On Hugo Schwyzer’s Resignation from the Good Men Project

I think that resigning from the GMP was a very positive and redeeming act on the part of Hugo. After its founder, Tom Matlack, published his supremely inane post that pushed the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” ideology, no self-respecting individual could remain part of the project. I declared the GMP officially dead the moment I saw that ridiculous piece, and it seems like Hugo Schwyzer felt the same.

My new-found hope that the most famous male feminist in the country was not beyond redemption, however, faded pretty soon. In a post explaining his resignation from the GMP, Hugo Schwyzer just couldn’t help displaying his trademark condescension to women. I know this is a longish quote (even after I pared it down somewhat) but please try to read it in full. This quote from Hugo Schwyzer’s post is crucial because it allows us to see very clearly why feminism has run into such an hopeless dead-end:

Seemingly innocuous words often have a profound charge depending on how and by whom they’re used.  . . What many men fail to understand is that accusing a woman of being insane or of engaging in reprisals merely because she’s expressing forceful disagreement has an equivalent ugliness. . . All of this behavior reflects two things: men’s genuine fear of being challenged and confronted, and the persistence of the stereotype of feminists as being aggressive, wrathful,  “man-bashers.”  The painful thing about all this, of course, is that no man is in any real physical danger on the internet— or even in real life — from feminists.  . .

There’s a conscious purpose to this sort of behavior.  Joking about getting pelted (or putting on the football helmet) sends a message to women in the classroom – and online: “Tone it down.  Take care of the men and their feelings.  Don’t scare them off, because too much impassioned feminism is scary for guys.”  And you know, as exasperating as it is, this kind of silencing language almost always works. Time and again, I’ve seen it work to silence women in the classroom, or at least cause them to worry about how to phrase things “just right” so as to protect the guys and their feelings.  It’s a key anti-feminist strategy, even if that isn’t the actual intent of the men doing it — it forces women to become conscious caretakers of their male peers by subduing their own frustration and anger.   It reminds young women that they should strive to avoid being one of those “angry feminists” who (literally) scares men off and drives them away.

My regular readers probably know me well enough to realize why this quote bugs me so much. Hugo Schwyzer describes a phenomenon that definitely exists and that deserves to be discussed and analyzed. And then he immediately destroys his entire argument by saying that this anti-feminist strategy “forces women to become conscious caretakers of their male peers by subduing their own frustration and anger” [emphasis mine].  And this makes absolutely no sense.

At the very beginning of this long quote, Hugo Schwyzer recognizes that one should be very careful with words. By the end of it, however, he demonstrates that he has no interest in exercising such care. A woman cannot be “forced” to do anything by some silly strategy. Agreeing to become “a conscious caretaker of male peers” is always a choice. And that choice brings certain rewards at the same time as it exacts a certain price. I’m saying this as a woman who has never subdued her rage to placate men* and can’t say that her life has been in any way thwarted by that decision.

Another problem with this argument is that the silencing strategy Hugo Schwyzer describes has nothing to do with gender. Once again, it is a dud, an issue that is not related to gender in any manner but that masks as a feminist concern in order to distract us from true feminist concerns. Using gender stereotypes to silence people works extremely well on both men and women. Let’s not forget that in the patriarchal mentality, men are supposed to take care of and provide for women. As my favorite Russian blogger says, “The only goal of a man’s existence is to solve a woman’s problems and make her life easier.” How difficult do you think it is to bully into complete and utter silence a man who is at least somewhat in thrall to patriarchal stereotypes?

And if said hypothetical man allows himself to be bullied into silence by these stereotypes, that will be his conscious choice and he will get a pay-out for doing so. Just like a woman does when she chooses to shut up in order to be considered “a good girl.” See? Not a gender issue.

There is a very interesting discussion that could have happened here about the strategies we use to manipulate and silence our interlocutors. Sadly, Hugo Schwyzer’s overpowering need to see women as perennial victims and men as victimizers has gotten the best of him yet again.

I’ve been wondering for a while why Hugo Schwyzer is so haunted by this desire to see women as weak and helpless and men as powerful and in control in every single situation. After I read his post about one of his marriages, the answer became clear to me. Hugo Schwyzer has a history of being extremely disempowered in his relationships with women**. In his pseudo-feminist writings, he creates a universe were women are powerless and he can finally feel like a savior of weak and pathetic damsels.

* In the spirit of full disclosure: I have done so to placate women. And that was a conscious choice on my part. It would be very easy for me to blame this decision on my cultural conditioning and upbringing. If I were to do so, however, I would not be honest. This was always my own choice. 

** Just read the post. Even if only 10% of it is true, I will never stop feeling sorry for a person who has been treated in such a horrific and shameless way by a manipulative and nasty partner.

29 thoughts on “On Hugo Schwyzer’s Resignation from the Good Men Project”

  1. Hugo Schwyzer keeps complaining about people calling him a “mangina.” (Although I couldn’t find that word in the GMP comments). So here are some more appropriate words to describe him:

    Home wrecker, sex abuser, rapist, would-be murderer, deadbeat dad, pathological liar, egomaniac, bully and tenured professor.

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    1. After I read the post about the lesbian marriage, I will always feel compassion for the guy. That woman victimized him from here to the Moon and he happily participated in his own victimization.

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    2. In all fairness GudEnuf people have used such words against him the comment sections before (white knight as well). My problem though is that he will actively ignore civil commentary to whine about being called those words. He had a pretty serious rep for doing that in the comment section of GMP.

      And I would add “possible accessory to paternity fraud” and “paternity fraud defender” to your list as well.

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      1. “And I would add “possible accessory to paternity fraud” and “paternity fraud defender” to your list as well.”

        -This is indisputable. And I’m shocked at how few people even recognize the great damage such a fraud causes.

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    3. @ Gudnuf
      “Home wrecker, sex abuser, rapist, would-be murderer, deadbeat dad, pathological liar, egomaniac, bully and tenured professor.”

      To your list I would add narcissistic and misogynist. But certainly not feminist.

      I have looked at the GMP lately and by reading between the lines I found that many men posting there where misogynist. Possible not being even aware of it.

      Had Hugo been honest, he would never have joined the GMP or feminist movement.

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  2. RE Hugo, have you read his interview on Feministe, which provoked a huge controversy? I thought the following post raised many interesting questions and would love to hear your pov:
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/12/23/on-change-and-accountability/
    It isn’t only about Hugo, it’s much-much wider and because of it interested me.

    Now they put up a new post, telling interviewing Hugo was a mistake.

    We screwed up in allowing the interview with Hugo Schwyzer to be published. This was a mistake not because guest bloggers on Feministe aren’t allowed to have differing opinions or even differing values than the rest of the crowd–hell, that’s part of the value of bringing in new voices. But we don’t see Feministe as an appropriate venue for the rehabilitation of a figure with Schwyzer’s history (and, for that matter, present). His professed reformation notwithstanding, his history of abuses, his treatment of women in general, his treatment of women of color in particular, and numerous other deeply serious offenses that he himself attests to have created an environment around him that many women–Feministe bloggers included–find threatening, triggering, and/or flat-out despicable. Of course readers are free to go to Schwyzer and form their own opinions; allowing that environment to be brought to Feministe was a mistake. While we wish Schwyzer all the best in his recovery (which we appreciate as a lifelong process), it’s not our job to affirm it–we don’t endorse him or invite him to find his redemption at our house and at the expense of our readers’ well being, and we apologize that we implied otherwise.

    (Bold mine)
    May be I am priviledged (I am and, hopefully, it’ll continue), so I don’t find his interview triggering, but I don’t think the apology was in order. If somebody finds Hugo S. triggering, she could simply not read this interview and I don’t agree it was at the expense of somebody’s well being.

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    1. “May be I am priviledged (I am and, hopefully, it’ll continue)”

      -Seriously? On my blog you use this terminology? 🙂 Please don’t. Please. This is a safe space where no scratching of “privilege” takes place.

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    1. This entire hullabaloo over the interview on Feministe is simply ridiculous. There is nothing offensive about the interview. Where was the outrage when he discussed being complicit in concealing a person’s paternity from him?

      As for the discussion on change and stuff, I have no interest in Hugo’s personal life or whether he changed or not. I’m bothered by the popularity of this “women are such total victims” message. It is especially annoying that so many people on Feministe are playing right into this by claiming that they have been traumatized and “triggered” or whatever by a simple interview conducted in extremely mild and polite terms.

      This kind of “Oh, I’m so totally weal and pathetic” pseudo-feminists really deserve Hugo as their guru.

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      1. And now they’re piling on Clarisse for shutting down comments on a few posts.

        Charming.

        I mean, really? People are saying they have a right to comment. A. Right. To. Comment. Good lord. Feministe commenters are special, for sure.

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        1. “People are saying they have a right to comment. A. Right. To. Comment.”

          – I know. This always made me wonder what even prompted people to make such statements. What’s next, threatening to sue?

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  3. Hugo Schwyzer seems to me to use a postmodernist construction of identity, whereby each category of oppressed person has something bright and shiny to say that we should all listen to for our group moral edification. In terms of this postmodernist construction of identity, we all have to subdue ourselves by adopting a masochistic mode, in order to hear the views of “the Other”. If we do not adequately subdue ourselves, we will not hear the message that this “Other” wishes to impart, and thus we will remain within the realm of moral un-edification, having only ourselves to blame for not being more spiritual.

    The blindspot of postmodernist theorising is that it doesn’t allow for the fundamental nature of power, which is that it does not wait for permission or understanding in order to come into being. Perhaps this is how Hugo Schwyzer could have been victimised by his wife without seeing it for what it is. (I haven’t read the article Clarissa refers to concerning the “lesbian relationship.”)

    In practical terms, postmodernist theorising is the idea that time should be frozen and that we should all stop and wait, before being given permission to express the kinds of identity that would be morally elevating to all concerned — such as the kind of identity Hugo Schwyzer has decided feminism is.

    That is too weird a demand to make on reality, just for a start.

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  4. bloggerclarissa :
    “People are saying they have a right to comment. A. Right. To. Comment.”
    – I know. This always made me wonder what even prompted people to make such statements. What’s next, threatening to sue?

    A sense of entitlement, for starters.

    Who knows. I’m keeping up with the apology thread; there are already flounces, demands to remove Clarisse from the guest poster slot, one commenter demanded a policy to pop up when you post a comment-there will probably be much more before it hits 200 comments. Suing perhaps close to 250 comments? 😛

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  5. I find it interesting that you would bash all of GMP considering it is primarily a collection of writers that have different takes on different subjects. Without a doubt, sometimes the articles are quite inane but there are also ones that make you stop and think. I agree that Matlock’s writing style is somewhat “off” to put it mildly but with that said so is Hugo’s. Here’s the thing about so called “good men”, we sometimes do or say bad, foolish things. If I gather anything from that on line mag it is just that. Even better is the fact that I get to read some female writers doing exactly the same thing. Come to think of it, I seem to have that affliction also, I wonder Clarissa, do you on the trait also? 😉
    Im not sure how far most of your readers are from highschool but reading this on line spat has made me realize how little I miss those years. These were primarily the people I avoided most from those days. It seems they havnt changed much. 😦

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    1. I don’t read GMP. I only saw this article by its founder that I quoted (“men and women express emotions differently, etc.”) and immediately realized that any resource capable of publishing such statements is not for me. This isn’t about men, good or bad. I’ve heard such statements from many many women, too. In my experience, they are usually made my extremely immature people who are miserable in their personal lives.

      Just like any human being, I am ignorant about quite a few things. However, when I’m ignorant about something (say quantum mechanics, that I’m very ignorant about), I don’t publish posts on issues pertaining tot his area.

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  6. The practical effect of believing that women and men emote differently is a lack of empathy between them. Empathy is really an extension of our attitudes towards ourselves. Whatever we are capable of feeling, we permit the other to feel also. Conversely, whatever we are not capable of feeling, we deny to the other. So, men who are incapable of feeling will tend to interact with women in a way that makes them also incapable of feeling. The gender roles that they may have expected to reinforce — whereby the woman does all the emotional work — become more similar by virtue of this mechanism of empathy.

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  7. I read his post. She definitely wasn’t honest with him about her being gay. I’ve known quite a few people who have experienced this and it creates all kinds of emotional baggage for them. I once knew a man, who felt so sexually inadequate in his relationship with his first wife that he thought he was gay. (That was the story he told me.) It’s a long story, but he lived with another guy and then surprised everyone by leaving this guy and proposing marriage to a woman, who he did not tell of his past–his gay lover/boyfriend. He didn’t want to tell her because (I’m only speculating) he feared her rejection. The whole situation was really miserable for everyone involved. I recall some of his gay friends being very against his marriage and each of them said that they had all been there and done that about their sexuality and confused identities. Well I moved away…I always recollect that he said that he felt that he must have been gay because of the comments and behaviors of his first wife and his feelings of sexual inadequacy. The link to the story reminds me of that, despite Hugo saying that he knew better, etc. I’ve met other people since who have made similar comments about their emotional devastation.

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    1. I think Hugo’s story isn’t at all about the woman being gay. Tons of people fake interest in sex just to get married and then stop faking the minute they get their marriage certificate. Such people deserve nothing but contempt. They aren’t even honest prostitutes. They sell themselves but then fail to deliver. One has to have severe self-esteem issues to try to justify their behavior like Hugo does.

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  8. Do you really think they fake interest in sex just to get married? You don’t believe that her lack of sexual interest in Hugo was due to her being gay?

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    1. The text states very clearly that there was sex before getting married (she LOVED receiving oral sex, it says) and it dried up completely right after: “Two weeks after we got home from the honeymoon, Courtney and I had sex for the last time. I was cut off cold. Bewildered that her admittedly lukewarm libido had turned off so completely, I complained and sulked“. I assume she was equally gay before and after getting the marriage certificate? So why does the sex end so completely and dramatically not, say, 2 weeks before getting married but, rather, two weeks after?

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  9. “My wife offered a series of explanations and excuses; sometimes it was that she was too tired or stressed, other times it was that I had been “mean” or inattentive in some way.”

    He doesn’t elaborate on how she experienced him as being “mean” or inattentive, but she offers feeling “tired” or “stressed”, etc. I think being confused about one’s sexual identity and not being open or openly admitting that could be very stressful as one is basically living a lie. That would make on tired for certain. Lack of emotional intimacy kills sexual intimacy.

    If someone intially had sexual interest in a relationship and then it goes awry–there is an explanation for that, and more often than not it has to do with emotional intimacy, unless it is physical….Just a thought. I do agree that he was disempowered in his relationships with women, but I wonder the real root and that would only be speculative.

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    1. But it can’t be just a coincidence that the interest in sex evaporates right after she got that marriage certificate.

      The poor guy seems to find one sexually manipulative woman after another. There was the mother of his putative child, a woman of stellar personal qualities. Then there was a woman in college who guilt-tripped him about sex like there was no tomorrow. And the weird thing is that he buys into these manipulations every single time.

      As you say, this can only be speculative but every single man of this kind that I have ever met was a son of a very cold, distant and manipulative mother.

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      1. I think his attachment to his mother was greater than his father…Did you ever read his essay called: After 25, its in bad taste to blame your parents for anything: some-thoughts-on-rebecca-and-alice-walker-feminism-and-the-rage-of-the-neglected-child.

        I would leave a link, but do not know your policy on that or how too.

        He has also behaved in destructive, cold, and manipulative ways towards women as well. One wonders where he learned those behaviors? He did write an essay where he talked about how he used women’s bodies to basically “fuck his feelings away”. That’s the language of addiction talking. He would not be the first person to ever behave like that.

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  10. At any rate…I do feel empathy towards him, but at times I feel he lacks empathy towards others as well as insight (nobody is perfect, including me). I always recall his response to a woman who wrote openly about her estrangement from her mother and he didn’t seem to have a lot of empathy towards her–the woman was/is a famous feminist. I have to wonder too about his relationship with his mother and father. He’s often commented that he felt closer to his mother. There’s always more to the story than what meets the eye.

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