• Thu, Nov 8 2012

The Controversial Hugo Schwyzer Answers Your Questions

Last week I asked you what questions you’d like me to ask the controversial Hugo Schwyzer. While some of you had never even heard of him, others of you were ready to go with questions. Lots of questions.

Even if you loathe him and strongly feel that he shouldn’t be allowed even near the word “feminism” – let alone act as a voice for it – Hugo Schwyzer has always been honest about his controversial past. He is candid about the things that most of us would try to forget. In a lot of cases, this honesty seems to redeem him, at least in the eyes of some people. There are those who stand by and support him, accepting the things that can’t be changed, but the voices on the other side of this debate all but call for his head — they also seem to be the louder of the two very divided groups.

With the questions we received from our readers and a couple of our own, we reached out to Schwyzer and asked him to explain himself.

How do you reconcile your accountability process (where you said you’d be taking yourself out of women-centered & feminist spaces) with your recent upswing in pitching and posting articles to websites like Jezebel and xojane?

I wrote that I’d be taking myself out of explicit feminist spaces. That doesn’t mean websites – it means not participating in conferences or clubs where my physical presence may be problematic. I no longer am a member of NAWSA. I no longer advise the feminist club at PCC. But I’ve been writing for Jezebel since before this controversy and never intended to resign from that position. The editors at XoJane include friends, and I fully apprised them of the controversy.

Lots of people don’t want me writing in those spaces — and many do. There’s no way to figure out what the percentages are. There’s no poll. I trust and believe, sincerely, that on balance the potential for good trumps the potential for harm. That’s the view of the (often feminist) editors who publish me and the view of the people to whom I am accountable.

XoJane, Jezebel, TheGloss, and so forth – these sites are not providing group therapy in a safe and nurturing environment. They are spaces for vigorous, even controversial discussion of ideas around sexuality and gender roles. Editors shouldn’t be in loco parentis.

Have your thoughts changed about the statement you made on xojane claiming a “faulty premise of scarcity” on the Internet, and your belief that you are not depriving less-privileged voices from being heard?

I stand by that statement. There are many, many wonderful websites (and more and more each year) focusing on women and women’s issues. The vast majority of writers for these sites are women; a growing number are women of color. I do not believe that a single white man writing a weekly column or an occasional contribution means that women are being silenced. If I were writing primarily about, say, black women’s issues, and there were no black women at the site writing about that issue, that would be a huge problem. But that’s not the situation here.

Writers who have privilege have an obligation to promote the less privileged – to introduce them to editors, to signal boost their articles in social media, and so forth. But I don’t buy into the idea that there are a finite number of opportunities, and that because I wrote a piece for XoJane about my divorce, a less-privileged voice was automatically not published. That’s just not how the ‘net works.

What are your plans for the future regarding writing (and pitching) to women-centered publications?

Complete candor with the editors about the ramifications of publishing me. Total transparency. Editors know their sites better than I do.

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  • Breezy

    Am I just too forgiving? I’m not saying he wasn’t a certain douche, but it seems like he is actively trying to be a better person. I don’t understand why that’s not allowed.

  • KendallK

    “highly overrated sex appeal” strikes me as obvious false modesty.

    I know some people have issues with Hugo’s current writing. I don’t. I do have more of an issue with his past of sleeping with students, even more than with the murder-suicide attempt. That was while he was loaded, but his sleeping with students can’t ALWAYS have been while he was high. Even if he doesn’t do it anymore, and I have no reason to believe he isn’t a faithful husband, I wonder how his current students feel when they read about his past. I’d be a little icked out, or maybe a little titillated. Either way, I think it would affect me. I wish I’d had a chance to ask him about that. If there’s a follow-up, I’d like to address this issue of sleeping with students and boundaries with current ones.

  • len132

    I read some of Hugo’s work, but I’m really not that invested. I don’t really love him or hate him. However, I have way more respect for people who have made huge mistakes and then worked to get better, to be better, then people who just keep doing the same things. People can atone for their mistakes- otherwise what would be the point?

    I’ve never done anything on that level, but I’ve still made some terrible mistakes- mistakes that ruined friendships and hurt people. I can’t take them back, but I can do my best to be better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

    I admittedly hadn’t heard of him until you posted the first article (except for seeing you guys tweet back and forth sometimes, haha) but I actually really like him after this article. I guess I missed the whole angry boat, but I really think he seems like a genuinely great person. Change happens and holding the past against somebody forever when they’ve clearly altered their life for the better is useless.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Yeah, I didn’t know anything about him until he started following me on the Twitter. Then I did some Googling and was all “Oh… I see.” Personally, I think he’s very charming and kind, and I firmly believe we should all be forgiven for our mistakes. But that’s just me.

    • enough with this shit

      i wonder if you would think the same thing if you were the woman he tried to kill?

  • Varius

    He is absolutely a slimy, psychopathic manipulator, and I feel sorry for the people who are taken in by him. He is really good at it.

  • Areo

    Hypocrite. Psychopath. Narcissist. Name-dropper. Poseur. Dilettante. User.

    Oh, I have to pick one? OK: Poseur.

  • enough!

    Can we talk about the actual “false premise of scarcity” quote on xo jane?

    “But this notion of “making room” in the blogosphere is based on a faulty premise of scarcity. When xoJane ran the tampon piece, for example, it’s not like that story took up column inches that would otherwise have gone to a marginalized voice. Look at most of the people whose work you publish; few are privileged white middle-aged men.”

    Isn’t this just the most ridiculous thing? Here’s this guy who wants us to sympathize with him because he is a privileged white middle-aged man who contributes to sites that don’t feature work from that group?! He acts like he is representing some group that isn’t heard. But, these sites were created because most of the world is dominated by the privileged white man perspective. Do we really need HS to come into the spaces that were created as a rebuttal to this hegemony and explain the world to us? No, of course we don’t. Fuck this dude.