August 4th, 2013
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Many years ago, when the blogosphere was a much smaller place, Hugo Schwyzer responded to something I wrote about relationships, and he accused me of not understanding the bliss of community and monogamous, loving relationships. I’ve always regarded the guy as extremely strange, like most of what he wrote was an attempt to convince himself, rather than the rest of the world. I’m reminded of how Hemingway often wrote about how great monogamy was, even as he worked his way through 4 wives and dozens of lovers.
Hugo Schwyzer quit the Internet yesterday. The self-described male feminist wrote about facials and pulling tampons out of ex-wives. He tried to kill his girlfriend and is on his fourth marriage. He has been published regularly, most recently at The Atlantic and Jezebel. On Twitter, he regularly searched his name and would passive-aggressively favorite unflattering mentions of himself.
No longer. Schwyzer also announced he would cease teaching a class on pornography at Pasadena City College, where he is a tenured instructor. He then immediately took part in an utterly bizarre interview with The Cut’s Kat Stoeffel, in which he said things like, “If you look at the men who are writing about feminism, they toe the line very carefully. It’s almost like they take their cues from the women around them” and, “I had an affair, which is very off-brand for me.”
He also singled someone out as the reason he left Twitter. “After I wrote about Manic Pixie Dream Girls, this guy Chris tweeted, ‘the number one job of male feminists is to never let Hugo Schwyzer get another freelancing gig.’…it was just really hurtful.” The tweet that made Hugo quit came from another straight white man, because that’s who really gets under his skin. He seems to have no concept of the volume or tenor of the invective that women are subjected to online on the regular, either, if that’s what he finds “really hurtful.” When he flounced from Twitter, he made sure to alert Randle and longtime antagonist Malcolm Harris, crediting them with his decision to leave. It was also what many women wanted, but he didn’t acknowledge any of them.
Randle, a contributing editor at Hazlitt, and Harris, senior editor at The New Inquiry, chatted with me yesterday about how strange it is to be told you’ve driven someone offline. Full disclosure: we’ve all socialized IRL, and Malcolm has edited me.
SES: Who is Hugo Schwyzer, and why did you drive him from the Internet?
CR: I guess we need to expand on “a sociopath”?
MH: He’s a self-identified male feminist commentator with a well but not well-enough-known history as an abuser and all-around creep. Is that about right?
CR: And part of the reason it’s not well-known enough is that he stalked and darkly whispered against many of the women (often women of color) who called him out in years past.
MH: Yeah. I wanna be clear on not claiming credit for driving dude off the internet.
SES: Malcolm, I don’t think the credit is yours to claim, but rather freely given.
MH: Yeah but we know the guy has a problem crediting women, so it’s no surprise he’d do the same here.
SES: He sounded pretty shaken. You must have really scared him. Did you call him ugly, or threaten him with rape or physical violence?
MH: I probably called him old.
CR: I believe he tried to get Malcolm to have coffee with him at one point, which, lol.
SES: Is it possible that he is actually that unaware of the tone and nature of the comments women receive online on the regular for merely existing?
MH: No, but grown men are fragile.
CR: In this New York interview he says, “If you look at the men who are writing about feminism, they toe the line very carefully. It’s almost like they take their cues from the women around them. Men are afraid of women’s anger. It’s very hard for men to stand up to women’s anger.”
MH: No 30- or 40-something man I know could handle half of what young women deal with on a regular basis online. If they tried, they’d quit.
SES: “I did for a long time until finally my mental health had to be a priority.” Why are they so fragile?
MH: Society coddles them.
CR: Which, given that Schwzyer tried to murder his ex-girlfriend, is a rather literal demonstration of Margaret Atwood’s dictum about men being afraid that women will laugh at them and women being afraid that men will kill them.
SES: And was he being serious, do you think, with the “It’s almost like they take their cues from the women around them” line?
CR: I mean, we’re talking about somebody who described his affair with a student as “off-brand,” so he may lack even that self-awareness. But taking cues from women is precisely what men should do here. I don’t think men should make their living opining about feminism at all.
SES: What prompted the tweet that he cited?
CR: Oh, it was that typically gross piece he wrote about Manic Pixie Dream Girls and some woman he used to know and, most importantly, himself. (My friend Emily wrote a more sustained and damning critique of it that week.) Like I said on Tumblr, it’s so characteristic, not to mention hilarious, that Schwyzer cared only about other straight white men even when deciding to flee from public.