Topical Thoughts: Hugo Schwyzer Edition

I generally do not to take pleasure in others’ misfortunes, or at the very least try not be a looky-loo when a public figure goes up in flames like a fabulous, egotistical meteor in the night sky (see: Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Anthony Weiner, Greg Mortenson), and I in no way want to be part of any Internet-bashing.

But noted Male Feminist Hugo Schwyzer’s Twitter meltdown earlier this month (I’m way behind on pitching my two cents on this thing, ok? But it’s not like anyone even reads this blog. It’s pure vanity.) was a fascinating spectacle and I watched every minute of it: his determined declaration that he was leaving Twitter in mid-July, his manic return a month later and subsequent promise to take a break again, only to return a week later when #Solidarityisforwhitewomen exploded. Schwyer’s like a shark smelling blood in the water—if there’s a feminist issue within a twenty-mile radius, you can bet he’ll be there to impose his opinions on it.

I was introduced to his work via someone who had no use for his cloying ‘feminist’ shtick, so I never really bought into his work as a subversive, turning-masculine-culture-on-its-head, bad-boy-turned-good champion of women’s rights. I know so many did; he wrote for Jezebel, XOJane, even the Atlantic (which I generally respect). He no doubt still has a strong fan base, even after he outed himself as undeserving of it. He was heralded as the male ally white feminist women never knew they wanted but really needed all along. He gets us, I can imagine them saying.

Schwyzer’s been just on my periphery for a while, but it wasn’t until this month that I started reading more into his work—and more importantly, the feminist community’s responses to it—and getting a better picture of just how dangerous an ‘ally’ Schwyzer has been for years. (In truth, the ‘reading’ has become something of a masochistic obsession. The rage I feel scrolling through his tweets, it makes me feel alive!) I have no doubt that he meant well going into things, but somewhere along the line his ‘support’ amounted to little more than a condescending pat on the head of women everywhere and a “Now, now, ladies, I’ll tell you what’s best for you. I should know: I’m a man.”

I was going to include screenshots of all of his worst tweets here, but it just seems mean and unhelpful at this time (but trust me, my desktop is full of them now. I have spent way too much time indulging this dislike). Suffice it to say, in them he:

  • explains to a woman what the euphemism ‘shark week’ means—but then, she was dumb enough to ask him
  • whines about how bullied he feels
  • sends someone ‘love and light’
  • uses the hashtags ‘teammisandry4eva’ and ‘brokenclitclub’

In short, he unashamedly co-opts the language of female feminists (immature, unfunny ones at that) in order to pass as one of them. It’s something he himself admits doing, and it worked, for so long.

Now, you can wonder why I or anyone else have put this much thought and effort and energy into disliking one man, especially one who was trying, maybe, to do good, when there are so many others out there doing actual harm—institutionalized, deeply rooted harm—to women. And really, I don’t have an answer to that. He’s an easier target, I suppose. But I do know that feminism, as a whole, will be better off without Hugo Schwyzer getting in its way.