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Tuesday How To: Purge His Poison

January 8, 2013

fight back

My previous post, the discussion Hugo Schwyzer and his poisonous presence in feminist spaces got me thinking, largely because half the chatter on Schwyzer seems to be some variation of  defending him.

He’s changed! Why can’t you let him change! Let the past go! He’s different now!

First of all, everybody realizes that is pretty much word for word from the Excuses by Abusers Handbook, right? Note to Feminist Internetlandia: we really need to write that.

Second, the facts are; he tried to kill his girlfriend, justified the hell out of it, began teaching after he “got better,” used his position of power to sleep with students, and has continued to write and speak in such a way that his misogyny is obvious. In examining his words, the answer is obviously no, he’s not different.  His excuses are better and more nuanced. They make an objectively fascinating study in the use of persuasive language. But close reading makes it clear there has been no change in the underlying narcissism. Look at these, his views of the response to his presence in “safe spaces,” which he refers to as a “takedown,”  and not “the consequences of trying to kill someone having sex with people over whom you have power, defending misogyny, and lying about it.”

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the the things I learned from dealing with my own narc, is if you let people talk for any length of time, they will tell you the truth about themselves. If we examine that first link, every single thing in it translates to “I’m great and everyone who disagrees with me is a troll. Also, here is how I use people”

It’s telling that rather than link to the reasons that Femniste , Healthy Is The New Skinny, and Scarleteen provided for disassociating themselves with him, which largely break down to “he creeps the fuck out of our supporters,’  or the hundred or so other meticulous deconstructions of his behavior that are available to anyone with a search engine, he linked to interviews with himself. Why is telling? Because narcs only want to hear their own voice, even if it is slightly filtered through other humans. Their voice is the one that matters and you can STFU or you’re wrong.

Most importantly, he states “Be Okay With Being Disliked” and “Remember Your Desire to Write Is Stronger Than Their Desire to Silence You.” Thus, the danger of this person in what are supposed to be “safe spaces” remains because what he’s saying is he’s never going to stop. His desire to keep preying on people matters more than the rights of others to be safe. He actually laid that all out for us in an interview last month. In answering the question “What motivation do powerful men have to change?” he tells us all about himself.

We have the motivation to be trusted. To be seen as kind, accessible human beings rather than as remote, inaccessible, predatory men who must be placated. In Margaret Atwood’s famous Handmaid’s Tale, the Commander longs for a woman to kiss him “like she means it.” He has all this power but he’s miserable because he knows he’s feared, not loved. He can’t bring himself to relinquish his power, sadly. The reality is, if we want intimate relationships, if we want to connect, we have to give up this privilege.

He doesn’t want to have standard male privilege because then his interactions with women would be based on fear. He doesn’t want fear. Fear isn’t a victory. Making the people you are hurting love you? That is a victory. This man is still a fucking abuser.

Having established the danger, one of the questions I got distilled the the issue beautifully.

He admits to almost killing his partner. Why does this man have any business having an opinion in a feminist space?

Clearly, he doesn’t.

The question was preceded by an even better comment.

I don’t think we should attack other women (he LOVES that, you are so right about that), but I wish that we could boot him out of any conversations regarding feminism.

Why can’t we do that? No seriously, why can’t we do just that? We know it can be done. We’ve seen it happen. We have irrefutable proof that this works. We’ve also got outstanding examples of the kinds of response we’ll get from fellow feminists who have been manipulated into defending him. Maia, at Alas! has already done a brilliant breakdown of one which contains most of the “be nice, he’s trying so hard, he’s different now,” bullshit. Better writers who are smarter than me have already done the heavy lifting. All we need to do is deliver the message.

Dear Editors of X website/CEO of Y Company/Board of Z School,

Hugo Schwyzer bills himself as a professional feminist. Doing so is his stock and trade. However, he is trading on a lie. Mr. Schwyzer has a history of sexist, predatory behavior. He continues this behavior and in so doing, he creates unsafe spaces for women. In promoting this person you are making your site/company/school an unsafe space for women. There is no excuse for this. Please rectify this error.

Then, drop the mike. Walk away from that site, go to every single social media site you have ever heard of and post both the specific link along with the statement (a link back here would be nice too, but it’s not necessary).

If every comment section/organizer’s Facebook page/event Twitter feed blows up with some version of that statement, those groups that are actually geared toward providing safe spaces for women will cut ties with him and those that don’t will make that clear. It becomes a pretty simple equation; if said group is actually interested in forming safe spaces for women then they will not allow a known predator into those spaces. If they allow him, then they make clear that their interest is in something other than keeping women safe from his predation.

They disassociate themselves from him or we disassociate ourselves with them. Either way, his ability to cause us harm atrophies as we protect ourselves and each other.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2013 7:46 PM

    I have never heard of the guy, and from you write, I am pretty happy about that fact.

    • January 8, 2013 8:13 PM

      He’s pretty common in feminist circles because he works his ass off to be common in feminist circles. Not like I can talk, because I am also a blogger and also working to become a more common feminist voice. The difference, of course, is that I am not abusing people.

  2. January 19, 2013 9:24 AM

    quite interesting, heard it before but still interesting.

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