    And I noticed that conditioning again when I read the two entries on Feministe.

    So I tend to agree with those who say the feminist struggle is one for women only, with men as (wonderful, helpful, welcome) allies.

    There seems to be some inherent danger with feminist men (or, well, Schwizzy at least) for the subject to become but-what-about-the-men(z), again.

    Like here.

    Sorry for the rambling, I am still having trouble sorting my thoughts on all this (feminism in general, I just took the red pill this summer).

  10. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    ‘There is more joy over one sinner that repenteth…’
    That applies in the afterlife, however. Here we have more practical matters to consider.
    There is a difference between people that he has abused forgiving Schwyzer, his alleged repentance and allowing him to continue in his academic position. The latter means he could abuse other students and the fact that he has done it in the past makes it statistically more probable that he will in the future. That is the reason he should not be allowed to retain academic positions, unless he takes drastic measures to reduce the likelihood of his re-offending. Voluntary emasculation or- less drastically- working in a male-only seminary would be possible ways to show that he recognises his sins, repents them and has taken steps to avoid repetition.

  11. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    I’m flattered you linked to my comment, PZ. Good post.

    momoelektra:

    I never liked the (scarce but in my experience often mentioned, undeservedly) no-men-allowed-feminism, but men in feminism is a rather tender subject, isn’t it?

    I don’t think men shouldn’t be allowed to associate themselves at all with feminism. I welcome men who are feminist-friendly. That said, given the history of men like Hugo Schwyzer and Kyle Payne (trigger warnings for sexual assault, taking of pornographic photos without subject’s consent), men who seek prominence, praise, and financial compensation as “male feminists” raise a red flag for me.

    And, because of their relative social privilege, they get much, much more attention and credibility than do the women who have been saying the same things for decades. (See also Tim Wise, w/r/t white privilege.) The catch is that because they are better listened to, they do have the power to get other men, and some women, to sit up and listen.

  12. momoelektra says

    @Ms. Daisy Cutter:

    I don’t think men shouldn’t be allowed to associate themselves at all with feminism. I welcome men who are feminist-friendly.

    Yes, me too. I just finally understood why some feminists are more weary of (maybe just some) feminist men. It’s hard to shake of paternalism with paternalistic paters in your midst.

    And, because of their relative social privilege, they get much, much more attention and credibility than do the women who have been saying the same things for decades.

    Yes, that, too, is very relevant here.

    The catch is that because they are better listened to, they do have the power to get other men, and some women, to sit up and listen.

    Yeah, I felt very bitter when I realized that. Like adding insult to injury.
    And the bad thing, or sad thing, is, that can also happen unintentionally. All the more power to those who fight it when they consider it intentional or convenient (for the money or attention).

    Thank you for your insight.

  13. says

    Interesting. I had a public disagreement, or a series of them, with Hugo Schwyzer a million years ago (April 2004, to be exact), but I didn’t know this about him. My disagreement was about his agressive goddy talk on what I had taken to be a secular group blog about history, Cliopatria.

    I was invited to join Cliopatria around January 2004, and had a good time there, but was taken aback when Hugo joined and almost immediately started posting very god-inflected stuff. I did some posts about not wanting to be on a goddy group blog, and ended up leaving Cliopatria (not without a fair amount of goddy abuse to urge me along).

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2004/abandon-ship/

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2004/ineffable-and-unknowable/

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2004/irreconcilable-differences/

    Pious Hugo, eh. How interesting.

  14. says

    Oh, and Hugo on goddy politics.

    http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/4862.html

    My politics are derived from my faith, not the other way around. When I was younger, and a secular liberal, my politics were the only faith I had! Since coming to Christ (and yes, I do call myself”born again” without embarrassment), I have had to rebuild my politics from the ground up. When I consider political questions, I am forced to ask myself what position I believe Christ calls me to. This isn’t easy, for any number of obvious reasons, starting with the fact that the New Testament is not a modern political manual. This is why I can’t merely allow myself to hunt and peck through Scripture, finding passages that support my already-in-place suppositions about justice. (Many liberal and conservative Christians alike do this; it’s an understandable habit, but a bad one). Rather, I have to be open to what the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and my church community are telling me about right, wrong, peace and war and so forth.

    I belong to a church that embraces pacifism as the fullest understanding of the Gospel. I belong to a church that opposes the death penalty and abortion, seeing them both as fundamental evils even while recognizing that the latter takes far more lives than the former in this country.

    You can see why I felt squirmy. I particularly despise the dangerous nonsense about “Scripture.”

  15. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I belong to a church that opposes the death penalty and abortion

    Lovely.

  16. Alverant says

    One question I think we should ask is what feminism is. Does it include being pro-choice? Does that include speaking out against sexual discrimination and exploitation and violence? If so, there’s no reason for men not to speak out. Everyone has a mother, sister, daughter, wife, and/or aunt, etc and we don’t want them hurt or limited just because of their gender.

  17. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Ah, I looked at Clarisse Thorn’s interview with him, he says he is now pro-choice.

  18. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    I belong to a church that opposes the death penalty and abortion, seeing them both as fundamental evils even while recognizing that the latter takes far more lives than the former in this country.

    Because killing a person (even if they do happen to be a vile or a dangerous one, as opposed to one condemned as a result of a miscarriage of justice … like that never happens) with a concept of self and the capacity to think, feel and suffer is exactly the same as extirpating a blob of cells with no capacity for independent existence and all the personhood and self-awareness of a vermiform appendix, a gall bladder or a tumour. Right. And because preserving that blob is so much more important than the right to self-determination, the wellbeing and life of the woman concerned.

    Never heard of this bloke until today, but the more I hear the more I’m inclined to conclude that was no great loss.

  19. says

    Rather, I have to be open to what the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and my church community are telling me about right, wrong, peace and war and so forth.

    :facepalm: No wonder this…person is so hot on forgiveness.

  20. mudpuddles says

    @momoelektra (#12)

    So I tend to agree with those who say the feminist struggle is one for women only, with men as (wonderful, helpful, welcome) allies.

    Ehhh…. I get your basic premise but I don’t agree with that stance. To me its not too different to saying that white people shouldn’t fight against anti-black racism (its a fight for blacks only), or that people in developed countries shouldn’t lead the charge against poverty in the developing world (its a fight for developing nations only).

    As with those other two areas, feminism (in part) deals with issues of social justice – often relating to inequality and disadvantage (e.g. resulting from deeply-rooted chauvinism or prejudice). So while I agree that a man pronouncing to the world that he is a feminist smacks of self-promotion and strongly suggests an ironic misunderstanding of what the issues are, I think that men do need to take more of an active and leading (at least within their own professional or social spheres of influence) role in addressing certain central concerns of feminism – but of course, as with racism or development issues, taking their direction from those at the front line (i.e. women).

    For example, a man within a corporate body standing up and fighting to end discriminatory practices and maybe building a movement to address related feminist issues should be lauded. But if he aims to stand alone rather than behind or alongside women involved in those issues, or if his position or behaviour is or becomes part of a pattern of sexism (maybe if he proclaims “I am a feminist and I will teach women how they can do feminism too”) then I think that’s clearly a problem.

  21. yoav says

    and who tried to murder an ex-girlfriend.

    In this case, shouldn’t the question be not why is he still teaching but rather why the fuck isn’t he in jail?
    Forgiveness is a problematic term, I don’t think that society can forgive someone, that is something that only the person who was directly hurt can do and it’s up to them to decide and no one else has any right to judge them whichever they choose to do.
    As society we can talk about rehabilitation instead of forgiveness, while we as a society have no right to forgive we do have an interest in giving ex-cons an opportunity to rejoin society once they served their punishment rather then have them shunned forever which is just going to make it more likely they will re-offend. Clearly there should be some restrictions, for example if you were caught abusing a position of authority then you shouldn’t be allowed to hold such position again, so yes Mr Schwyzer should be banned for life from teaching, not just gender studies. He obviously have the right to write about any subject he wants but that doesn’t mean anyone should consider him an authority on the issue.

  22. says

    Yeah, I remember enjoying Cliopatra until it began its descent into absurdist goddism, and then it became a tedious collection of “notes” (thanks, Ralph!) and then it was boring boring boring alternating with infuriating. So I haven’t even looked at it in years.

    I’d forgotten that Schwyzer was tangled up in it, and that he was one of those pious guys.

  23. momoelektra says

    @mudpuddles:

    First, I agree with what you said.
    Of course men are needed to overcome gender roles (not only because they are victim to some themselves).

    I do not want to exclude men from this struggle. I just noticed, I think, how deep the rabbit hole goes, how much it shapes our way of thinking and struggling. Sometimes I truly feel brainwashed (soft, but noticable).

    There is some sort of leash that I fell pulls me back to what I learned, saw, absorbed, that I feel I have to overcome first of all (much learned automatism).
    It’s not against men, but for now, it kind of has to be without men (and many women, sadly). Or mabye I should say gendered roles, because male/female itself doesn’t quite seem to be it. Ah, I don’t know.
    I find it difficult to explain, and English is not my first language.

  24. fifilamour says

    You can’t be a feminist and not be pro-choice (much as Christian anti-abortion “feminists” may have tried to coopt feminism to claim that being anti-choice – they’re not “pro-life”, their stance is actually one that is anti-choice – is a feminist position). Now, that doesn’t mean that one has to personally believe that abortion is always the best option or even an option that they’d choose… See, it’s about women being able to make a personal choice, being pro-choice means that you advocate being able to choose to carry a pregnancy to term or not. Pro-choice also means advocating that women have easy and affordable access to birth control to prevent pregnancy – something that the anti-choice brigade also don’t want women to have access to. It also means advocating for social support for single mothers so that women who DO want to have an unexpected child have the resources to do so. So why is being pro-choice an integral part of being a feminist? Because access to birth control and safe abortion – whether one chooses to use them or not – are crucial to women being able to have some control over their own lives and future, to make their own ethical choices about their own lives and their own bodies. To say that a woman doesn’t have this right to choose, particularly by someone who says this because they believe in an imaginary father figure in the sky that disapproves, is inherently paternalistic. So, just to recap – being pro-choice isn’t being “pro-abortion”, it’s respecting that women have a right to choose. Being “anti-abortion” is actually being “anti-choice” – this is why it’s not a feminist position, because it seeks to take away female autonomy and replace it with paternalistic religious control.

  25. fifilamour says

    I’d add that I also know a lot of male feminists and humanists and consider them trustworthy allies – the issue isn’t with men being feminists for me because there are plenty of men I know my age and younger (and even older! ;-) who really do understand that feminism is about freeing us all from an oppressive social constructs regarding gender. If this guy is a born again Christian, that’s much more of an issue and red flag for me than him being male. It’s a bit like a pseudo-feminist version of Intelligent Design, in both intent and practice.

  26. fifilamour says

    I’d consider PZ to be a man who is an ally and supporter of women, a humanist that is naturally a feminist, whether he identifies as a feminist or not.

  27. says

    Since coming to Christ (and yes, I do call myself”born again” without embarrassment),

    That makes sense in terms of something I read recently – Republican Gomorrah. It had the potential to be a much better work building on the ideas of Erich Fromm, but it has its strengths in how it chronicles the contemporary US Religious Right.* One aspect discussed in some depth is that this has become a culture of personal crisis and redemption. As Blumenthal writes, “joining the Christian right requires little more than becoming ‘born-again’, a process of confession, conversion, and submission to a strict father figure” (p. 9). This public performance of contrition, no matter how dubious and lacking, is what’s important.

    To the extent that this culture has spread, it’s created a situation conducive to manipulative narcissistic opportunists. I also recently saw Shattered Glass, about Stephen Glass, the reporter who invented stories at The New Republic until he was revealed and fired. He’s portrayed as constantly apologizing when backed into a corner and expecting that to be accepted, which it often was. He’s since been denied admission to the bar for reasons of moral unfitness, and now apparently the Supreme Court will hear the case.

    *And the Kindle version is ridiculously cheap!

  28. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    ‘As Blumenthal writes, “joining the Christian right requires little more than becoming ‘born-again’, a process of confession, conversion, and submission to a strict father figure” (p. 9). This public performance of contrition, no matter how dubious and lacking, is what’s important.’

    There are accounts of just such people in early christianity and later revivals- people who sinned, repented, relapsed, and went through the performance again and again. It seems to be self-reinforcing behaviour. I don’t know if Schwyzer fits as well as he seems to, but even the most sympathetic academy would surely reject him as a candidate. The fact that he does not recognise that his past is strong evidence against letting him near students suggests that he has no self-awareness or self-perception. People who know they have weaknesses- for alcohol or drugs or seducing people they should not- and genuinely want to resist the temptation usually go as far as they can from the temptation, not where it is continually available.

  29. carlie says

    No wonder he thinks he should get off about the whole attempted murder thing – that was before he was born again, and the slate is now wiped clean. *facepalm*

    In this case, shouldn’t the question be not why is he still teaching but rather why the fuck isn’t he in jail?

    Statute of limitations, I assume. He gloats states in his post about it that at the time, he convinced everyone investigating it that it was a dual-suicide attempt (because who wouldn’t believe such a clean-cut young white man, amirite?); I guess the young woman was too hurt/cowed/ignored/threatened/gaslighted to oppose his story.

    I think that men can be feminists. However, it takes a huge amount of sensitivity to his own actions to do so in a way that benefits feminism. It is so easy for men to take on a dominant role without meaning to that it has to be actively guarded against. I think the best way for male feminists to act out their feminism, should they want to be activists in a way further than their own lifestyle, is to focus on telling other men about feminism, and direct them and women they know to the writings of female feminists for more information. Also, to provide space for letting women tell men about the issues they face and how they think the problems should be dealt with (which PZ excels at, by the way). It’s the difference between saying “I’m not an expert, but here’s what I know and here’s who is to go find out firsthand from” and “I’m not an expert, but I’m going to tell you all my opinions anyway”, and “I AM an expert because I’ve studied about feminism”. Only the first one is a valid way to approach activist feminism from a male perspective (and the same goes for white women trying to be activist about diversity in feminism, or able-bodied women trying to be activist about disability issues in feminism).

  30. carlie says

    Wow. And in case anyone thinks he just *might* not be an asshole with regard to how he treats women anymore, and is truly reformed, here is an article he published in July of this year in which he provides enough identifying information to out a woman who he slept with when she was dating someone else (she had moved from casually dating him to actively dating the other guy, who apparently knew she had been seeing him but not that the sexual part overlapped by a week or so). It’s all under the guise of “poor me, I might have a SON out there somewhere, and isn’t that just so sad for me”. Never mind the turmoil that article probably threw that entire family into because he just had to write an article about how virile he is, and provide huge amounts of identifying information rather than take five goddamned minutes to anonymize it all.
    (link from a commenter at feministe)

  31. carlie says

    And IN THE GODDAMED ARTICLE, published at a site called the “Good men project” (heh), he states:

    I made a promise to Jill before Alastair was born that I’d never ask for a paternity test, nor reveal to Ted the possibility that I might be the biological father of his son. I wasn’t in love with Jill and wasn’t ready to be a parent: Ted was both of those things. From what little I hear, he’s been a great husband and a doting father all these years. He and Jill have had two more sons together. With all that in mind, it would be an act of destructive narcissism on my part to ever break my promise and barge back into Jill’s life.

    Disingenuous fucker. He just did.

  32. says

    I’ve read Schwyzer before, since he was recommended to me by someone on my facebook feed as a good male feminist. I noticed pretty much immediately that his idea of feminism was religiously saturated, which I find to be oxymoronic.

    He does love to lecture, and while he may or may not be repentant, I would not be comfortable around him.

    I read Comrade Physioprof’s post yesterday, and was incredibly shocked. I had no idea he had nearly murdered his ex, which for me puts him beyond the pale. I mean, I have some exes I hate, but I have never tried, planned or tried to carry out murder to deal with my feelings for them.

    Christians love the Saint Augustine approach to religion: a figure who is ostentatiously bad, bemoaning his badness with so much loving attention to detail it’s nearly masturbation, and demanding forgiveness because he knows the magic words. Because Christians believe theirs is the only morality, anyone saying those magic words must be okay.

    Schwyzer is a youth group leader at his church, as well as a professor. I tend to agree with others: if he was repentant, I think he’d stay the hell away from opportunities to keep offending.

    As far as his tenure, there’s an unfortunate problem at many institutions with male (and sometimes female, in my case) professors; while there are some wonderful people out there, it’s been my experience and the experience of many people I’ve talked to that there are plenty of predatory people who are professors and feel like a perk of the position is sexual exploitation of students. And their peers don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ with someone who might be in a position to deny them funding or tenure.

  33. says

    I made a promise to Jill before Alastair was born that I’d never ask for a paternity test, nor reveal to Ted the possibility that I might be the biological father of his son.

    Some promise. Guess what, asshat? If you write about it, you aren’t keeping quiet.

  34. carlie says

    Caine – exactly. And it really doesn’t matter that he gave fake names to “Jill” and “Ted” and “Alistair”, given that he then gave exact dates for when they started dating, when they got married, when Alistair was born, and how many children they’ve had since. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to have been part of their social circle and figure out who he’s talking about.

    And then further down in the feministe comments was another link to his follow-up on “spermgate”, (meaning the drubbing he got around the internet for that article), in which he says it’s all about him and how he feels and has nothing to do with that other family who just got outed.

  35. says

    I have come across Hugo Schwyzer’s writing for years (a decade?), and it has always rubbed me wrong somehow. A lot of it is based on the same stick as Michael Shermer’s writing: here is how I used to be once, and since I used to be that way, you can trust me when I say that you shouldn’t be that way. It might be correct, but I can’t help thinking: “why should you be any more right now?”

    Another problem I’ve always had with him has been the whole vibe of talking down to people, especially women and even more so women of color. I thought it might be a bad case of professor syndrome, where people tend to lecture, but then why so gender and race specific? I came to the conclusion that he was still sexist, even while teaching (preaching?) feminism to others.

    And finally, he has always given me a creepy vibe. After having read about his predatory ways towards students and his murder attempt, this seems entirely justified.

  36. carlie says

    Again, I don’t want to take any attention away from the fucking ATTEMPTED MURDER by focusing on that recent article, just pointing out it shows that his total disregard for women isn’t something that he “got over” or has “reformed” from in any way.

  37. says

    Carlie:

    in which he says it’s all about him and how he feels and has nothing to do with that other family who just got outed.

    Everything about this man screams ME! I don’t know that he’s a narcissist, but he sure as hell comes across that way. A walking nightmare.

  38. says

    Statute of limitations, I assume. He gloats states in his post about it that at the time, he convinced everyone investigating it that it was a dual-suicide attempt

    He also notes: “I’ve checked with a couple of attorney friends of mine, and according to them, I’m at no legal risk for disclosing now what took place in 1998.” Nor does he seem concerned about any possible effect on the woman of telling the story on the internet in all of its glorious details. This comment is good.

    And I can’t get past the fact that the question about remorse he’s answering is about accidentally leaving open a door and letting out a dog. Because that’s totally comparable to attempted murder – the worst possible outcome didn’t happen in either case.

    ***

    The question has been raised about Glass, and could be about Schwyzer: What actions have you taken to make amends and correct the situation that can’t reasonably be seen as self serving?

  39. madscientist says

    An ally? I’d rather trust my money to Bernie Madoff. All I see is a schnook who’s found it profitable to sell something to even bigger schnooks.

  40. momoelektra says

    Caine, Fleur du Mal:

    Mmmmm. Self-awareness doesn’t seem to be his strong point, to say the least. It certainly didn’t tone down the ME! ME! ME!.

    He claims to be selling feminism, but if course he is selling himself. With penitance, and Jesus, too. That says who he’s selling to.

  41. carlie says

    From momoelektra’s link:

    It’s no accident that in the nearly eleven years since I began what has proved (thank God) to be a lasting recovery, my primary volunteer work has been in just two areas: with teenagers, and with animals. I’ve been a youth minister with various churches and the Kabbalah Centre for nine years; my wife and I have run our chinchilla rescue charity for nearly five. Adolescents and domesticated chinchillas are, almost by definition, remarkably dependent upon loving, caring, responsible adults. Taking care of teens and other small creatures proved the great litmus test to determine the degree to which I had been able to overcome my staggering, clinically disordered self-centeredness.

    Teenagers have the emotional development of animals. I overcame my self-centeredness by obviously, blatantly assuming a public role in the care of others in which I was sure to get lots of encouragement and acknowledgment for doing so. Holy fuck, how can anyone take anything this guy says seriously????

  42. fifilamour says

    Schwytzer – “With all that in mind, it would be an act of destructive narcissism on my part to ever break my promise and barge back into Jill’s life.”

    If you look at his actions (and excuses), they tend to start to add up to having a narcissistic personality disorder (for what any internet diagnosis is worth) – it’s why so many women (particularly those who have dealt with this kind of personality disorder or being abused) read what he says as insincere. (It seems Schwyzer is to feminism what Sam Vaknin is to, well, narcissistic personality disorders.) Firstly, the attempted murder of his ex-girlfriend instead of just committing suicide. HE decided that if he wanted to die that she should be dead too (irrelevant of her desires), he still writes about it with no actual understanding of how it effected anyone but himself (meaning he’s still positioning himself as the victim, generous though it is to say it’s okay for the woman he tried to murder and her parents not to want to forgive him or forget that he’s a murderer…not only that, he’s still prying into her life to find out about her via “mutual friends” and then commenting about her/exploiting what he did in his blogs). He blames all his past wrongdoings on drugs and now believes he’s “born again” – he wants to pretend that he’s become someone else. Men with NPD can often prefer the company of women because they dislike male competition and other men (which doesn’t mean they actually like women, some of the reasons they prefer the company of women include it being easier to manipulate women via their empathy, something harder to pull on other men, and also being the centre of female attention). That said, Schwyzer may actually be unaware of the malignant narcissism he is exhibiting – though it seems his therapist may have brought it up from his “destructive narcissism” observation (as he, seemingly, obliviously goes on to to exactly what he identified as an act of “destructive narcissism” with more than a bit of “poor me” thrown in). Also, the conversion from addiction to religion seems like yet one more way to actually avoid your true self.

  43. says

    Carlie:

    Holy fuck, how can anyone take anything this guy says seriously????

    I’d like to know if this, this…Ugh. Does he honestly think he’s recovered and doesn’t grok that this is something which has to be faced and dealt with every day? That you don’t just “get over” a personality disorder, like it was a cold?

    He is unbelievable. In a bad, bad way.

  44. says

    And, to close the circle neatly, PZ commented on that final post I did when I left Cliopatria.

    Heh. I noticed that I commented on the second of the posts.

    I also remember Cliopatria – it was a quite decent place when you posted there, but it went downhill really fast. I had forgotten it was Hugo whose posting got you to leave.

  45. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    There really isn’t one shitty thing from his past that he hasn’t turned into a selling point, is there? Which is weird since at the same time those things seem unknown to feminists who support him. Or outing a former girlfriend who cheated on her now husband with him is a minor thing to forgive once you dismiss a freaking murder attempt.

  46. says

    OB:

    I did some posts about not wanting to be on a goddy group blog, and ended up leaving Cliopatria (not without a fair amount of goddy abuse to urge me along).

    Wow – almost all of your commenters then were guys.

  47. manuel moegarcia says

    A good reminder that a man, instead of trying to be a “feminist”, should strive to be a blessing to all the women in his life.

    Also a statement on how cheap the concept of “forgiveness” is in Christian-influenced-western-culture – especially cheap third-party forgiveness. When I transgress, I apologize and I do not want forgiveness – I desire to be kept under suspicion because my goal is not to transgress again. “You can’t talk your way out of a problem that you acted your way into.” What, exactly, is cheap third-party forgiveness supposed to accomplish?

  48. says

    Kristjan, I noticed that too. Interesting that several of us encountered him that long ago, isn’t it.

    That post about “Alastair” – urrrrrrgh. I’m getting increasingly creeped out.

  49. says

    A good reminder that a man, instead of trying to be a “feminist”, should strive to be a blessing to all the women in his life.

    Any man who cares about the women in his life (along with women in general) should be a feminist.

  50. Happiestsadist says

    I’d be more comfortable saying that a man should support feminism rather than being so very keen on pining the feminist label on himself.

  51. says

    Happiestsadist:

    I’d be more comfortable saying that a man should support feminism rather than being so very keen on pining the feminist label on himself.

    The ‘keen on pinning’ part is key. That’s what Schwyzer is playing at, however, all the feminists I know who happen to be men aren’t like that.

  52. Happiestsadist says

    I think I’m just very, very personally wary by now of men who take the label for themselves. “Pro-feminist” doesn’t make me nervous, “trying to be a feminist ally” is fine, “feminist supporter” is also good, but I’ve yet to meet a man who called himself a feminist who didn’t have at the minimum some serious sexism going on, and at the most, some very predatory behaviour lurking around. I know many, many men who do support feminism, and display feminist thinking, but i’ve never really seen them to be that keen on taking that one specific label.

  53. says

    Happiestsadist:

    but i’ve never really seen them to be that keen on taking that one specific label.

    A lot of the men here describe as feminist, however they don’t say that to gain cred, it simply describes how they think and feel.

  54. Happiestsadist says

    Fair enough. I was speaking more of the men I know irl. Obviously I can’t tell anyone how to identify. I just am saying that it makes me as well as some others (including some I know are here) very uncomfortable by the associations it’s gained.

  55. says

    I have actually struggled with whether to call myself feminist or pro-feminist. On my twitter account I ended up using “feminist” due to the very negtive associations people have to that word in Denmark – I wanted to help change that, if possible.

  56. Happiestsadist says

    Kristjan, now that I can actually understand. I am definitely willing to accept that my knee-jerk reaction can be a my area-specific one.

  57. KG says

    There really isn’t one shitty thing from his past that he hasn’t turned into a selling point, is there? – Beatrice

    Be fair; there might be shitty things from his past no-one else knows about!

    On male feminists: it’s a title I’m wary of claiming for myself, but I think there is a clear ideological sense in which it can be claimed even by men who are aware they do often think and sometimes act in sexist ways, which was suggested to me by the first radical feminist I was conscious of knowing: the conviction that the liberation of women (and men) from patriarchy is key to any coherent emancipatory project.

  58. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Schwyzer may not have loved “Jill” but he sure loves himself. I’m not impressed by the way he brags (and brags is the right word) about all the stupid, vicious shit he’s done over the years. “Hey, I almost killed my old girl friend, but I can tell you about it because my lawyer says I won’t get in trouble if I do. Aren’t you impressed?”

  59. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    “Be fair; there might be shitty things from his past no-one else knows about!”

    What Schwyzer boasts of/repents aren’t actually shitty. they’re Big Sins- seducing students, fathering bastards, trying to kill women- things that people notice- he doesn’t mention the really shitty little things he probably did- after all, we only have his own word for it that he was a great sinner who had to be redeemed by Christ rather than a nasty little fantasist with delusions of grandeur- marking down students because he couldn’t seduce them, ignoring what they said, not teaching properly…
    Mind you, it’s a good thing he’s a feminist. What would he have done if he hadn’t been a feminist?

  60. fifilamour says

    Wow, just read that he got circumcised as a “gift” to his wife on the hypothesis that this is now a new/different penis with which he had sex with other women! Dude’s got some twisted stuff going on, though I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he got circumcised mainly so he could talk more about his penis in public and try to locate himself at the centre of a controversy.

  61. says

    ‘Tis:

    Aren’t you impressed?”

    Oh I’m impressed, alright.

    fifilamour:

    he got circumcised as a “gift” to his wife on the hypothesis that this is now a new/different penis

    I’m pretty sure there’s not a person on the planet who wanted to know that. Really.

  62. says

    Mind you, it’s a good thing he’s a feminist. What would he have done if he hadn’t been a feminist?

    Probably the same stuff but justified under Men’s Rights.

    People more often when faced with cognitive dissonance change belief rather than behavior.

    He felt bad about himself as a person because he was getting to the point where he couldn’t just hide his rep anymore…so he changed his beliefs to one that allows him to feel good about himself with minimal changes in behavior.

  63. fifilamour says

    Damn, of course by bringing that up I just brought more attention to his penis. You just can’t win when dealing with someone with a NPD, you ignore them they continue to operate with impunity and you pay attention to them and they get what they want. It’s like trying to get rid of a masochist that has a crush on you – being nice only encourages them and being nasty only encourages then more!

  64. fifilamour says

    Sorry Caine, apparently the NYT thought the world wanted to know all about his penis (I stumbled across this little item on a full page spread about this in the New York Times – I kid you not). That siad, I apologize if I’ve caused any permanent psychological scarring by bringing it up here.

  65. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he got circumcised mainly so he could talk more about his penis in public

    I wouldn’t be surprised either.

    “Look what I did for you, honey. Now I’ve got to tell the whole world about it.”

  66. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Hey, was that him I saw driving around with the bumpersticker that said, “Ask me about my narcissism!”?

  67. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I can’t begin to describe how disgusting I find Schwyzer, so I won’t even try. Here’s what baffles me, though. As others have said, everything about his writing and presentation screams narcissism and insincerity. It boggles me that everyone doesn’t immediately pick up on that.

    But what’s truly diagnostic (and I mean this)? Putting a great big, well-lit, flattering photograph of one’s self —smiling winningly—right on one’s front page. Seriously. That alone tells me most of what I need to know about the type of person I’m dealing with. It’s the sort of thing you find with Stedmans, and Mooneys, and Kirshenbaums. There’s something just so particularly that-type-of-person about featuring one’s smiling and photogenic face so prominently. It immediately sets off alarm bells warning that This Person Very Much Wants You To See Him As Likeable.

  68. DLC says

    The good news is, people now know what a dirtbag this guy Schwyzer is. the bad news is, he will almost certainly re-offend.
    These guys never learn better. In this fellow’s case, he will not learn better because his ego will admit no wrongdoing on his part.
    Like a medieval crusader, he has confessed his sins, prayed over his sword and may now rejoin the crusades, a christian in good standing once more. Much like Newt Gingrich, he has redeemed himself in the eyes of the Lord, and so, all must now accept him. Like hell I will.

  69. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    ‘I’m having a lot of trouble with those who support him and support forgiving him.’

    Nothing wrong with forgiving him, Caine. Just don’t let him get into a situation where he might be tempted again. A hermitage, perhaps, where he can safely practise his holiness

  70. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Great. Now I have an excellent post hoc rationalization for my disappointment with “the Good Men Project.”

  71. RahXephon231 says

    Re: male feminists

    I’m male, and I call myself a feminist, but I can’t say I identify as a “male feminist” specifically. I don’t because I won’t do what Schwyzer is doing: demanding kudos for putting in the bare fucking minimum required as a decent human being (not that Schwyzer even accomplishes that).

    I’m 25, but I started reading the works of feminist writers in high school. It took years before I really started to understand what I was reading, and to begin deconstructing my own privilege, my own sexist identity. It’s something I’m still doing today. I don’t know when the project will end. Feminist as a term of identity is like the term atheist to me. I never started out seeking to be feminist or atheist. I went through an identity crisis, and only called myself either term when I realized it applied to the pile of opinions and facts I found myself with when it was done.

  72. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Josh: Not everybody picks up on Schwyzer’s narcissism and insincerity because people tend to gravitate to someone who projects confidence in himself. (Or herself, but self-confidence is much more rewarded in men than in women.) Not to mention that a lot of his following is/was very young women (e.g., his students), who are socialized to accept authority (especially from men) and question their own instincts; plus women in the larger feminist movement who may have some issues with the same thing due to past abuse from intimate partners.

    You’re not incorrect about his photo, but I also see that as indicative of a widespread problem in American culture: the idea that everybody should “promote” themselves as if we were “products,” and the material rewards for people who do that the most successfully.

  73. says

    This guy sells feminism. He tells female-bodied and -gendered persons how to feel. He has never paid for his past crimes. He defends his privilege every time he defends his exploitation of feminism for personal gain. This guy had the benefit of the doubt long ago, and does not deserve it now. He’s a charlatan.

  74. says

    Feminism, much like gender, happens between the ears, not between the legs.
    There’s something noticable about people here I learned to know as feminists and men (often not the same day):
    They don’t fishing-for-compliments-cookie-asking-self-label as “male feminists”.
    When they tell about having behaved like sexist jerks in the past, they don’t do it to get sympathy, forgiveness or a cookie, they usually bring it up to illustrate a point.
    They don’t explain women how to be correct women and good feminists.

  75. ginmar says

    I foresee him using this as his excuse the next time he does something to someone. His comment on that thread was incredibly creepy in its avoidance. Hello, you tried to kill someone—-after he gaslighted her, after he made sure he could get away with it, after he planned every detail. He decided she’d be better off dead, and he gassed her before he decided to make a self-pitying phone call to a friend.

    His apologists are referring to this as a ‘mistake’. Let’s say for the sake of an argument it is. But only one part of it, because if you can’t make a series of mistakes. Then it becomes bad choices. A ‘mistake’ is putting the car keys in the planter. A mistake is reading the bus schedule for the wrong day. A mistake is wearing two different-colored socks.

    Deciding to kill someone is not a mistake. This person is living; you decide to make them dead. Turning off the oven pilot light deliberately is, by definition, not a mistake. He thought about it, then he did it, so it was in fact the opposite of a mistake. He turned off each burner and turned up the gas. Four more deliberate actions which he undertook toward one goal. Then he pulled the stove away and pointed the gas at the unconscious woman he was trying to kill.

    That people are trying to help him weasel out of this buggers the mind.

  76. David Marjanović says

    Does he honestly think he’s recovered and doesn’t grok that this is something which has to be faced and dealt with every day? That you don’t just “get over” a personality disorder, like it was a cold?

    He is so great that, perhaps unlike anyone else ever, has completely and fully and totally recovered from his narcissism. And, boy, doesn’t he pat himself on the back for it. Look what he has pulled off!!!1!eleventyone!!!

    He simply traded one addiction for another.

    See also: dry drunk.

    “Hey, I almost killed my old girl friend, but I can tell you about it because my lawyer says I won’t get in trouble if I do. Aren’t you impressed?”

    There’s more bragging! He has several attorney friends !! Look how popular he is with the important people!!!11!1!

    though I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he got circumcised mainly so he could talk more about his penis in public and try to locate himself at the centre of a controversy.

    Thirded.

    Nothing wrong with forgiving him, Caine. Just don’t let him get into a situation where he might be tempted again. A hermitage, perhaps, where he can safely practise his holiness

    *snortle* Day saved (3 days afterwards)!

    I’m male

    *slow-motion headdesk* I was sure you weren’t.

    You’re not incorrect about his photo, but I also see that as indicative of a widespread problem in American culture: the idea that everybody should “promote” themselves as if we were “products,” and the material rewards for people who do that the most successfully.

    That’s not just America anymore. When it comes to applying for a job, the general counsel is “promote yourself or forget about any job ever, street cleaner included”.

    He decided she’d be better off dead

    What? Where do you get that from?

    He decided he would be better off when she was dead.

  77. says

    (See also Tim Wise, w/r/t white privilege.)

    Tim Wise is up front about this:

    I want to thank all of you for coming out. I want to start off by telling you that I think it is probably a good idea when somebody stands in front of you and is proclaimed […] to be an expert: ask yourself why it is that you are listening to that person and not somebody else. In this culture, we are lead to believe that if someone stands before you, a proclaimed expert, that it must be that they are the brightest bulbs in the box, that they know something that the other people don’t know.

    I am not standing in front of you, and you are not listening to me, because I am the most informed person in the country on racism or white privilege, [nor] because I am the best speaker on the subject. I am fairly good, and I intend to demonstrate that to you amply in the next hour. It isn’t because I am the best writer on the subject, though I am ok with that as well. It is instead because I, and I know this, fit the aesthetic that is needed on too many campuses, and too many communities around the country, in order to come in and give this talk.

    Nothing that I am going to say tonight, or at least very little, originated in my head. Nothing that I am going to say tonight, or at least very little, is in fact new. Almost every single thing that I am going to say this evening is wisdom that has been shared with me either patiently, or sometimes not so patiently, by people of color who have in almost every instance forgotten more about the subjects of racism and white privilege since breakfast yesterday than I will likely ever know, and yet they will not be asked to give eighty five engagements around the country this year or next on this subject.

    Not because they have not the wisdom to do it but because privilege, the subject that I’ll deal with tonight, bestows upon me that advantage, and so, as a matter of responsibility and accountability, I have to own that up front[….] And then, next time you hear it from a person of color, the next time it is shared with you, for those in the audience particularly who are white, the next time it is shared with you by a person of color, as it will be and as it has been in one form of another, please listen to it, and please know that it is from that source that I get virtually all of my material. We will know that we have made progress only on that day when a person of color can get up and give the talk that I am about to give and be taken half as seriously as I expect to be taken.

    That’s apparently not a one-time statement. Commenter cocoa_ice2 says:

    This analysis is dead on. HOWEVER, I have seen Tim Wise speak twice, and both times he acknowledges most of the issues you spoke about. How nothing he is saying is necessarily new, but that people listen to him because he is white. Unfortunately, white people tune black people talking about racism out. If they are willing to listen to a white man say some of the same things, what do you propose we do?

  78. Irene Delse says

    Gilliel 93:

    There’s something noticable about people here I learned to know as feminists and men (often not the same day):
    They don’t fishing-for-compliments-cookie-asking-self-label as “male feminists”.

    I’ve seen some genuine male allies say things like: “I consider myself a feminist”, without a qualifier (like “male feminist” — no woman is calling herself a “female feminist”) and without insinuating that they ought to be praised for it or that it was anything exceptional, but simply because they believed in equal rights and equal dignity for women, and found phallocracy nefarious.

  79. ginmar says

    @99;

    You can always tell the real from the fake by the fishing-for-a-cookie thing, which is the important thing. If they make a big deal of shouldering to take the bullet for you, little lady, then they’re probably not somebody you want on your side. And plus they tend to be the ones who spend a lot of time apologizing and making nice with MRAs, which is what Schwyzer’s been doing for ages, over the objections of women and feminists.

  80. rowenaravenclaw says

    W/r/t Schwyzer’s opinion on abortion, he’s since gone back to being pro-choice and the criticisms of his former opinions on the issue are similar to the ones being pointed out here, IIRC. He wrote a post about it: http://www.hugoschwyzer.net/2011/01/24/it-was-pretty-to-think-so-from-pro-choice-to-pro-life-and-back-to-pro-choice/

    Not that this excuses all the other creepy aspects of him. I used to read his blog a lot, but the way he seems to be looking for attention for all the bad things he’s done in his life, especially murdering his ex. Not once in that article about it did he outright state that murder was wrong, it was just full of “waaaaahhhhh woe is me” and there was way too much about how he managed to escape the clutches of his girlfriend and her family.

    I believe people can change, but Hugo is still way too narcissistic and doesn’t seem to show the proper level of shame over these actions to make me think it’s the case with him.