When I was a kid, I went to the Unitarian Universalist church here in Nashville. At the time it’s minister was a fairly charismatic, smiling, smooth man named David. I don’t know his last name and I don’t really want too. Y’see, David was a sex addict. He used his position as minister to prey on women, lots of women. While he did this, he used his charm to build support from lots of congregation members, and was generally thought very highly of.
When this came to light, my mom happened to be on the church council. She was one of several that pushed for David’s removal, and the resulting fight split the church in two. She wasn’t even one of the people who came forward and she was called all kinds of nasty names by his defenders, who yelled about how she and the others were just trying to be divisive and that they had something personally against David, that it was just a power grab.
Eventually David was ousted. He didn’t go willingly, and the fight left deep scars in the congregation that still have not healed today. Many of those who were his supporters left the church and there is still tension between the two. New members are told about the history, and more than 15 years later it is painful to those who were involved.
From everything I can tell, my mom loved that congregation, and felt like it was her home. It was one of the first spiritual homes she had since leaving the Catholic faith she’d been raised in.
After the pain of this fight, she never stepped foot in that building again. She’s never found another spiritual home.
But she says it was worth it. David couldn’t use his power to hurt anyone else, and as far as I know, he was barred from any power within UU churches.
To those of you who are holding Schwyzer to his actions, and trying to stay whole, my heart goes out to you. You are doing this with significantly less backing than my mom had, and have significantly nastier shit being thrown at you.
To those of you who are defending him, I’m not angry at you, or at least no more than I was angry at those hurting my mom. From everything I’ve seen and heard, this guy is a slimeball of epic proportions who uses emotional manipulation and abuse to control those around him and protect himself from the consequences of what he’s done, and to keep hurting others. I do ask you, however, to ask yourself if that even if he IS “reformed” is the supposed good that he *MIGHT* be doing as a male feminist leader (mmmph.) worth the pain and suffering he is causing women? In a movement that is supposed to be about women?
To Schwyzer? If you are anything close to the person you claim to be, you’ll realizing that shutting the fuck up is the best thing you can do for those you’ve hurt. You know why? Because your actions have consequences, and one of those is that you will hurt people with your very presence. There is nothing in the world that will change that.
Bolded for emphatic agreement.
I’ve gotten a lot of messages on my personal Tumblr about the post I reblogged earlier today.
I seriously wasn’t aware of any controversy surrounding james-bliss. I don’t know the guy at all and haven’t really read his blog in-depth. I’m sorry if reblogging his post bothered anyone, I really am.
For the record, I’m not really sure what to do about it, because I’ve gotten messages from people who support him and people who despise him. If anyone wants to share more info on the guy/discuss this further, feel free to message me here, but pleeeease not on my personal Tumblr; I get enough messages there already, and then if I want to publish them, I don’t have the option to publish them here.
All I do here is reblog anything I see that’s relevant to the Hugo Schwyzer issue specifically. I will be more careful in the future to do a little research on whoever I’m reblogging. That’s the best I can do! There should be a new contributor here shortly so that will help.
Participating in a coordinated take-down is not something I am going to do. And if that’s interpreted as a lack of commitment to feminism, or taking Hugo’s “side,” I personally think that’s ridiculous but so be it. There is a tension here between embracing the possibility of radical personal change and also centering victims of violence. As the moderator of a feminist community, I choose to weigh the needs of victims of violence more heavily. But I don’t think it’s up to me to decide for the entire feminist internet that Hugo is entirely irredeemable and deserves to be permanently blacklisted everywhere forever and if you disagree you are bad for feminism. I think it is up to individual bloggers and commenters and whoever else to decide if they will read or link to Hugo in the future and to decide if they’re comfortable reading a website that links or discusses Hugo. The community here at Feministe has been pretty clear that Hugo’s work shouldn’t be posted here; I agree, and it’s not going to be posted. Other bloggers and editors at other sites might feel differently; I don’t think that makes them anti-feminist or terrible or deserving of being blacklisted themselves. At the end of the day, online feminism doesn’t have a clubhouse, and I can’t take away Hugo’s keys. I am also concerned about the precedent this sets. I think that most of the critiques of Hugo are fair, as are the concerns about a former abuser rising to a level of prominence in feminist spaces — especially given his ongoing issues with women of color and his treatment of younger women. But the reality of the feminist internet is that there is a corner of it that plays the take-down game for sport, and that sees any mistake or imperfection or disagreement as evidence that one is Bad For Feminism and should be permanently sidelined. It’s destructive. It’s something I believe is incredibly bad for feminism as a movement and as an idea, and that’s bad for community-building, and that serves to silence more people than it empowers. It’s something I’ve also been a part of, so I’m not suggesting that it’s an act by a group of Bad People; it’s a dynamic that is awfully easy to get sucked in to, and that I’ve participated in myself. And while I think the Hugo situation is in a whole ‘nother sphere as the usual feminist blog-wars in terms of the sheer horror of the acts involved, I avoid internet take-downs as a general rule because they are so often so poisonous, and because I frankly don’t trust a group of people on the internet to always choose the right person from whom to demand blood. Which, again, isn’t to say that I think the focus on Hugo here is misdirected. It is to say that I have a real hesitance to participate, because I dislike take-down culture generally and because I’m not convinced that next time we’ll all be setting our sights on a worthy target.
The idea that the only truly feminist way forward is a coordinated take-down also doesn’t center or help victims of violence. It doesn’t keep this community focused on positive change. I’m not sure what it does other than say that a few of us get to decide who is redeemable and worthy and who is not — and that we don’t just get to decide it for ourselves and the spaces we run, but we decide it for everyone.
Yep. Calling for the removal of an admitted attempted murderer and rapist from feminist spaces is a “coordinated take-down.” It’s just a petty disagreement. Nothing to see here, move along, quit it with the take-down culture, everybody! You internet meanies!
Yes, you are taking Hugo’s side. Yes, you are refusing to explicitly condemn an abuser who has made a shiny little career for himself out of silencing women. You should be ashamed of yourself. Feministe is a cesspool anyway and we all know that, but it just got even scummier. Congratulations.
There’s more at the article if you want to click through, but it’s mostly just a load of self-indulgent crap. She says they’re not going to ban him but they’re not going to promote his work. She also says this, which made me want to scream:
And I don’t want a progressive movement that doesn’t leave room for people to change — even people who have done the most reprehensible things. I want a movement that is open to those people, and that believes in redemption and radical change. Without the belief in the capacity for true change, what’s the point of progressivism? How do we have feminism without believing that people can radically alter their actions and their views?
I am not really in a place to write a coherent response right now, but I encourage you, Tumblr, to respond to this garbage if you can.
So Marcotte’s a big ole Internet Atheist and “feminist” celebrity, but she’s got her lips firmly affixed to the rear end of Hugo Schwyzer—“born again” evangelical and woman-hater. She hates snuggies, crocs, Olive Garden, and other things that remind her of the fact that the country is mostly composed of “icky” lower middle class people in flyover states, and somehow thinks this is relevant to her “feminist” scrawlings. The only time she approaches feminism seems to be to rant about “right wingers,” mostly in the context of abortion or like, the Duggars or something. She brags about being a hipster (thus breaking the first rule of hipsterdom, which is that you must make fun of hipsters to maintain plausible deniability). She published a book with racist illustrations even my grandmother (b. Idaho, 1910) would have recognized as embarrassing and inappropriate, then got mad that anyone had the gall to get mad at her about it. She works for Slate, which proves nothing, really, though I’ll note that so does Katie Roiphe. What does she stand for? I mean, other than making money? Am I really supposed to buy that she’s a feminist figurehead, that what she preaches has anything to do with women’s rights? That it really boils down to keeping abortion legal and being a cool coastal city person?
But what pisses me off the most is how she and her associates cannot be pained to give WOMEN of faith the smallest token acknowledgment that we are actual human beings—she talks about us like we are brainwashed pawns, generally speaking. She will not listen when lesbians of faith tell her that uh yeah, there are too ways to be gay and religious. She will not listen when women of color tell her about the role faith plays in their communities. She mocks us all and dismisses us as crazy, stupid, nothing but walking clown car vaginas.
But she has respect for evangelical Christian Hugo Schwyzer, who tried to kill his girlfriend, who admits to “sort of” rape, who demeans women of color and spouts hateful classist crap all over the place. Well there’s your answer—their common interest isn’t feminism. It’s hating and belittling the same kinds of people. “Commoners” and those who lack their “sophistication,” women of color, etc.
I will NOT “quit feminism” over these fools. I am kicking them out. They are not feminists, they are essentially social conservatives who coopt the language of women’s rights to advance their selfish personal causes.
Quoted for so much truth.
Context: one of Hugo’s fans attacked me on Twitter, calling me a teenage radfem, told me to go back to my slumber party, insinuated that I was only doing this because I’m crazy (I’m pretty open about my struggles with mental illness). Just lots of personal attacks, basically.
Hugo’s response? Why, a fauxpology, of course!
“Don’t bring mental illness into this, but what they’re saying is totally crazy!”
Hugo Schwyzer, folks. This is an essay in which a man tells his readers about how he willfully and repeatedly disregarded his partner’s negative responses to his sexual advances, and then insists that she played an equal part in the situation because she didn’t explicitly say no.
What he refers to here as “[w]hat Katie and I had conspired to allow to happen” is him having sex with her in spite of her giving clear non-verbal indications that she didn’t want sex. On multiple occasions. Don’t you just love that vague passiveness (“allowed to happen”)? His use of the term “conspired” is particularly disgusting, since it suggests a consensus between the two of them that obviously didn’t exist. The issue is precisely that his girlfriend (and I really, really hope that her real name isn’t “Katie”) did not feel she could tell him what she wanted and didn’t want. That’s the exact opposite of a conspiracy, which requires an agreement between at least two people.
Hugo first invokes and then distances himself from the term “accidental rape”; he doesn’t describe himself as an “accidental rapist,” he merely says that he “fe[lt] very much like” one. And the fact that he will admit to feeling this way, even though he totally doesn’t need to because it was her fault too, is supposed to make us think he’s a super good guy, especially since he’s been super careful ever since this incident to never ever allow a thing like this to happen again (except for all those times he slept with his students, and the time he tried to murder another girlfriend, but whatever).
The silence and unresponsiveness of a partner are not “subtle” to anyone who values their partner’s pleasure. And surely paying some goddamn attention to your partner ought to be at least as important a ”precondition for being ready for a sexual relationship” as “having the courage to say a firm ‘No.’” And even though he uses the gender-neutral “teens” in this passage, let’s be clear that this is a gendered issue. The people who most often find themselves in unwanted sexual situations and still remain hesitant to “say a firm ‘No’” are female; the people who most often benefit from this hesitation are male.
The reason it’s important for women to be able “to say a firm ‘no’” is that so many men refuse to acknowledge any refusal short of that from their female partners. They do so because they’ve been taught that this is acceptable behavior by people like Hugo, in articles exactly like this one. The reason it takes “courage” for women to say “no” is that so many men — including Hugo, here and elsewhere — actively reinforce cultural messages about how much it hurts men when women reject them (just read any of the many passages in this article about how bad Hugo felt when Katie told him what had been going on). Women respond by trying to refuse unwanted sex without saying “no,” because they don’t want to be “cruel” to their partners. Men respond to this by ignoring women’s refusals, because they’re not saying the word “no.” Everything about this dynamic contributes to making it easy for men to ignore women’s signals and hard for women to make their signals loud enough to get past men’s determination to ignore them.
It’s a major problem that so many women have so much hesitation about saying the word “no” in sexual situations. But the source of that problem is the overall dynamic, which originates in men’s behavior, and a more appropriate way to address it — especially for a man writing to men on a men’s website — would be to address the fact that not enough men pay attention to the ways women are already saying “no.” As valuable as explicit communication can be, it’s not the only clear way to communicate, which Hugo even admits:
That was indeed “the more obvious possibility,” and he even admits the possibility that his refusal to see it was willful. And yet:
[O]n those not-infrequent occasions when she wanted to make out and “fool around” but nothing more—she had no vocabulary for that. And over and over again, I took her reticence as a sign to “try harder” rather than to slow down. The blame for that rested on both of us.
Right. She “had no vocabulary” for saying no, which is why she gave him signs of refusal that just a few paragraphs earlier he called “obvious.” And his refusal to read them is her fault, too, because she didn’t explicitly say the word “no.” Never mind that he also didn’t explicitly ask her what she wanted — apparently she’s the only one who had any responsibility to make things clear verbally.
No, this was not “accidental rape.” As for whether it should be called “rape,” Katie is the only one who can determine that; but whatever you call it, it was clearly a violation, and it was just as clearly not accidental. Even if it was unconscious on Hugo’s part (and given his history and the way he tells this story, I have my doubts about that), unconscious is not the same as accidental.
There’s a reason Hugo feels it’s perfectly reasonable to assign at least half the blame for this situation to his girlfriend because she didn’t say the word “no.” It’s because the default view of heterosexual relations is that men always want sex and are always going to try to get it, and they can’t be expected to care how their female partners feel about it unless they’re forced to. Therefore if women don’t want sex, it’s completely their responsibility to make that absolutely 100% explicitly clear in so many words, at the appropriate time, because expecting men to initiate a discussion about sex is patently ridiculous, because why would they do that when they know they can just go ahead and try for it and at least some of the time end up in a situation in which the woman doesn’t feel comfortable explicitly saying “no” because she’s been trained her whole life to think that others’ needs are more important than her own, and that refusing sex is crippling to the male ego, etc. etc., and therefore the man can retain plausible deniability because even though she made it clear she wasn’t into it, she never said the word “no.”
he centers his voice, as the perpetrator. and that’s completely fucked up.
he talks about how he “accidentally” raped his girlfriend several times. it’s all about him, how he felt disgusted with himself, how he couldn’t get a hard on after hearing the news. it’s about how women need to be more vocal, instead of about how men need to check in with their partners and look for non-verbal no’s.
he talks about how he tried to murder his ex-girlfriend and kill himself at the same time. it’s about his shame and guilt. it’s about how he can’t change what happen. it’s about how he has to live with what he’s done.
fuck you. fuck every dude like you in our community. your stories, as white, straight, cis, able-bodied men who do violence against women, should not be the focus. ever. i don’t give a fuck about your guilt. we don’t need rapists and attempted murderers to tell us about their feelings.
the *perpetrator* of a crime doesn’t get to decide his own methods of accountability. that is perhaps the most fucked up thing about all of this. the way “transformative justice” has been rewritten such that people are honestly saying “what more do you want him to do??? he’s created accountability measures that he’s following!” etc
transformative justice is NOT about perpetrators of violence figuring out their own ways to hold themselves accountable. sorry. because the obvious question is—who is he being accountable to? feminism? is all the “good” being done for feminism by him—is he holding himself accountable to feminism? why? what injustice did he perpetrate against feminism? why does feminism feel that’s ok? to have perpetrators of violence hold themselves accountable to *a movement* rather than to *survivors*?
there’s been all sorts of black men and men of color in general who have done really shitty things and changed. tookie williams being the most obvious person i can think of that others will know—but there’s a dearth of others as well. i just need people to really REALLY think through the big differences in how somebody like tookie williams has been approached by feminism—and how feminism is treating and in many many cases actively advocating for mr.
black men who’ve changed are in prison. some of them, like tookie, are murdered by the state. many times, that murder is never once mentioned or even noticed by feminism. many times, if the murder is noticed, it’s celebrated. because what that person did was unforgiveable. no matter what work that person has done since then.
the “proof” black men (and men of color) offer to show they’ve “changed”—is regarded as inherently suspicious. the work tookie williams did with gangs while in prison was regarded openly as work done to keep himself off of death row. “transformative justice” is apparently something best practiced in the halls of academia with lots of educated “civilized” liberals.
we as a culture are trained to see the “savagery” of men of color and the *particular* ways that the “brutality” of black men play out. see: how feminists are taking the opportunity of this MLK holiday to remind us that MLK was sexist and misogynistic. and maybe not a ***leader***—not in that sense. cuz you can’t be a *full* leader if you are a dick to women. notice how we’re trained to see the savagery and brutality of men of color and black men specifically ***EVEN*** when that man of color led arguably the most dynamic and important movement in the last 100 years, even giving his life to it—but a white man who has written a blog and done paid speaking engagements—he’s a *GOOD MAN*. who it would be a *shame* to judge on his past alone. because he’s doing such good and important work.
we as a culture are trained to see the savagery of men of color—JUST LIKE WE ARE TRAINED TO SEE THE INHERENT GOODNESS OF WHITE MEN.
and in transformative justice—THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IS MADE VISIBLE AND TALKED ABOUT. because transformative justice is not about “avoiding the criminal injustice system.” it’s about *building a new world*. because what would suck worse than using transformative justice to keep a man who tried to kill a woman out of criminal injustice system—so that that same man can use the criminal injustice system against others? (thanks to liquornspice for making that clear).
is that transformative?
the silence of *F*eminist bloggers on this is telling—and interesting. what’s going on back there behind the curtain? will those of us on the outside ever know?
Come on, now! He asked. And everyone knows when a poor ol’ redemption-seeking, ex-girlfriend-almost-murdering, students-sleeping-with, mansplaining-good-Christian-fella asks for things, he must be given them.
Here are a few of my proposed venues:
A worm farm. For science!
…and see what’s causing all the backup down there while you’re at it, could you? Ah, there’s a good chap.
The Good Shark Project: Let’s make it happen.
I know we’ve only existed for a few days, but I think anoldladyonfire should win some sort of award for best submission of the year.
Hugo claims he “resigned” but here’s what the press release says for Healthy is the New Skinny (thanks to ethereon for finding this):January 14th, 2012
Press Release from Healthy is the New Skinny
Healthy is the New Skinny addresses change in their organization
HUGO SCHWYZER NO LONGER ASSOCIATED WITH HEALTHY IS THE NEW SKINNY
LOS ANGELES, January 14, 2012: Due to past events that have been brought to light in Hugo Schwyzer’s personal life, we have decided to end all ties and he will no longer be working with our organization. While his performance with Healthy is the New Skinny (HNS) has been professional and valuable in helping to raise awareness about the struggles of dealing with body image issues in society, he will no longer be affiliated with HNS.
“While we have appreciated working with Hugo, we were not made aware of the extent of the events that have transpired and do not feel that it would be prudent for him to continue working with HNS.” – Katie Halchishick, Co-founder of Healthy is the New Skinny
We are dedicated to building the best team possible to help further the HNS movement. Even though he wasn’t a good fit for our team we wish Hugo success in his personal and professional life.
Healthy is the New Skinny is a multi-platform movement to bring a message of health, joy and responsibility to the beauty and fashion industries. Through bold and creative initiative, HNS works with media, corporate, and modeling partners to create lasting change. The Perfectly Unperfected Project is the non-profit outreach arm of Healthy is the New Skinny. PUP brings a powerful, interactive multi-media presentation about health, self-esteem, and transformation to schools, university, and general audiences.
Yep, it’s definitely fishy!
Which is it, Hugo?
Did you resign or did they end ties with you?
I know you read this Tumblr :)