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.