At the time, my knowledge of Hugo was very minimal, and included only two facts: he was a professor and a writer. However, further investigation showed just how hated this man was. Even when you Google his name the two websites that pop up first (even before his own website, which has been disabled at this time) are Fuck No, Hugo Schwyzer, and a piece on Feminspire entitled, “Hugo Schwyzer Is Not a Feminist Icon.”
Before I dug any deeper, I assumed that maybe this hatred was because female feminists didn’t want some self-proclaimed feminist man stepping on their turf and “mansplaining” them. There’s nothing more aggravating than someone coming from outside the group, a white man as it were, giving us, the ladies, a lesson on feminism. But then I realized it wasn’t about that; it was about something darker.
At this point in the game, we’re all well aware of Schwyzer’s history with drug and alcohol abuse, the fact that he used to fuck his students and, of course, that he tried to kill his girlfriend. Even here at The Gloss, we’ve interviewed him about these topics, as well as others, and on a couple of occasions both Jennifer and I took him to task over his stance on certain subjects. Admittedly, I’ve read a lot of Schwyzer’s writings, rolled my eyes, and sighed loudly: Fucking Hugo. When will you learn to just shut up?
When Hugo dropped off the Internet a couple weeks ago, I didn’t notice at first. I’m actually amazed that I was late to realize it, because the man changes his Facebook profile picture as often as a 15-year-old who just realized the glory of selfies. But one night, as I scrolled through both Twitter and Facebook, trying to get caught up on news, I realized there was no Hugo to be found. The man, who more often than not, made all situations, both tragic and joyous, somehow about himself, was gone.
When I asked around, it was confirmed: Hugo Schwyzer, the guy both feminists and members of the men’s rights movement had wanted to shut up, (and had tried to do so with death threatens and endless hateful words), was finally silent. I immediately dismissed it as an act for attention.
When I reached out to him via email last week, he immediately came clean about everything. It was as though he was dying to both get it off his chest, and be, well, Hugo. Being Hugo means the compulsive need to share, like I said, everything. A couple days later the mass emails from him to many of us in the writing community started. There would be three total, to date, in which he detailed that the inevitable breakdown had indeed happened. Hugo Schwyzer has not just left the building, but has hit rock bottom.
Next, was the interview he did with Kat Stoeffel for NY Mag, in which he attributed his departure from the Internet, his decision to stop teaching his pornography class at Pasadena City College, and his breakdown to a bad combination of depression and the online hatred he received every single. fucking. day.
What precipitated your exit?
I dealt with depression and alcoholism for many years; I’ve written about this many times. I’ve been fifteen years sober, but a lot of the depression came from being online. When I’ve been taken down, there’s virtually nothing in my defense, and anyone who does come to my defense gets slapped down. Google me. Here, I’ll do it …
So here we go… if you want to slap me down, then by all means go for it, but hear me out first.
Hugo Schwyzer, by his own admission, is no saint. Schwyzer is also, as he emailed me the other day, “Borderline Personality Disorder narcissist with manic depression and I say some good things and I say some awful stupid things.” Hugo, in case you haven’t noticed, is human.
I’m in no way defending his actions, his obvious inability to control his sexual desires, his past riddled with drugs, mistake after mistake, and I’m especially, nor will I ever, let it slide that he tried to kill his girlfriend. None of this is what we want in a person, a friend, a family member and most especially a teacher.
In the past 15 years that Schwyzer has been sober, it seems as though he’s tried to make amends in the feminist community for his past. Whether it was because he truly wanted to do so, or saw it as a chance to make waves, piss people off and get attention, we’ll never know. Only Hugo knows that, and considering his mental health, he may not even be consciously aware of it, should that be the case.
Now, as his dirty laundry is aired a little more everyday, those people who have long hated him and wished horrible things for him, seem to be delighting in his breakdown. The Internet, Twitter especially, is bursting at the seams with joy over the departure of this man from a world in which, they believe, he tainted with his toxic thoughts, and his unforgiveable past. PEOPLE ARE LEGITIMATELY HAPPY THAT HUGO’S DEPRESSION HAS PUT HIM IN THE HOSPITAL. PEOPLE ARE HOPING HE’LL KILL HIMSELF.
Wrong. Wrong. WRONG.
In case you haven’t noticed, what Schwyzer is getting is an extreme dose of online bullying. If those of you who hate him so much can’t see that, then you really need to check your understanding of the term “online bullying.” Yes, Hugo has been guilty of engaging, and often even provoking back and forth battles on Twitter, but to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t wished the death, at least not publicly so, on anyone.
Sure, you can once again bring up his murder attempt, try to use that as your justification as to why he might “deserve” such hateful language thrown at him, but what does that really say? If his haters think he’s such shit, and obviously someone they never want to be, can’t they see that their behavior is just bringing them down to Hugo’s level? HAVE ANY OF THESE HATERS EVEN CONSIDERED THIS POSSIBILITY? It seems like simple math to me.
I don’t care who you are, or who you think you are, but death threats, mocking depression or delighting in the possible suicide of any human being is wrong. It’s disgusting, and shows a severe lack of respect and humanity for the fragility within us all.
Time and time again, we’ve seen what can happen when online bullying gets out of hand. We know the emotional and mental toll it takes, as well as the sometimes-tragic results. Do any of us want to be the reason someone takes their own life? Will you really, despite all your hate for your target, be able to sleep at night if you were the cause of such thing? Seriously. Think about it.
As I wrote to Hugo the other night, he fucked up. I told him he fucked up, and I didn’t waver in my stance. I didn’t pity him. I didn’t try to coddle him. But what I did do was point out the very obvious component in all this that so many people seem to be forgetting: the man is human. The man is made of flesh and blood just like you. Just because you get to hide behind the walls of the Internet and not see the burn and scars your words cause, doesn’t negate the fact that you’re dealing with a living, breathing person; and someone, as in Hugo’s case, who is very broken and in need of mental attention.
The next time you think it’s OK to drag Hugo Schwyzer through the mud of hate, mock his mental disorder, and dance in glee at the thought of a world without him, stop and think. Then remind yourself: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
Listen to Nietzsche, you guys. Don’t be monsters.