Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who what where when why?

Does feminism have a racism problem? In the abstract, it's easy enough to think of reasons why it does/has had one. The emphasis on the woes of the 'housewife' in years when women of color were working outside the home. The emphasis on the pressure on 'women' to be thin, when it's not really all women (if not just white women, either). The tendency of feminists to ignore issues that specifically impact non-white women - the famous intersectionality, which Jewish women (most of whom are 'white' by U.S. standards) should be plenty attuned to, given the 'JAP' stereotype, which is simultaneously misogynistic and anti-Semitic; there are more extreme equivalents for other marginalized groups*. Problems specific to the black-and-female, the Asian-and-female, etc., are too often ignored, if the big-deal feminists are nearly all white. And then there are questions of multicultural and multifaith feminism - is wearing a veil necessarily anti-feminist? And so on.

So it's not mysterious why feminism can have such problems. What's mysterious is what the problem is, specifically, here. I've been semi-following the Hugo Schwyzer Affair or kerfuffle or I don't know (he follows me on Twitter, I'm now reminded; am I implicated in all this, on account of that plus being white-ish and identifying as a feminist?), but Mikki Kendall's Guardian op-ed seems like it's missing a first paragraph or similar. (As, alas, does everything that I've seen written about this.) It's conceivable that Schwyzer has wronged feminists of color (as a group, or as individuals), and it appears he's confessed as much, but the question is, what happened? I hoped to figure this out from the Guardian comments (forget to bring a book on NJ Transit and this sort of thing happens), but most everyone there seems about as mystified as I am. Mystified not, to repeat, by intersectionality, but by what the particular controversy here is. The Google isn't of much help, either. It reminds that Schwyzer has a past of pretty extreme domestic violence, which is indeed an odd fit for Professional Feminist Ally status. But what's the racism story? There's this broad consensus that this man did something racist, and he himself is admitting as much, but it seems impossible to find out what. Anyone know?

*And arguably for white women of the non-hyphenated (blonde?) variety. The whole 'white lady' thing, where 'lady' is used (often enough, by other white women), and the individual in question will be referred to as entitled when an equivalent man would not have been. Not all intersectionalities or marginalizations are equal, of course, but there's still a kind of intersectionality that applies to the 'white lady' construction.


Miss Self-Important said...

I have no interest in the feminism or racism question, but his Twitter feed is pretty epic. I remember his name coming up several years ago, I think b/c he wrote something on teacher-student crushes, and finding on his blog that he'd undergone a recent and voluntary circumcision in order to demonstrate to his wife that he had put his past sexcapades behind him or something like that. I concluded then that he was probably nuts b/c what-the-hell-who-does-that, but this clearly exceeds my earlier judgment.

Not clear from this though what he said or did about black women, or even how he was a "fraud." He doesn't seem to have lied about his degree or credentials. He teaches at a community college; this doesn't require a PhD in porn and gender studies. Does it even require a PhD at all?

Phoebe said...

Wow, I just looked at his Twitter feed and good grief, hope he gets the help he needs, for his own sake and anyone around him.

The content, though, is strange. He's claiming he's some kind of sociopath whose conniving ways led him to... pretend to be a feminist blogger? That was the sneaky plan all along? His great confession is that he wrote "clickbait" and "networked"? Isn't that just how it goes on some of the sites he was writing for?

It doesn't add up, but unfortunately I don't have the psychiatric training to even so much as guess what any of this is about. It seems like some kind of bizarre (and actually quite sad) mix of mental illness and self-directed YPIS on some unprecedented scale. And maybe impostor syndrome - as you say, he was approximately as qualified to teach about gender as many others who do the same.

(I see that I once linked to something of his, and it seemed more or less the sort of thing that one finds on Jezebel/linked to from it.)

Miss Self-Important said...

It does seem like massively overblown impostor syndrome, plus mania. From the Daily Beast (in which he appears to be adamantly defending himself against his own adamant self-accusations):
So there is nothing fraudulent about the work itself?
No. But I never published in any serious academic journal. I always wanted to write for a popular audience. So, what I wrote for Jezebel or The Atlantic or wherever else was always legitimate in the sense that I wasn’t making up facts.

No faked degrees, no plagiarism, no anything that constitutes a recognizable form of fraud. He failed to publish in a "serious academic journal"! Well, if that doesn't merit life in prison, I don't know what does.

Apparently, his main crime was in not practicing what he preached w/r/t sex b/c he continued to pursue younger women while advocating that old men settle for old women. There is nothing I love more than a good academic fraud, but teaching porn at a community college w/o a degree in porn, wanting to reach a popular audience, and writing stuff you don't personally believe doesn't even make the cut for small-time fraud. Did he invent this accusation for attention? Or is his personal standard of non-fraudulence some sort of perfect sincerity and transparency, such that perhaps he is a fraud b/c he was not "true to himself," as the pop-psych trope would have it? This whole thing sounds like the reverse of damning with faint praise if such a thing is possible: praising with faint damnation. I'm not sure which version of him is more absurd and pathetic - the manic Tweeting version, or the lucid self-promoting by means of self-pitying one.

Miss Self-Important said...

Ok, more internet on Hugo Schwyzer that supports my suspicions (albeit w/ other suspicions):

Phoebe said...

I'm finding this actually a lot more interesting than academic fraud. There, it's clear that someone wants whichever glory, but doesn't want to do the hard work with the microforms. This is much more bizarre.

I don't agree with Althouse that this is a "feminist strategy," but she's right that there's a long-game plan of some kind. It doesn't seem that he really thinks he's fraudulent, but rather that he's arguing he is in a way that almost demands anyone reasonable (but not anyone unreasonable - getting to that in a moment) will reassure him of his authenticity.

My own bias would be towards thinking he's intentionally courting the YPIS brigade. Simply by accusing himself of being a bad white man (without it being at all clear what racist thing he did/said), he gets to be the target of an internet-wide your-white-male-privilege-is-showing. When it's like, yes, there are, all things equal, unearned advantages for the white-and-male, but is one of them getting to post on Jezebel? Is that really the source of outrage?

So his "game" is either that he somehow enjoys being yelled at by feminists on the internet, or that he's somehow exposing ridiculousness on the left by showing how easy it is to whip up a frenzy without the source of the frenzy (i.e. what he did/said that was racist) even being known. Or there's just a psychiatric diagnosis that explains it.

Miss Self-Important said...

I think what she means by feminist strategy is a strategy to appeal to feminists? Like claiming to have an epic case of impostor syndrome - a feminist concern - so that women will pat him and say, "there, there." And then, you know, get in bed with him, which seems like a major interest of his.

I did some cursory searching for the race stuff but also couldn't come up with what he said that was racist. I found this: and He "tried to remove me from a feminist space"? Like, get her fired from a magazine? Or he was rude to her and other internet commenters? These accusations seem kind of abstract and insider-y, which might be why we can't figure out exactly what they are. Being mean on the internet is concrete enough I suppose, but the complaint seems to be that he has been "enabled" by white feminists to "represent" feminism at the expense of non-white feminists, whose suffering was sidelined by the white ladies who gave him a platform (instead of them? a more elevated platform than theirs? that part is unclear). I don't know; I leave the politics of "feminist spaces" to you to disentangle.

Phoebe said...

But is he trying to appeal to feminists? By play-acting typical feminist grievances, but he is, as is much-discussed, a dude (and a straight, white one at that), he's if anything infuriating feminists. So his act still is in reference to feminists, still about getting their attention, I don't think he could plausibly expect sympathy. I think he wants feminists' YPIS rage.

And it is probably is impossible to figure out what the mysterious racist act(s) involved. "Feminist spaces," this I understand inasmuch as it's odd that someone who apparently tried to murder a past girlfriend became Mr. Enlightened Feminist, but I don't see where race enters into any of this. I can't tell if the consensus in various threads that it does is because everyone else was there when the thing, whatever it was, took place, or if there's just a mob prepared to agree that this seemingly troubled person could well also be racist.

Miss Self-Important said...

I don't think he could plausibly expect sympathy. I think he wants feminists' YPIS rage.
It's possible, and certainly seems true for now. What I'm struck by though is how much sort-of sympathy he's managed to get. I came across many responses on the internet that were exactly like ours: "You're not a fraud! You're being too hard on yourself if you think what you did constitutes fraud. Academia is just really demanding, and we all feel like frauds sometimes." (For example.) Are we all being roped into sympathizing with him pre-emptively, or before he's actually officially accused of anything? That, and the mental illness, which always arouses pity. I dunno, past evidence does suggest that Americans are regularly willing to forgive no-goodniks who "come clean" and repent with seeming sincerity, and it helps if they can claim to have been under some sort of influence when they were bad - drugs, cults, psychoses. Well, that's your totally cynical interpretation for the day. I now retire until further evidence appears, and cede the floor to the more sensitive and compassionate.

Phoebe said...


Don't retire just yet - this is endlessly fascinating! And there will never be evidence - HS has atoned for amorphous racism, and shall be accused of the same.

I agree that there's a culture of forgiveness. But it doesn't extend to the subculture HS has set his sights on. (Are any of the people with our take on the far left?) He never really did get forgiveness for the domestic-violence episode, and the more he mentions his own privilege or "fraud" or whatever, the more he'll get accused of what he's accused himself of. Either he's parodying his accusers or somehow trying to provoke more/more furious accusations.

Miss Self-Important said...

The people who blog at LGM are on the left - mid, far, I don't know. I guess the feminists themselves haven't boarded the forgiveness train, at least not yet, but perhaps this is because they are presently being pummeled by the WoC feminists? (I learned a PC abbrev through these researches!)

But it seems that he got some sort of reprieve for the attempted murder episode, b/c it was a known thing by 2011, and he was chugging along fine until pretty much yesterday. How that is possible, I do not know. I guess if you appear remorseful and redeemed enough, Pasadena City College will appreciate your honesty rather than be horrified that they have hired an attempted murderer. (But then too, his murder, if successful, would've also been a suicide. It's very bizarre, although the bizarreness of HS should now be unsurprising.) That's why I suspect there is a theme here with pre-emptive confessions of guilt for ambiguous crimes leading to sympathetic exculpations by others. I also found his "I'm a rapist" confession essay, and there again, look at the comments: "No, you're not a rapist! This doesn't constitute real rape; she said yes!" And I mean, was it real rape? We readers really can't say, but he sure looks like the sensitive, gallant one for presuming his guilt. He's clearly played this game before.

You're right, this is endlessly fascinating, at least as a new kind of public opinion-management strategy. From all I can gather, HS really seems like a seriously and serially bad dude and a genuine predator, but one who has managed to convince many people to look past these obvious facts simply by admitting them openly and expressing Great Remorse and commitment to Great Reform.

Doesn't mean it will work this time, of course, just that it seems to be a recurring effort that has worked before.

Phoebe said...

I think the best answer is that we're both right. The way it played out earlier (2011, apparently) is that whichever publications still hired him, but the comments section would quickly become 'you realize this guy tried to kill his girlfriend, right?' and so on, possibly with some issue where these comments would be deleted. So some forgave (or wanted clicks on their websites?), while others neither forgave nor forgot.

My own sense, from the periphery of this (feminist and blogger, yes, but not really part of the feminist blogosphere), had been that HS was already - that is, before this recent controversy/outburst - someone it was wise to avoid. Some friends-through-blogging/writing approved of HS, or did with major reservations - see Rachel Hills here, but it seemed iffy. I was at one point invited (not by HS) to contribute to "The Good Men Project," but didn't do so precisely because my impression was, this wasn't something to get mixed up with. Point being, HS didn't suddenly become taboo. There'd been an ongoing controversy over what he was doing on feminist blogs - not as a man, but, as Rachel says, as this man.

Predictions time: I think he will certainly pop up again (unless truly self-destructive), but that next time will be on the right. There, there may be a greater (religious?) acceptance of past sin, and he'd be received (by some?) as a hero for having become the enemy of the more outrageous elements on the left.

Miss Self-Important said...

Ew, I hope not. We don't want him; you can keep him. Also, I think his man-feminism has already alienated many people on the right; a lot of the damning stuff I found in my internet-searching came from pro-men's blogs, or whatever they call their position. He does have some history of Christian affiliation, so maybe he'll lean on that. But I agree, he does not seem to be the type who simply quits public life just b/c of a few past mishaps like rape, murder, psychosis, etc., so he will likely find some road back. Hopefully when he does, the women nearby will still remember that he is Bad News, and they will keep their children close.