Sunday, December 29, 2013

Follow-up to the post: Why do some white folks ask what we should do, to be an ally, when a Black woman is being abused in public by a Black man?

Hello readers.

I received a comment recently that has been published and responded to at the prior post *here*. You can click on the "comments" link at the bottom of the post to see the rest of the conversation to date.

Below is that most recent comment and my critique of it, revised for this new post. (A post-script has been added at the bottom, on 6 January 2014.)

On Thursday, December 26, 2013, enchantedghosts said...
It's been a few months, but I am interested in this question. With a background in psychology, my first reaction to the question of why no one stood up for the panelist is The Bystander Effect. With so many people in the audience, there is a general diffusion of responsibility. Everyone was just waiting for everyone else to take a stand. It's also interesting to note that the moderator (a position that comes with some sense of authority) was the only one who made any real verbal attempt to mediate the situation.  
I also think that this particular situation, where a Black man is threatening a Black woman, is one where many White people feel uncomfortable intervening, for fear of "not doing it right." I think the fear of looking like someone who is trying to play the White Hero overshadows the feeling of responsibility to help out a fellow human being.  
I will admit that I feel terribly out of place to offer any critique of feminism. So take this as an outsider's non-academic opinion, please. But it seems as though at least part of the problem is that people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing or making the wrong move. There is a fear of being labeled as racist or sexist-- so in defense of one's ego and sense of their own moral goodness-- people choose to not act at all.  
This seems to stem from a very closed, angry and unforgiving conversation about these topics. A lot of judgement is thrown around, with very few people willing to extend any understanding towards the fellow people they are supposed to be engaged with. Instead of conversation and dialogue, there is an attempt to prove oneself right at the expense of shaming someone else.  
I don't know how much of this is simply because the internet is a forum which tends to bring out the worst in people's ability to engage in dialogue. Again, this is not my academic field and I am more familiar with what is available via the internet, while acknowledging that this is in no way a forum which speaks for the entire discipline. However, I do believe that if real, social change is something that people want to see happen then there needs to be space for people to make mistakes.  
I don't mean that people engaging in White Hero behavior (or any sexist/racist behavior) should be ignored or encouraged, but that gentle critiques may be better than constant shaming and anger in certain situations. Human beings can only take so much. 

Hello enchantedghosts.

Your response reminds me of how privilege in some ways constructs not only our views and experiences but also what we believe the terms ought to be when engaging with one another.

I'll try and clarify this using portions of your comment, below.

With a background in psychology, my first reaction to the question of why no one stood up for the panelist is The Bystander Effect. With so many people in the audience, there is a general diffusion of responsibility. Everyone was just waiting for everyone else to take a stand.

I agree that The Bystander Effect is one layer of explanation. This layer would likely be operative regardless of race, at least in a country like the U.S. I'm not sure The Bystander Effect is a phenomenon across cultures, however. It's not clear to me whether being a person in an oppressor class fearing judgment from oppressed people is in any way universal and I suspect it's rare rather than routine.

There'd have to be a solid level of privilege-backed liberalism in place, I think. Because if this were a more flagrantly white supremacist context, whites in the audience would be cheering the abuse on, or shouting racist epithets at a Black man abusing a Black woman, and racist misogynist epithets at her. What is unowned if not also repressed, is whites desire to witness such violence occur, as it helps protect rather than interrupt white male supremacy.

But your point is well taken in the context in which this incident happened. And I think there's much more going on that is more controversial to speak about among 'good' whites and 'good' men.

It's also interesting to note that the moderator (a position that comes with some sense of authority) was the only one who made any real verbal attempt to mediate the situation.

One would hope anyone so positionally empowered would be quick to do so.

I also think that this particular situation, where a Black man is threatening a Black woman, is one where many White people feel uncomfortable intervening, for fear of "not doing it right." I think the fear of looking like someone who is trying to play the White Hero overshadows the feeling of responsibility to help out a fellow human being.

While I agree with you, I'm reluctant to let that point of analysis go without deeper examination.

Let's take the context of Nazi Germany, and non-Jewish white German, French, and many other nations' citizens not doing much to intervene on Jews being forcibly removed from neighborhoods, cities, and countries (after increasingly anti-Semitic propaganda and violence prior to removal and mass murder).

What some non-Jewish Germans have said is either, "I didn't know what was going on", or "If I'd tried to intervene, I'd have been shot on the spot."

In schools where bullying is a problem, the Bystander Effect often amounts to someone not wanting the stigma of the abused being attached to someone standing up for the bullied person. 

In situations where gang rape is horrifically occurring, some men on the sidelines might argue that they feared being seen as "not a man" if they verbally or violently intervened against the sexual terrorists/thugs/normal guys. And some of those not-so-innocent bystanders might also join in and become gang-rapists themselves to prove alliance with their more enthusiastically vicious peers.

Taken together, we see that The [Privileged] Bystander Effect has several functions: to allow someone to believe they alone have no particular responsibility to stop unjust violence is one. To allow someone the freedom to not be stigmatised and/or mistreated by the abuser/oppressor. To avoid death, including to the point of becoming one of the abusers/oppressors.

What also must be exposed is what oppressor-class people have to gain by not intervening. It's easy enough for us to think, "The whites did nothing because they didn't want to be misperceived as The White Hero", which sort of sounds like the position is rooted in an egocentric desire to always been seen as good and moral. The key there is "seen as". Because their actions are not good and are not moral, of course. And whites and men wanting to be seen as morally good people within a virulently white male supremacist society serves whom, exactly?

Do oppressor-class people REALLY give a shit what oppressed-class people think of them/us? Maybe that's the case for the few who are judged by other liberal oppressor-class people. The situation linked to in the post here demonstrates to me whites want to be seen as not-racist by other whites. And to the extent they don't want to be seen as not-racist by people of color, it is only to maintain a false appearance in order to maintain white power and position. Whites who did, really, intervene against white violence against people of color, and men who have, really, intervened against male violence against women, do face the real prospect of having that violence turned on them and, at least, losing status among those whites and men around them.

What we see is that whites will excuse each other not intervening. They will be very understanding and quick to defend such inaction. And that's white supremacy in action. Men will excuse each other not intervening. That's male supremacy at work. I offer all that as a foundation for the following challenges to what you offer by way of explanation.

... But it seems as though at least part of the problem is that people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing or making the wrong move.

What constitutes "the wrong thing" or "the wrong move"? As I already described, this is not universal. It is not even regionally or locally predictable.

The wrong thing/the wrong move is usually and overwhelmingly to allow oppressive violence to continue uninterrupted. That's our status quo. It's also status quo for whites and men to deny the violence is happening at all--or is far more rare than the oppressed claim it is. It is also status quo for whites and men to encourage it to happen and to commit it.

It's rare for whites/males to give a shit about what happens to Black people/women, historically and presently. What happens to Black women is especially disregarded by white men, or is consumed as entertainment. The pornography industry is one callous arena offering evidence of callous enjoyment. If we really cared, we'd work collectively to eradicate white male supremacy and the economic and social manifestations of it. We don't. Instead a small minority of us egocentrically care what others think about us when we don't do what we assume others think we should do, as described here:

There is a fear of being labeled as racist or sexist-- so in defense of one's ego and sense of their own moral goodness-- people choose to not act at all.

That's white/male supremacy at work, not just egocentric (im)moral action. Where you go from here is, for me, increasingly problematic and victim-blaming.

This seems to stem from a very closed, angry and unforgiving conversation about these topics.

Who is being "very closed, angry, and unforgiving"? Other whites or people of color?

A lot of judgement is thrown around, with very few people willing to extend any understanding towards the fellow people they are supposed to be engaged with.

Who is throwing judgment? Who is not willing to extend understanding? And who can afford to see their oppressors as "fellow people they are supposed to be engaged with"?

Those who have been systematically and chronically sexually or racially discriminated against, harassed, ignored, and terrorised? The people with severe PTSD developed over years from enduring daily racism and misogyny?

As I read it, you're speaking of people of color being too angry, too unforgiving, too closed, too judgmental, too shaming, and too stingy with understanding and compassion.

Instead of conversation and dialogue, there is an attempt to prove oneself right at the expense of shaming someone else.

Among men and among whites, I've seen this occur. Many times. Whites wanting to demonstrate who is the better ally to POC; men fighting over who is the better feminist. And so on. But we're talking about minority populations of whites and men, of course. The places I've observed this are very few and far between. Very few men interrupt misogynist violence; very few non-Jewish Germans interrupted anti-Semitic Nazi violence in the 1930s and '40s; most whites were privately disdainful of Martin Luther King, Jr., or were publicly hostile when discussing his efforts through the '50s and '60s. Many privately or publicly were relieved when he was assassinated, as they were when Malcolm X was murdered. Consciously or not, whites felt: "Whew! Thank God that attempt to challenge my white power is now without its most public leader." 

Most whites are still hostile to or disdainful of any efforts to weaken white power. And most whites in the U.S. reluctantly endure "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day". Just YESTERDAY--no joke--I heard two whites being irritated that he has "a Day" at all. These two people also agreed Abraham Lincoln was far greater for freeing the slaves, which shows how whites rewrite history to rewrite and rewhite his/story. Lincoln's role in freeing slaves was far less arduous and brave than was Harriet Tubman's. Or the other hundreds of slaves who resisted and fought for freedom.

I don't know how much of this is simply because the internet is a forum which tends to bring out the worst in people's ability to engage in dialogue.

The anonymity factor is likely operating on the internet, but that, too, is a very partial explanation, and misses the politics of what is going down in favor of a psychological perspective. I say this to you as in order to recommend that you offer such a critique to your Psych professors. 

People's ability to engage in dialogue about racism and sexism is far more impaired by racism and sexism among whites and men than it is by anything else. Our reluctance and resistance is evident ubiquitously, in white families, majority-white places of worship, in the white-ruled educational system, and among white psychotherapists, to name but a few spheres of white power-protection. 

When I see conversations between whites and POC online, what I see time and again is whites wanting always to be seen as earnestly intending to be good, and becoming defensive or hostile when they are called out--appropriately--for being racist. I've seen how some POC will far too calmly and patiently attempt to get some white person to see things from their point of view, identifying some interaction or statement by the white person as racist, only to have the white person claim the person of color is wrongfully judging them, as if the white person's character was ever the issue. The same with men. Having their behavior called "sexist" or "misogynistic" becomes something they pretend is a personal attack. A grievous "attack". And they don't see their own defensiveness and/or hostility as any form of attack at all. 

...I am more familiar with what is available via the internet, while acknowledging that this is in no way a forum which speaks for the entire discipline. However, I do believe that if real, social change is something that people want to see happen then there needs to be space for people to make mistakes.

Systematic oppression and flagrant, violent resistance to change, to accountability, to responsibility, ought not be termed "people making mistakes". Whites don't make mistakes, nor do men. What whites and men do is protect our power, privileges, entitlements, and status. There's no mistake about it. When you narrow the lens down to a few internet interactions, it may be too easy to lose sight of the larger political picture, the broader social context for those few interactions.

I don't mean that people engaging in White Hero behavior (or any sexist/racist behavior) should be ignored or encouraged, but that gentle critiques may be better than constant shaming and anger in certain situations. Human beings can only take so much.

White/Male Hero and White/Male Abuser behavior is both ignored (passively allowed) and encouraged (actively allowed) by whites and men. So we have to start there. "Gentle critiques" as defined by whom? Probably only by whites and men, right? "Constant shaming" as defined by whom? Probably only by whites and men, right? This request for the oppressed to offer only "gentle critiques" is, in and of itself, a form of oppressive white/male supremacist behavior. As is someone privileged being calling out by those he oppresses being called "constant shaming". The only constant shaming I'm aware of is the institutional shaming done to oppressed people, actively and passively supported by whites and men. 

Oppressors are always trying to control the behavior of those we oppress, including by telling them how we might best be able to learn from them--if they'd only speak the way we demand they do. But however gentle it is to our ears, we don't hear it because we don't want to or don't have to; so what usually happens is the behavior becomes a tad less gentle. But the behavior I'm talking about isn't that of the oppressed; it's that of the oppressor, who is behaving violently all along but is denying it at every turn. Telling someone you're oppressing to challenge you in a more gentle way is a verbal version of a batterer telling the person being battered to resist in a less aggressive way. Making the oppressed person's allegedly ceaselessly shaming behavior or apparent aggression appear to be "the problem", as you do at times, is a form of violence never called violent by those who do it.

6 January 2014 post-script:
I am thinking now of how any interruption in collective silence may serve to empower others to speak out as well. In the auditorium in which the abuse happened (in the story linked to initially in the last post), just one white man speaking out in any way, even in problematic ways, would likely serve, at the very least, to make space for others to speak out, perhaps more responsibly.

Breaking silence when abuse is happening in front of us, in other words, is often useful in and of itself. That may be so even if it isn't done using the most appropriate or useful language. This is to say, "too little" might be just enough for more to happen. Any individual's action opposing and interrupting abuse in a social space can at least open that space to more challenges of that violence. I think part of the 'white/male hero' phenomenon has to do with the alleged hero wanting all the credit for rescuing the abused person, ignoring how historically and inherently collectivist anti-oppression and anti-abuse work is. There's never a lone hero in such work and any attempts to narratively manufacture or highlight one is usually done to mis- and over-represent the work of one or a few whites and men.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why do some white folks ask what we should do, to be an ally, when a Black woman is being abused in public by a Black man?

image is from here
This post is in response to a discussion over to Crunk Feminist Collective. You can read that post and the comments there first if you want, but it's not necessary. But to do so, click on the title of that post just below:

On Black Men Showing Up for Black Women at the Scene of the Crime

The reason it's not necessary is because white folks are asking questions there what white folks ask far too often in the wrong spaces: What should I do to be a good ally to people of color? Usually this assumes people of color exist to educate whites about how to be anti-racist/anti-sexist. And usually in contexts where people of color are not there to teach whites anything. (I mean, like not in a classroom with bell hooks as the professor teaching a course to people of color and whites on how to support one another across various political struggles.)

Too often, in PoC spaces or in conversations led by people of color about something awful that happened to someone, white comments become a white-centered distraction from the main issues.

But related to the post above, I wonder to what extent the Brecht Center is a white-majority or white-run space, an academic space. I wonder how that contributed to the lack of response from the audience to Crunktastic being intimidated, threatened, and assaulted at a progressive political panel discussion, by a well-known Black male activist, Kazembe Balagun. My experience of white and class-privileged academic spaces is that there is an expectation that audiences remain passive witnesses to what's going on (or down) onstage. That to do otherwise is to break the unwritten cultural rules of (non)engagement. I wonder if that's part of this story.

But there are always plenty of explanations for why folks don't intervene on violence against women, including racist misogyny (rarely identified as such). It shows up in male-bonding rituals. It shows up in the refusal of the public to see the harassment, disrespect, disregard, harassment, violation, and abuse of women of color as violence. Other dynamics are described later on in this post.

At issue is our collective response-ability to co-create anti-colonial, anti-patriarchal spaces in which to organise and, well, just live with dignity and relative safety. I've seen response-ability shut down by anti-activist liberal white and male self-reflection. "What can I do that won't be seen as racist or sexist?" is a question in service to white male supremacy. Because "how privileged folks are perceived" already presumes the issue is the image of the oppressors, not the harm done to the oppressed.

I'm making space here, at a white person's blog, for some of that discussion. A white woman at CFC left a comment, which I'm excerpting just below. The reason I'm copying and pasting it here is because she acknowledges this is a conversation that maybe shouldn't happen there and then, at CFC. And I agree. Other whites on that comments page appear to me to be making this about liberal white guilt and the matter of whether we should do anything, rather than about what we must do to intervene when we witness violence occurring right before us in social spaces.

I can’t pretend that the dynamics of my interactions with black women aren’t colored by our different races. I do not want to presume to act or speak for a black woman who is perfectly capable of acting or speaking for herself. Nor do I want to appear to be attempting to exert authority over a space for black people based on my white skin. It can be difficult at times to decide whether my intervention in a tense situation would be seen as welcome support or as hijacking. In this situation, I think the answer is clear (both from my own judgment and from the message of the post), but it’s not always.
Obviously, how a white woman would have felt/what she should have done should not be the center of the discussion here. What happened should be. But there seems to be a substantial discussion going on around that, and thus probably room for a thread or two on this point: that is, how SHOULD an ally best respond in this situation? There may actually be a different answer for other black men, for white women, for white men, etc.
Should whites respond differently to violence happening when the aggressor is a Black man and the person harmed is a Black woman? Are the responsibilities of a white ally to a Black woman facing male supremacist hostility from a Black man (or from a white man, or a man of color who isn't Black) different than the responsibilities of an ally to a white woman facing male supremacist hostility--from a white or Black man, or another man of color?

Beyond, "Don't do something racist", I don't think so. 

But it is, unfortunately, the case that we whites can be confused about what it is to be racist.

One way racism shows up is whites thinking that intervening when a Black woman is being abused by a Black man is in and of itself racist. When, in fact, not intervening is the act of racism, and sexism.

This was going to be my reply at CFC but I've decided to put it here instead and link to this post over there.
Dynamics are raced, yes. Always. And gendered. Whatever I did there, if I were there, would have been the actions of a white male. But our race and gender doesn't mean we're not capable of responding to other humans as human beings. 
I read another comment, in response to the one quoted above, stating clearly that the woman assaulted is a human being and ought to be responded to as the human being that she is
I thought about how whites use our whiteness as a way (and too often an excuse) to not do something we'd do if it were happening to someone white. We don't tend to ask ourselves, when in an all-white forum or social space, "How might my whiteness be a problem here, in possibly intervening when a white man is harming a white woman?" I'm just as white in all-white spaces too. That whole way of responding or not and acting or not is white supremacist to me. 

Black, Brown, white, female, trans, male: if I'm a person in the room, and I see someone being assaulted, I intervene, if I care and if I can. I do what I can do, given my own limitations, strengths, privileges, and experiences of trauma and resistance.  
One thing I've seen play out far too often is that whites assume a Black woman (a particular Black woman, any Black woman, or all Black women) is strong enough to handle things on her own. While whites often want someone (of color) to have our back, it is assumed by whites that a Black woman has her own back and doesn't need anything more. The misogynist-racist Super-woman stereotype. There's the issue of Black woman-as-mammy whose only role is to take care of whites. In such a racist imagination, how could she possibly need whites to emotionally or physically take care of her? In reality, in what spaces would whites do so at all without expecting public or private props?
I've seen how Black women's womanness is erased and how Black women's Blackness is eraced. Each of which contributes to how Black women's humanity is made invisible socially by white and male supremacy.
When women's liberation is discussed in white spaces, the talk often assumes an alleged common denominator of white experience. So Black women, and other women of color, are assumed to be part of that struggle--to be "women"--only to the extent that they share the experiences, analysis, and agendas of whites. Usually unasked and unanswered in such spaces is this question: how could white experience be a common denominator for all women, most of whom are not white?) In my experience, when women of color assert their womanness not in white or colonial terms, or outside a white frame of experience, whites often claim they are being divisive, disruptive, or collaborators with patriarchy. (In truth, whites invisibilising whiteness is always in service to colonial patriarchy.)
When Black liberation is discussed in Black spaces, the talk often assumes a common denominator of Black men's experience. So Black women, again, are assumed to be part of the struggle only to the extent that their lives and struggles match up with men's. When Black women assert their own experiences as distinct from men's, the men often rebuke, retaliate, and revolt against the women, proving the point far too predictably.

What gets lost, obviously, is the humanity of Black women as Black, as women, and as Black Women whose lives, however personally complex and culturally dissimilar, do not and cannot only mirror the struggles Black men and white women face, in part because Black women are oppressed by both groups and by white men too.
I open the post to comments and conversation.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hugo Schwyzer and Miley Cyrus: which person deserves their bad press?


image is from here

This is, unfortunately, another in a series of posts about Mr. Hugo Schwyzer. (For some additional history and analysis, you may also read my August 14th and Sept. 8th posts.) Only Miley Cyrus seems to be getting more bad press lately. His, however, is fully deserved. (I won't go into the Miley Cyrus media controversy other than to say that it is clear female performers are held to a very different standard than are male performers. Her racist misogyny in some performances should be called out. And to say that Sinead O'Connor is a long-time shero of mine.)

Yesterday, journalist Lauren Gold of the Pasadena Star-News reported the following news which is excerpted from her article which may be read in full *here*:
"Attorneys for Pasadena City College have sent a letter to porn professor Hugo Schwyzer, asking him to resign.

The letter came one day after Schwyzer admitted he was arrested in connection with a drunken driving accident that left a woman injured.

Schwyzer said he has no plans to resign before his disability retirement benefits from CalSTRS kick in on Jan. 1 because he needs the health insurance coverage for his children."
If he were truly concerned about health insurance for his children, he ought to have chosen not to be a sexual predator and flagrant abuser of rules and regulations at his place of employment. What he has insured is that his behavior has threatened the mental health and general welfare of his children and spouse by giving his employers no other reasonable choice but to ask him to resign or fire him.

He reminds me of the procurers of women in systems of prostitution who argue their names ought not be revealed to the public because publishing them will negatively effect their private and professional lives. The perps complain that the press is doing them harm. Hugo argues the actions of an academic institution and their attorneys, not his own, will cause his children harm.
“[M]y entire career is not defined by a few affairs with students. I was also a successful professor and what I’m asking from the college is that they forestall termination until Dec. 31. ... I think after 20 years of teaching that’s not an unreasonable request.”
It's not only an unreasonable request. It's an unethical and unconscionable one. Hugo's career is appropriately now defined by his serial sexual exploitation of young women. He's made sure that's the case by systematically abusing his position, privileges, and power, and also by publishing accounts of those abuses. His termination as "a successful professor" is something he brought about, not anyone else.
In an Oct. 1 letter to Schwyzer, attorney Mary Dowell told Schwyzer his admissions and conduct are sufficient grounds for termination. The letter encouraged Schwyzer to resign.

“The District views both your recent conduct and the past conduct which you have revealed in your recent public statements and writings as grounds for termination. ... The disciplinary process will begin well before January 1, 2014,” Dowell wrote. “However, the District has asked me to advise you that you can avoid discipline if you unequivocally and irrevocably resign from your employment.”*

I am considering the annals of allegedly pro-feminist men's history. (There aren't that many records; this doesn't take long.) Comparing the professional and political life of Hugo Schwyzer to the others, could there be a more glaring example of a chronic misuse of power, as a "pro-feminist", in defense of one's abusive behavior? Could there be a more offensive attempt to claim mental illness as a cause, an excuse, for doing what white men have done for centuries without fear of arrest, incarceration, or demotion in status, position, entitlements, and power?

How can someone so practiced at teaching sexual politics be so completely self-centered, arrogant, and in denial about the blatant political nature of one's harmful acts against children, women, and society? That's the wrong question, perhaps. Maybe the question ought to be: What kind of power has to be institutionalised and systematised in order for U.S. white men to get away with flagrantly abusive activity for so long? Or to do so while pleading ignorance or illness? Or to do so while preaching what one doesn't practice? The answer is colonial patriarchal power and entitlement infused into every sphere of social life.

Hugo's actions are causally and effectively political. His actions are appropriately and adequately described by the feminist activists he refuses to be accountable to. The complex of self-serving attitudes and harmful behaviors he has displayed consistently over many years cannot be appropriately explained or adequately understood by mental health professionals. Nor by the attorneys who use such professionals to protect their clients from legal consequences any adult sex offender should face.

The comprehension of Hugo's behavior ought not lead one to conclude he is suffering from mental illness or unfair persecution by people around him. One ought to conclude he benefits from the white colonial male privileges he consciously exercises, so far, with impunity.

To Hugo:
Stop manipulating everyone around you with claims of mistreatment and start accepting full responsibility. Stop pretending the college you've worked for doesn't have the legal and ethical right to fire your ass without you and your lawyer retaliating. Stop pretending a college can take away protections for your children when you, yourself, have done so. Seriously. Stop being such a white prick. Once and for all.

*If interested, you may click on the predator's name for many more stories on Hugo Schwyzer, PCC’s Porn Professor at

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Latest On Hugo "Won't Go" Schwyzer


For the latest on Hugo Schwyzer's systematic abuses and willful refusal to stay out of public view, please click on the title just below. Excerpts are by Angus Johnston, at the blog Student Activism.
Early this morning Pasadena City College history instructor and internet-famous male feminist Hugo Schwyzer, who has been conducting a slow-motion self-immolation all summer, interrupted his online hiatus to offer yet another admission of wrongdoing.

This one is likely the most significant yet.

In a brief middle-of-the-night blogpost, Schwyzer admitted that a pseudonymous accusation posted on Tumblr a few days ago was true, and that he has been conducting sexual relationships with students for more than five years...

Schwyzer should resign from PCC immediately. If he refuses to resign, he should be fired. Period.

Update | Schwyzer expanded upon his most recent confession in a YouTube video, posted last night. In it, he said that between 2008 and “very recently” he conducted sexual relationships with three different students who were enrolled in his classes when the relationships began.

In the YouTube video Schwyzer acknowledges that his ongoing violation of PCC policies “may impact my relationship with the college,” and says he is “willing to face whatever consequences may come” on that front. But that’s a statement, it should be noted, that could mean anything or nothing. Either they’ll fire him or they won’t. If they do, either he’ll sue them or he won’t. However any of that shakes out, he’ll be facing the consequences of his actions whether he likes it or not.

What Schwyzer doesn’t say — in the video or in the blogpost — is that he intends to resign from PCC. For years now, as evidence of Schwyzer’s misbehavior has accumulated, he has consistently stonewalled and deflected for as long as he could. Only when those options were exhausted has he ever admitted error or wrongdoing. He has never, to my knowledge, chosen to resign from a feminist project or step back from a feminist space — each time he has withdrawn it has been because he was forced to, and each time he has sought to spin the withdrawal as a freely chosen gesture. ...

Second Update | The general counsel of Schwyzer’s community college has released a statement on his confession, and it’s pretty blistering:

Yesterday Mr. Hugo Schwyzer, a faculty member of the college, released statements publicly on the internet that he has had sexual relations with his students as recently as 2011 while an instructor at the college.

Such conduct, if confirmed as true, would be a grave violation of college policy warranting termination.

The college does not in any way condone or tolerate such conduct by any faculty member.  All of us in the college are outraged by Mr. Schwyzer’s statements about his conduct.  The college is acting swiftly to conduct an investigation and to hold Mr. Schwyzer accountable for his actions while an employee.

It seems clear that they’re committed to firing him at this point. We’ll see if it actually happens.

Morning Update | The local Pasadena paper has a story up on yesterday’s developments, and while it mostly rehashes what was already known, it does include two new pieces of information.

First, in an interview Schwyzer gave the paper yesterday, he again confirmed the allegations made by the anonymous former student on Tumblr. (As has become a recurring pattern this summer, Schwyzer reached out to the media from a mental health facility he checked himself into after his latest internet confession.)
Second, Schwyzer gave no indication that he’s considering resigning his teaching post. Indeed, he said that he is “looking very seriously” at the possibility of filing a psychiatric disability claim, suggesting that accepting such a claim could be an “end around” for the college. Apparently he has no intention of quitting, and plans to fight back if PCC tries to fire him.
We'll see. Lorde knows he'll tell us all about it every self-involved, over-privileged step of the way.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Should Hugo Schwyzer Do, Moving Forward? Why More Listening, More Honesty, More Time, and More Abuse Clearly isn't the Answer

image featuring Hugo Schwyzer is from here
[Note: this has been revised over the last few days through Aug. 16th, since it was first posted here. And further revised on Aug. 28th and 29th, 2013.]

This post is a follow-up to one I wrote yesterday. Since then I've seen how much more there is to read about and by Hugo Schwyzer. So let me cut to the chase and answer the question posed by him, which I use in the title of this post.

What Hugo should do moving forward is stop being a presence online. Stop giving interviews. Stop writing for publication on his own blog or anywhere else. Stop teaching. Stop calling himself 'feminist' or an ally to women. He needs to see how much white male power and entitlement he has and how horribly he misuses and abuses it. He needs to start taking responsibility for his actions by not perpetrating them any more. 

Hugo Schwyzer is, to my view, an on-going, compulsive, and self-involved abuser. Why a college or any academic institution would want him to be around young female students is for him and them to answer, possibly in court.

What follows is political analysis of his abusive and anti-feminist behavior, noting the ways his 'feminist' writing and sexually abusive behavior against women reinforce one another. For more on his attempts to make amends for the racist and misogynist harm he's committed, you can read this.

In an on-going exercise in self-centered self-promotion, Hugo has done an interview that was published two days ago here at The Daily Beast, of all places. He likes to talk about himself, and feels--and is--endlessly entitled to do so as (according to the banner on his blog) an "author, speaker, professor, shattering gender myths." He routinely reinforces gender myths as well.

One way he does this is discussed in some depth below.* Another is by feeling so bad for what he's done and still does, while knowing he is going to continue to do it anyway. Hugo reads and writes a great a deal about his life. He discloses his history of abuse and then proceeds to not be sufficiently attentive to the responses. Several times--in what little of his I've read--he states that he can't possibly read all the critique there is and respond to it appropriately, on his own blog in the comments sections. From a blog post (which appears below in full with my annotation):
I have not been able to keep up with the sheer volume of emails, much less follow all of the blog commentary about me, my role in feminism, my personal history, and my work. But I’ve followed enough to have a good sense of what at least the main criticisms are.
Admittedly, he gets LOTS of comments. One post had over 250 and that may well be typical for him. This shows a social eagerness to place the allegedly profeminist views and expressed values of a white heterosexual man front and center. But I would argue he has a profeminist response-ability to very carefully understand the particulars as well as the general critique: if he isn't going to do it on his own blog, where might we expect him to take the time to do so?

The answer appears to be in interviews and other writings, which are, to my eyes, geared toward self-promotion more than accountability. There, he practices a kind of savvy ownership of privileges and entitlements while retaining all his rights and capabilities to act them out abusively. To correct something from yesterday's post, I had indicated that he may not demonstrate awareness of his own privileges. Here is one example where he does:
I’ve been “detained” and cuffed at least five times in my life, all before I was 31.  But I was never actually arrested, much less charged with a crime.  I doubt it has much to do with a run of good luck, either.  The deference and the genuine kindness I’ve been repeatedly shown have more to do with the color of my skin and my class than anything else. [Source: here]
I'll modify my critique in this way: I've seen a few white men be aware of their various privileges and entitlements, talking about them in apparently responsible ways, but at the same time demonstrate a kind of persistent self-referencing and self-involvement that indicates a sociopathic proclivity for taking advantage of them without much regard for others. I think many men learn how to talk about the damaging stuff they've done in a way that makes them appear responsible and accountable, or at least sorrowful and remorseful. But in daily private or public practice, they are not. The function of this way of speaking is to manipulate one's audience to think one actually cares about other people. His sexual betrayal of several spouses and sexual abuse of several young women, all the while supported by various institutions and social networks, serves as evidence that his tactics work all too well.

In reading some of his work, I am struck with how often he states that he has friends who are feminist to whom he holds himself accountable. He apparently doesn't hold himself sufficiently accountable or he'd take the necessary steps to not abuse anyone again. And as he's struggled with feelings of suicide, let me be clear: I don't mean by killing himself. I mean by physically and emotionally removing himself from arenas, online and off, where he has compulsively acted out in the past and present. Any statements he makes about having people in his life to hold him accountable also misses the point that the job is his, not theirs.

Most men choose as friends the people who will only hold them accountable for things they wish to be held to account for; they ditch, ignore, or lash out against people who hold them accountable for things they have no intention of changing often claiming such critics are abusing them. Or, they lie to and deceive their friends, spouses, colleagues, as well as those they target for abuse: he has done all of that chronically for decades.

None of this is to say that any of his friends don't take him to task in ways that are not comfortable for him. I don't know who his friends are and certainly don't have that kind of intimate knowledge of how such things play out. I can only determine the degree to which he is deceptive by his published writings and interviews, and in those he, himself, often notes such dishonesty and half-truth telling followed by disturbing outbursts of confessional ranting:
What’s driving his current notoriety is his very public Twitter meltdown last Friday in which he sent out more than 100 tweets in an hour, admitting to building a career “on fraudulent pretenses,” to being an addict, and to teaching feminism with no specialization or degree in the field. This came on the heels of the revelation last month that the 46-year-old married professor wasn’t taking his own advice when he sexted with a 27-year-old sex worker activist. [Source: here]
I also am leery of men who speak of personal transformation as "conversion"--as arriving at a place one wasn't at before as if also leaving behind the person they were, as if one is thoroughly transformed with all traces of harmful action wiped clear. I've known men who say they've done this and witness how much of their allegedly old behavior is still in practice.

I also witness how male privilege, power, and entitlement isn't something that goes away with anti-sexist preachings; it is an on-going structural reality sometimes posing as a diagnosed psychiatric character disorder. The DSM-V doesn't identify men and whites has having "Patriarchal Predatory Personality" or "Colonialist Willful White Denial Disorder" because it is committed to a Western medical and individualistic understanding of human behavior and mental illness. One cannot prescribe drugs for privilege and structural power.

This isn't to say individual men can't do better: men can stop raping women; men can stop battering partners; men can stop procuring women; men can stop sexually harassing women; men can stop abusing and molesting children. It may require segregation from the general society, but it can be done.

In my experience, the white men who find feminism of interest who are also predators, are predatory not because of moral failings, as Hugo has argued, but because of this combination of conditions: structural location, positioned above and over people they oppress; unearned entitlements; white and male privileges; institutional protections; colonialist values, mindset, and worldview; unstigmatised abuses of power; the desire and will to perpetrate (whether owned consciously or not); and socially and personally organised access to one's victims. As child molesters seek out environments where children gather, so too do misogynist predators seek out social spaces where women gather.

I think anyone whose been around academia knows stories of the het man who take a Women's Studies course in order to obtain patriarchal sexual contact with women, using all means necessary. Kyle Payne is an example. (See here and here for more about him.) But this sort of predation happens outside the academy as well. One example that comes immediately to mind was a feminist-identified male who battered his female spouse during the time he promoted his own feminist activism. That is a local story, not one that got any national attention. White men protecting white male supremacist power is endemic in U.S. national anti-sexism organisations--or, rather, in the one that exists. There's also the case of Robert Brannon of NOMAS, which may become the subject of a future post. (For now, please see this at Shakesville.)

The nationally recognised anti-sexist men I tend to find more credible and trustworthy are people such as Byron Hurt. He doesn't pretend that his struggles to be more responsible and respectful with women are over but he demonstrates respect for women in his life and work. Hugo, on the other hand, uses his professed feminism, his "professional feminism", as a way to keep his abusive past from never remaining in the past. Needless to say, a conversion has not occurred.
CT: Your sexual history also makes you a controversial figure with some feminists. How do you respond to that? You consider yourself a feminist — how does your sexual history influence your feminism today?

HS: I learned early on in the amends process that some people would never believe my conversion was real. They would never trust that the leopard had changed his spots, as it were. You can’t prove a negative; I can only live the life I do now as best I can and live it openly. I’m a pretty open book.

My behavior with students from 1996-98 was unacceptable for a male feminist and, for that matter, an ethical person. The question is whether the penalty for that ought to be a lifetime ban from teaching gender studies, or writing about the subjects I write about. Some feminists feel yes, it should be. I disagree, but only because so many wonderful feminist mentors of mine have encouraged me to stay in this work.

Biggest takeaway: I need to be accountable. If someone on campus or elsewhere sees me do something that doesn’t seem kosher, as it were, he or she can come speak to me. I have an “accountability team” of men and women whom I count as my friends (many are feminist academics). I’m willing to listen to hard criticism from them, without insisting that they parent me. If you’re gonna be a male feminist you need those accountability partners in your life. [Source: here]
Here we see this proclivity to state harm in terms of "something not quite right", as "something that doesn't seem kosher". Note the lack of ownership of whether or not the behavior is oppressively harmful or not. I am struck by a couple of things above. He puts the responsibility for maintaining an ethical presence as a professor on campus on self-selected feminists in his life. He ignores, discounts, or condemns the wisdom of the rest. He refuses to locate his abusive political actions (when and where he acknowledges them) on his own entitlement, desire, and the institutional protections that must all be actively in place for him to continue that work. He also puts the obligation for identifying and stopping such behavior on people who see him commit it. (This conveniently means if no one directly involved sees it, for all intents and purposes, it hasn't occurred; this is particularly so if his victims are silenced by circumstance and shame, or by fear, intimidation, and threat--from him, from their social circles, or from the institution they are collectively part of.)

He minimises several power differentials as he has also done when engaging in violating sex with young female students. In a college context, "he or she can come speak to me" ignores the whole issue of whether students or staff wish to risk their own reputations by calling out a tenured faculty member. The belief that significantly younger students will necessarily call out or report a forty-something tenured white male professor is wildly out of touch with reality. It pretends the power differential he has occasionally acknowledged exists, somehow ceases to exist at that point. I'd argue that point is one of many in which such a power imbalance is very likely to show up in his favor.

His selective political consciousness shows up in these and other ways. He states things that appear to show awareness, while at the same time demonstrating a practice of putting himself in a frame that makes his actions appear less harmful than they likely or obviously were. Here is an example, on consent:
CT: You have a somewhat controversial sexual history. You’ve openly acknowledged doing things as intense as chaperoning a class trip on which you slept with four of the students. How does this influence your thinking about sexuality today?

HS: Hah, I love the ambiguity of the word “intense.” In terms of my sexual history with my students (which for the sake of clarification ended abruptly when I got sober in ’98), the key word is simply “unethical.” Though my promiscuity was hardly confined to my own students, that behavior stands out as deeply and profoundly wrong. Even if it was consensual, and involved students who for the most part were my approximate chronological peers, it was still a boundary violation. In the broader sense, that aspect of my past has made me keenly sensitive to power imbalances in sexual relationships. It’s made me mistrustful of the possibility of consent in those instances where one person has so much more experience and authority than the other. [Source: here]
He speaks of his behavior in ethical terms--as wrong--not in terms of the actual harm done. Even more key words would be "abusive" and "predatory". This leads me to wonder if he comprehends the depth of the actual harm done. He states at the same time that the sex he had with young students was consensual--well, actually he is evasive on that point: "even if it was consensual" is language that avoids any commitment to that claim of political mutuality. He's right not to claim the presence of consent; he then states it was a boundary violation in the context of a power imbalance in sexual relationships. In many feminist and profeminist circles, a sexual relationship built on power imbalances that involves a violation of boundaries is called "rape" or "sexual abuse". We can note he doesn't call it either. Yet if he's mistrustful of consent being present or meaningful, why shouldn't everyone else be as well, including academic administrators? The technical details of college conduct codes aside, why shouldn't he be considered a serial rapist or serial abuser--one who has not stopped engaging in compulsive, desired, wanted, willed sexually predatory behavior?

His language isn't the language of owning one's harmfulness; it's typical over-intellectualising and harm-minimizing language designed to avoid accountability. Meanwhile, he describes having an accountability team. This terminology positions himself as the team captain. Who does someone male in such a position choose as one's teammates? Those he wants around him or those who most want him held to account? I'd argue that the latter group isn't likely to comprise the majority of teammates for most men.

He states a willingness to listen. This is grossly insufficient. He'd need to demonstrate that the behaviors are not on-going. Some people who commit harmful acts are good at listening. They may be very good at saying the right things. Those two qualities are often what allows others to believe they've stopped being politically and interpersonally destructive.

Taken together, these ways of viewing himself and naming his actions don't speak to me as coming from someone intent on changing his behavior. I think people believe that's the case because he owns so much more than most men. That's a dangerously low standard as men are notorious liars and deniers when it comes to assessing the political meaning of what they do sexually and socially. We also have evidence, past and present, from him and others that his abuses are ongoing.

What follows is his post, from his blog, on what he foresees happening as a result of so many ethical violations and commitments of harm to women. My responses are in brackets and are highlighted yellow.

Moving Forward: An Update

I am still very much in the process of listening to many voices about how to respond to the multi-faceted controversy about my past. [Political harm isn't primarily a "controversy"; such a way of speaking about the harm one has done is minimising of its effect, instead focusing on the social effect of the news hitting the media, for example. In reality, white men's political harm is normal and frequent. Privileged people want our behavior to always be in process and to always be seen as very multi-faceted; there are always more and more self-protecting and self-deluding ways that rapists, batterers, and other sexual predators and terrorists want to be seen by critics. How they view themselves is usually with far more compassion and nuance than they reserve for those they harm. Among more sociopathic perpetrators, their views of themselves tend to repeatedly highlight areas of their own victimisation (past and present) over that of their victims (past and present). Often when men procure women in systems of prostitution or access women in pornography, there is the belief that the women couldn't be abuse survivors at all and that their presence in such systems is only and always freely chosen.] Over the past few weeks, issues around my pre-sobriety past as well as my present writing have attracted intense attention and sparked considerable debate. ["Issues" is another term of distancing and understating. It is remarkably predictable that men who do systematic or chronic harm will raise as central the matter of substance abuse, as if substance abuse teaches men how to be predators and abusers. Alcohol inebriates; it doesn't educate. Nor do recreational or prescription drugs. Nor does mental illness. In the recent case of Bob Filner's gross sexual harassment of women, we can note the similarity in the privileging of either medical or psychotherapeutic understandings of causation over political ones, here.
"Filner, 70, elected in November as San Diego's first Democratic mayor in two decades, is hoping to ride out a tide of sexual misconduct accusations and demands by fellow politicians and others for him to resign.
Last month, Filner announced he would be in an intensive therapy program the weeks of Aug. 5 and 12. But he reportedly entered the therapy program earlier than announced. He is set to return to City Hall on Monday.
Filner will take "personal time" this week, said a statement from lawyer James Payne, whose Irvine firm, Payne & Fears, is assisting Filner's defense against a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former staff member.
He will continue therapy "on an outpatient basis," Payne said.] 
I have not been able to keep up with the sheer volume of emails, much less follow all of the blog commentary about me, my role in feminism, my personal history, and my work.  But I’ve followed enough to have a good sense of what at least the main criticisms are. [As stated early on in this post, I would argue he has a profeminist obligation to very carefully understand the particulars as well as the general critique. And understanding the problem is only a very preliminary part of the solution. Not putting himself in places and situations where he has academic and sexual access to women would be a more substantive, meaningful place to start.]
The Issues

There are three main issues: my past [I am struck at this moment with how often men refer to abusive behavior in extraordinarily benign terms such as "my past" --something everyone necessarily has. How different it would be if every time he said "my past" he instead wrote or said "my extensive history of harming women, which isn't only in my past but is perpetrated through to this day"], my writing, and my positioning in the feminist movement. In turn, those issues raise three main questions [arrived at by him without thoroughly reading the criticisms]:

1. Should my pre-sobriety history disqualify me from teaching the courses I teach, from speaking about the topics I speak about, and from writing where I write? [I'd say definitively and unambiguously: Yes, yes, and yes. Hugo, if you're reading this, what part of that answer don't you understand? Reader, you will note he will not easily resign his position. You will also note he will continue to speak and write about the subjects that most interest him while he is predatory.] Do I need to make further amends or participate more extensively in restorative justice? [I'm reluctant to value men seeking to make amends while not owning the ways in which their politically harmful behavior is on-going. If a perpetrator doesn't know how to stop it, making amends may amount only to engaging the contrition phase of the cycle of abuse.] My take has always been that the work I do is part and parcel of that amends. [I'd argue the work he does is part of what allows him to do harm. The on-going confessions only make him appear to take personal responsibility and be remorseful. In actual courtrooms and in the court of public opinion, a combination of earnestly stated self-responsibility and remorse, not an end to the harmful behavior, is unfortunately what most liberal-minded people want to see in order to forgive and move on. With the same amount of access to potential victims and unmitigated power to act out one's entitlements and privileges in abusive ways, we can expect the behavior to continue, with or without amends and apologies.] But some detect self-aggrandisement rather than atonement.  [Some "detect" it? This is consistent with framing his own egocentrism as existing primarily in the minds of others, who, he implies, may or may not be seeing things the right way. Can he not tell when he's being self-aggrandising? Is it only for others to name it when it occurs? Once again he places responsibility for naming, monitoring, and regulating his behavior on others.] What’s the way forward? [He can start by doing what those feminists he disagrees with say he should do.]

2.  Are there problems with my writing today? [Why frame this as a question? This is part of never really fully owning his own politically problematic and oppressive behavior. He could take the responsibility off others by stating, clearly, "There are problems with my writing to this day."] I’ve got eight years worth of blog archives and thousands of posts on this site; I’ve also written extensively elsewhere.  I’ve written things I regret [no mention of his writing being male supremacist, white supremacist, and otherwise oppressive; he indicates ownership only of a self-concerned feeling about "things" he's written. Regret is another of the feelings perpetrators confess that people often are manipulated by. As noted above, society at large and personal acquaintances, family, and friends are often enough drawn into forgiving someone who has little intention of making substantive changes in behavior], and I’ve changed my position on some issues (like pornography, for example) in recent years. [What does changing one's mind on social issues have to do with doing what others are asking or demanding he do? Changing position happens, in his case, after lots and lots of people make similar points over and over again, likely exhausting and using up the time and energy of dozens or hundreds of people on his blog. After he uses people in this way, he may then acknowledge the truth in what they're saying. He consistently requires lots of attention focused on him. He could just read what anti-pornography feminists have written and accept it as valid enough to change his position. Does he support the Dworkin-MacKinnon ordinance becoming law? Will he work toward that happening? What else occurs more substantively, other than a change of opinion?] Yes, I am regularly quoted out of context. [Yes, and he is even more regularly not quoted out of context because he does so many interviews which helps set the context by the direction and content of his answers. Anyone who is internet savvy can find his statements in the context he presented them in, on his blog and on other websites where his work has been published. He also has far more access to mass media than most feminists who challenge him. Such a remark is in the self-absorbed category of "I'm the one being harmed here".] But even allowing for the universal but lamentable habit of “cherry-picking”, are there still elements of my work that are deeply problematic? [Yes, including identifying the relatively benign behavior of others as lamentable cherry-picking and not framing up his own actions as harmful, let alone lamentable. Such phrasing--identifying the allegedly sloppy ethical habits of others--positions himself as morally superior and as the social victim in the story.]

3.  Does my modest fame/notoriety block or create opportunities for others? [I'd ask a different question that doesn't use the term "modest" at all; it isn't modest relative to the fame feminists of color (don't usually) achieve. It is far more notorious because he's white and male. But notoriety doesn't speak to harm, only publicly discussed controversy. A question he evades is: does it block or create more opportunities for him? In an imaginary world, the critiquing by feminists of his oppressive and abusive behavior could result in opportunity for a woman or women to take his place in the academic institution where he is tenured. In reality, they'd have a harder time getting hired and achieving tenure, especially if they are of color. So much for creating opportunity for others.] Do the speaking gigs and interviews I get mean that I’m taking what wasn’t mine to take?  [It means, at least, that he continues to utilise and exercise his privileges and entitlements to center himself, not what he does, as the main issue. And the language emphasises a colonialist proclivity to see the world in terms of what he possesses and what is taken from him.] Should I  give up teaching women’s history [yes, and he's been told this far too many times by feminists who he hasn't made a part of his personal and private accountability team], working in positions of leadership in organizations that focus on women’s rights [most certainly yes] — not just because of my particular past, but because it’s fundamentally wrong for a man to hold these roles? [Both, but not because it is fundamentally wrong in a decontextualised way, but because it is astoundingly wrong in the ways he does it. So yes, he should not work in any positions of leadership in organizations that focus on women's rights because his behavior is anti-feminist and predatory. This really ought to be a no-brainer for him: I believe the reasons for this ought to be abundantly clear to him, given how many people have articulated why he must leave those positions. As we have seen, he cherry-picks which criticisms and calls to action he takes most to heart and mind, and the other calls never seem to influence his behavior.]

I don’t have final answers for myself to any of these questions. [Why not? Has the jury not been well-enough informed? Have they not come to a verdict? Does the legal team for the accused wish to call more witnesses? We can see how effectively (if not intentionally) manipulative and stubbornly controlling it is to pose the questions not only without answering them, but while stating, quite clearly, that his own internal process of decision-making necessarily won't arrive at any changes in behavior. How much more dangerous can a person admit to being?] I know many people who do have certainty about what I should do. I hear from them daily. Some want me to step down; some want me to step back up and stay where I am. [He conveniently counterpoints any call for him to resign with the mention that it's not unanimous, as if such a call to give up position and power as a white man ever could be unanimous in a white male supremacist society where everyone is well-trained to take care of them emotionally, socially, and otherwise. Why aren't the perspectives of those who want him to step down sufficient? Why does there have to be a balancing rebuttal? Because he doesn't want to step down, and likely won't unless he has an excuse that doesn't name why he must, politically, step down. That, in a nutshell, is a glaring example of colonialist white male privilege, entitlement, and power.] I’m on the receiving end of a lot of praise and vitriol. [Curiously positioning himself as both hero and victim.] I’m trying my best to process what I’m hearing, [I wish he'd listen and act in accordance with what others are saying, more than just hear; I also don't believe this is his best--few of us do our best at anything; refusing to have final answers to questions of his ethics and political practice surely isn't his best. If it is, that's an additional and compelling reason for him to step down and shut up] remembering the truth that one is never as bad as one’s detractors suggest, nor as good as one’s admirers insist. [Again, this moral positioning himself as moderate in all things, including the political (not only moral) matter of being a chronic abuser of women. In fact, he may have done and could be doing far more harm to women than any of his detractors know. Also, here and in so many other places, he fails to take into account why such admiration exists at all, when none exists for countless millions of women of color who do far more good--so much more good, exponentially more good--without doing any of the harm.]  But it’s difficult work, and it will take more time. [Always, more time. More time. More time. A lifetime perhaps. Men do many things within a time-frame and so does he: he writes up syllabi; he gets to class; he grades papers; he abuses women on any given day according to his schedule. He knows how to get things done. Except when it comes to arriving at a plan that necessarily abdicates some of his power and privilege.]
Moving Forward 

The fact that I haven’t reached clarity yet about what my future holds doesn’t mean I can’t share certain decisions I’ve made about myself, my work, and my public presence.

As I wrote yesterday, Healthy is the New Skinny/Perfectly Unperfected and I have parted ways.  My presence threatened to become a dangerous distraction to the good work that HNS and PUP are doing.  Resigning was the only viable course of action. [That's a start. He needs to apply the same viability to every other professional thing he does.]

I’ve also resigned from my role as faculty adviser to the Pasadena City College Feminist Club for much the same reason. [That's also a start.]

As for my writing and speaking, I will for now continue to do both. [This position is predictable. He still feels--and structurally, institutionally is--quite entitled to speak with authority about matters of gender and politics. This could not happen without the support of whites and men.] The editors at Jezebel, who are aware of this controversy, have asked me to continue to write for the site. [Does this mean he couldn't say no? It appears every invitation is accepted, creating more and more spaces for him to get undo while compulsively needed attention.] I am pleased to do so. [Why does it please him, given all the harm he's done to so many women and so many feminists in particular? I find that comment to be smug and self-satisfied.] I will continue to explore writing opportunities outside of explicitly feminist spaces, recognizing that my presence in those spaces is controversial, divisive, and unhelpful. [This modest adjustment and recognition--he's 'unhelpful' (like not sweeping a floor? like not picking up his underwear?) not harmful (as in chronically and systematically abusive to women)--is part of his M.O. Again the neutralising focus on his behavior as 'controversial'. His presence is likely far more than 'divisive'. It's likely to be triggering and presently threatening, putting even more women in danger.] I will continue to explore speaking opportunities as well, but will be adapting my lectures so that I am focusing primarily on issues around men and masculinity. [Does that include speaking about how it is that he has abused so many women with so much structural support from men? Why will he continue to explore those unwarranted opportunities? Doesn't this afford him more financial gain and political clout, as he speaks to the gender that has more money to pay him and more status to promote his work? This adjustment is self-serving.]

I teach a variety of gender-themed courses at Pasadena City College.  The one women’s studies’ course we have at PCC in the Social Sciences Division is History 25B, Women in American Society.  I’ve taught it every semester for nearly two decades.   The syllabus does include the history of feminism.  PCC plans its offering nine months in advance; I’m already booked to teach 25B this spring semester and in the coming autumn term.  [He could resign. He'd then be replaced.] But I will be talking with my colleagues on campus and elsewhere about asking for a change in assignment for spring 2013, the earliest term for which a shift can be made. [That's complete self-serving bullshit, quite frankly. If he wanted to, he could resign immediately. I mean, what if he was arrested and imprisoned for several years for the crimes he's occasionally admitted to committing? An interim faculty member would teach his classes and a search would be done to find someone to teach other classes that fulfill the same requirements; his claims are entirely dishonest and his conclusions are entirely false.] I haven’t made a final decision yet, but as of now, am leaning towards not returning to women’s history. [And of course the decision is his; the power to set the trajectory of his life is his: this is white male supremacy, all naked, pink, and self-determining.]

I will continue to teach my rotating courses in the Humanities department, including my “Men and Masculinity”course.  But those courses do not include feminist theory or feminist history on their syllabi. [Why don't they? How could they not? Do we actually believe men hold the best perspective on men? Doesn't his own behavior show us that men cannot be trusted to name their own or his abuses accurately? What is the usefulness of having a male sexual abuser teach courses on men and masculinity? What message does that give to the female and male students taking the class, and everyone else on campus?]

Continuing the Conversation

A conversation about some of these issues began in a moderated space last week.  The Feminism and Religion blog reprinted my “response post” from earlier this month, and invited comments.  A dialogue has begun there, and will continue. [See, if you wish to read that, here for part 1, and here for part 2. For an interview with him at the blog Feministe, see here.]

I will continue to listen. [And that's not nearly enough.] I’m receiving an average of 50-60 emails a day, equally split between detractors and supporters.  [I recommend he skip the ones from supporters. He has plenty of evidence before him to know he's being greatly supported. Various institutions and individuals are not holding him to account or determining any punishments for any abuses he has committed. In a social world such as his, predicated on protecting colonialist white male power, an equal split between detractors and supporters ought to register as an overwhelming vote of no confidence.] I’m trying to read at least some of the web commentary. [Some? Selectively? How do we know what he's choosing to read and what he's choosing to ignore?] The difficult part is separating what is legitimate criticism (and there is legitimate criticism) [This is the power of white men here: to name reality. This is a rare time when we see his acknowledgement that the perspectives of others might actually be correct. But as fast as that's done, he must then qualify and temper that awareness, as he typically does, with what follows] from unfair personal attacks. [Given that white men usually believe someone else naming their behavior as 'rape' or 'racist' is only a personal attack, one wonders how someone could name what he does without him considering it both unfair and a personal affront.] By the same token, I’m trying to separate what is thoughtful and wise encouragement from what is unhelpful, ego-aggrandizing flattery. [He needs to understand the difference in his own writings and speaking.] Given the tremendous volume and speed of all of this input, that’s difficult work and will take a considerable amount of time.  [In a white male supremacist society, more time is always needed. "A considerable amount" is always determined by the accused person not those he harms. White men holding themselves to appropriate levels of account ought not be rushed, according to U.S. society's political dictates. We wouldn't want to see any white man unduly diminish his colonial access, or curb his patriarchal power prematurely.] The end result, however, is likely to be my departure from explicitly feminist spaces. [I'll believe it when I see it. And why only from "explicitly" feminist spaces? What about the implicit ones? What about departing from the spaces known as Gender Studies classrooms, or the whole of Academia, or the blogosphere?]
*For another example of his reinforcement of gender myths--not that we need any more, there is this:
Women are shamed for their sexuality in a way that men aren’t. That has innumerable consequences. For example, we raise women to be objects of desire. This is where we get the famous Paris Paradox (which goes back long before Paris Hilton), where girls learn how to be sexy long before they discover their own sexuality. At the same time, we raise boys to believe their bodies aren’t as beautiful, as desirable, as appealing as those of girls. Boys get to be sexual, but too rarely get to trust that they’re wanted, lusted for, desired. [Source: here]
Implied in what he says, "sexy" is a set of political practices in a context of male supremacy where men define, require, profit from, and enforce it. "Learning how to be sexy" is what is demanded of female models in pornography who are, more often than not, pimped, battered, and raped, all before the age of consent. Their pimps, batterers, and rapists are not infrequently the directors of the pornography. It is these not improbably abused women who Hugo repeatedly seeks out for sex.

He implies that most or all women do, in fact, discover their own sexuality. I'd argue anyone's sexuality is shaped or influenced by patriarchy and its violence in an on-going way. Some of us achieve relative self-possession and self-definition. I don't think most people do. I don't think most people get to think about what that would even mean. Few in my own family have. To engage the discussion usually means one is living a privileged life in some regards, materially or academically. I have heard women earnestly make statements about how much their sexuality is their own; and their sexuality ought to be theirs to claim. But when men abuse women sexually, men will speak about their own sexuality as if it isn't theirs, as if they are commanded by drugs, alcohol, or mental illness to act out precisely the same way men who don't do drugs, don't drink, and aren't mentally ill act out patriarchal sexuality.

As a white gay male and an abuse survivor, I've found that efforts at "sexiness" and explorations of sexuality often and normally require sufficient dissociation from one's body and feelings to not know or appreciate the level of harm done to us. Sexiness typically is learning how to please one's oppressor, learning how to privilege the  production of sexual responses in him, not in oneself. This may be seen as a version of Stockholm Syndrome on the level of sexual expression and contact. Many feminists have written about the social, cultural, and political construction of "sex". For example, Patricia Hill Collins in Black Sexual Politics, and Catharine A. MacKinnon in Women's Lives, Men's Laws.

Hugo seems to equate "sexiness", "beauty", and the knowledge of being desired. Many feminists have also written about the racial and sexual politics of beauty. He does so while centering and privileging heterosexual men's experience. If women learned their bodies were beautiful, as Hugo states, how come no woman I know thinks her body is beautiful or attractive enough? If "we raise boys to believe their bodies aren’t as beautiful, as desirable, as appealing as those of girls", how come many men I know are quite comfortable in their bodies, of whatever shape and size? Men with and without hair on their head, with and without facial hair or body hair; with and without washing; with and without above or below average weight; with and without grooming or self-reflection on appearance of any kind.

Consider the degrees to which women attend to their appearance while being systematically shamed, harassed, and abused for either presenting themselves the way men desire them to, or for not doing so. Consider the degree to which women, compared to men, are bombarded with messages to attend to their appearance for the sake of pleasing men before leaving the home. Consider who benefits politically, materially, socially, and sexually from such a system. Consider who most benefits politically from women being in systems of prostitution: men.

In his interview published two days ago, we see him moralizing about his behavior once again, and never stating that his anti-feminist and misogynist behavior occurs not because of a lack of moral strength but because of having far too much political power and continuous access to those he hurts:
So, do you believe it is fine for you to be with a 23-year-old, or do you believe in your heart that what you argued in that essay is how it should be?
I am not sure right now. I am very confused. I am looking at having blown up my career and blown up my marriage. I think that, yes, men should try to stick to women their own age. And I am guilty of hypocrisy, but the fact that I am guilty of hypocrisy doesn’t invalidate the truth of what I was saying. I was just too weak to live up to what it was I was writing.
White male supremacist and colonial entitlement, chronic dishonesty, and systematic abuses of power, not moral weakness, are the cause of the end of his fourth marriage and his decades-long career. What's so confusing about that?

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That is the way the power of men is manifest in real life. That is what theory about male supremacy means. It means you can rape. It means you can hit. It means you can hurt. It means you can buy and sell women. It means that there is a class of people there to provide you with what you need. You stay richer than they are, so that they have to sell you sex. Not just on street corners, but in the workplace. That's another right that you can presume to have: sexual access to any woman in your environment, when you want.

Now, the men's movement suggests that men don't want the kind of power I have just described. I've actually heard explicit whole sentences to that effect. And yet, everything is a reason not to do something about changing the fact that you do have that power.

Hiding behind guilt, that's my favorite. I love that one. Oh, it's horrible, yes, and I'm so sorry. You have the time to feel guilty. We don't have the time for you to feel guilty. Your guilt is a form of acquiescence in what continues to occur. Your guilt helps keep things the way they are.
I have heard in the last several years a great deal about the suffering of men over sexism. [...] This is a new wrinkle. Implicit in the idea that this is a different kind of suffering is the claim, I think, that in part you are actually suffering because of something that you know happens to someone else. That would indeed be new.
But mostly your guilt, your suffering, reduces to: gee, we really feel so bad. Everything makes men feel so bad: what you do, what you don't do, what you want to do, what you don't want to want to do but are going to do anyway.  -- Andrea Dworkin,  "I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape" (1983, thirty years ago).  [Source: here]