Against “all or nothing activism”: an update on the controversy

Classes started this past week at Pasadena City College. In the midst of a very bleak budget environment, it’s been nonetheless good to get back to teaching after a long two months away.

I’m so touched by the outpouring of support I’ve received from students and faculty in the wake of this surprisingly public discussion swirling around me. But while that support has been welcome, I don’t take it as a sign that I have nothing to rethink and no further changes to make. I’m still listening to friends and critics (and to the rare and precious view who are both). In the meantime, I’ve also taken steps to ensure that any student who feels uncomfortable having me as a teacher in the women’s history course can transfer to another section taught by a female colleague.

I did want to publicize two things. First, the F Word Media Collective will broadcast/stream a one-hour show tomorrow (Monday) from 12-1 PST. Hosted by Meghan Murphy, with whom I’ve had civil debates both on-air and in writing, the show will focus on the larger subject of men in feminism — and the issues surrounding the blow-up over the revelations about my past. Shira Tarrant and Ernesto Aguilar will be guests. Listen at Co-op Radio live or wait for a podcast to be posted within a day or two.

Second, a powerful statement emerged last week from a group of established feminist activists. Excerpt:

The recent controversy around Hugo Schwyzer has prompted alarming behaviour among the online feminist community that we are compelled to address. We want to be clear: In no way do we excuse Schwyzer’s past actions. Many strong and valid critiques have been made around Schwyzer’s position in the feminist movement — some of those critiques have been made by some of us writing this letter — and it’s crucial to create an open space for those concerns to be shared and addressed.

The issues that we are bringing up for discussion today go beyond any individual person. Our concerns center around solidarity, accountability, and the state of feminism.

Silencing and bully tactics have no place in the feminist movement. To bully and silence repeats the patterns of domination, control, and abuse of power that feminism seeks to change.

We have witnessed first hand silencing and bullying behaviour of some feminists by other feminists in our community. This behavior has caused a great deal of concern, anger, and fear. We fear being personally targeted and ostracized, with our reputations tarnished as we are falsely aligned with Schwyzer and his actions simply because we disagree with the way in which the discussion around him has been controlled. Silencing others and censoring ourselves impedes our social justice work. Bullying instills fear to the point that we, the collective anonymous authors of this statement, do not feel safe openly expressing our views. As a result, we are forced to respond to this behavior anonymously—an unfortunate and unacceptable result of take-down culture. These issues are not simply about us. We are concerned there are others whose views may be suppressed as well.

Read the whole thing.

20 thoughts on “Against “all or nothing activism”: an update on the controversy

  1. “Silencing and bully tactics have no place in the feminist movement.”

    So why is it okay to for Hugo Schwyzer to bully Susan Walsh into silence?

      • This year, blogger Susan Walsh received an email from a man whose marriage was ruined by Hugo. Hugo had an affair with a newly wedded woman, who soon conceived a child. Hugo continued to email this woman throughout 2008, at least. When the husband finally found out that Hugo had been having a relationship with his wife, Hugo was “dismissive and unrepentant”.

        Susan was planning to post the whole story while keeping the husband’s name anonymous. But Hugo threatened Susan Walsh on Twitter. He said that if Susan published the man’s story, Hugo would reveal his actual name.

        This is ironic because Hugo has been so protective of his own privacy. He won’t reveal the names of his exes, or the students he slept with. But when someone else wants to talk about Hugo wrecked his marriage, Hugo threatens to reveal his name. It’s a bullying tactic.

        Sources: See comments 312, 314, 317 and 327 of this post.

        • Comment 312
          Actually, I received an email from Ted last week explaining the whole story. It’s much, much worse than Hugo even admitted to. I’ve decided not to publish it, though. It’s just a terrible situation.

          Comment 314
          I cannot be sure of Ted’s claims, and have no way of verifying them. Nor did Ted wish me to write a post about it. But so much for the theory that Ted would never find out. He found me via Hugo’s tweet complaining about my post.

          Doesn’t look like she was going to publish them in the first place.

          • Why did Susan let that silence her? Hugo can reveal the name and his version of the story at any time regardless of what she chooses to publish. Even if Hugo chose to not reveal the name, that’s no guarantee that someone else wouldn’t.

        • I remember this story from last year. If you read it carefully, you’ll realize you’re talking about two entirely different situations. The person who contacted Walsh was NOT the “Ted” referenced in the original post Hugo wrote. He was someone with an axe to grind angry with Hugo over a situation unrelated to the “Jill” story.
          No connection. You can dislike someone all you want, but at least keep the information straight.

  2. I’m glad to see people stepping forward in thoughtful support around this. I’ve written comments about my frustration at the in-fighting occurring and how this not only divides a community but causes others to shy away. A number of people have specifically commented that if this is how Feminism treats its own, they don’t want to be one. And I get it. I don’t like it. But I get it.

    The Feminist X statement echoed much of my own thinking, but with far more power than I would have had, as a cis white male.
    It seems that we are heading towards a leveling out of this whole thing.

    Maybe when this has cooled a little, Hugo, you could do a piece on “Staying Feminist in the Heat of Feminists” answering the few critics who predicted you would “go MRA” out of this. Something on what feminist principles helped keep your head on straight during this whole thing.

  3. Well, okay. That piece written by those “established feminists” is all well and good. Except that it fails to specifically cite what is and isn’t an example of bullying behavior. When that happens, civil critique can potentially be conflated with bullying.

    So, to me, that statement mostly reads, “Some feminists somewhere (but we’re not going to say who or what they did) were out of line. That stuff they did that we’re not going to reference is bad and shouldn’t be done.”

    Not helpful.

    Also curious what they mean by “silencing.”

    Obviously, Hugo still has this blog to share his thoughts. No one, even a feminist man, is entitled to space on anyone else’s blog.

  4. Hugo, at one point you said you plan to withdraw from explicitly feminist spaces. That choice made sense, both for you and for the community working for justice and against oppression. I strongly urge you to stand by that choice now. Please do not make the divisions in feminism worse by injecting yourself into this discussion. It takes patience to ignore the personal expressions of anger that have appeared on the Internet, but I do not think posting links to the “Feminist X” tumblr will help their cause or yours.

  5. To be fair, I can understand why some people wouldn’t want Schwyzer around — outside of the (unfair) desire to push men out of the feminist cause. He has a difficult past. Not everyone has to accept it. Fair enough.

  6. The other aspect is the lying. If he tells completely different versions of the same events (for instance with regard to the suicide / attempted murder thing), all of the versions aside from one involve lying in some way. Maybe all of them do – if no version is the truth.

    Hugo never offers any explanation of critical points like that – aside, I guess, from “Haterz gonna hate”.

  7. Regardless of what Hugo did or not do, there are vast sections of the Feminist Web that are more than happy to threaten those who do not agree with them, remain silent or even cheer when others do, and in essence, eat their own. Hugo is not the only person who has seen this behavior in action, and often these actions are taken against…women.

    • Gee, Ren, you are now stating exactly – really word-for-word – what Men’s Rights Activists have been saying for years. Except for the “… women” thing, they take that type of action against everyone who disagrees with them.

    • Yeah, to be honest, I don’t see it as a feminist thing as much as an internet thing. I’ve seen the sort of behavior break out over the dumbest things. It makes sense if you think about it. In real life, you disagree with someone, you might get into an argument over it or you might not. If you do fight, you’re probably going to reconcile. On the internet, the relationships are flimsy. When an argument breaks out, people retreat into their corners instead of trying to deal with each other. There’s very real listening going on. We think the worst of each other and the best of ourselves.

      So I’m not surprised by the behavior of some feminists on the internet, but I don’t believe that it’s because they’re feminists that they behave this way. It’s because they’re on the internet.

  8. Pingback: Men, Feminism, Race, Movements and the Cult of Hugo Schwyzer: The F Word Interview with Ernesto Aguilar | Feminist Current

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