Man Quits Internet: Goodbye, Hugo Schwyzer
by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
Hugo Schwyzer quit the Internet yesterday. The self-described male feminist wrote about facials and pulling tampons out of ex-wives. He tried to kill his girlfriend and is on his fourth marriage. He has been published regularly, most recently at The Atlantic and Jezebel. On Twitter, he regularly searched his name and would passive-aggressively favorite unflattering mentions of himself.
No longer. Schwyzer also announced he would cease teaching a class on pornography at Pasadena City College, where he is a tenured instructor. He then immediately took part in an utterly bizarre interview with The Cut’s Kat Stoeffel, in which he said things like, “If you look at the men who are writing about feminism, they toe the line very carefully. It’s almost like they take their cues from the women around them” and, “I had an affair, which is very off-brand for me.”
He also singled someone out as the reason he left Twitter. “After I wrote about Manic Pixie Dream Girls, this guy Chris tweeted, ‘the number one job of male feminists is to never let Hugo Schwyzer get another freelancing gig.’…it was just really hurtful.” The tweet that made Hugo quit came from another straight white man, because that’s who really gets under his skin. He seems to have no concept of the volume or tenor of the invective that women are subjected to online on the regular, either, if that’s what he finds “really hurtful.” When he flounced from Twitter, he made sure to alert Randle and longtime antagonist Malcolm Harris, crediting them with his decision to leave. It was also what many women wanted, but he didn’t acknowledge any of them.
Randle, a contributing editor at Hazlitt, and Harris, senior editor at The New Inquiry, chatted with me yesterday about how strange it is to be told you’ve driven someone offline. Full disclosure: we’ve all socialized IRL, and Malcolm has edited me.
SES: Who is Hugo Schwyzer, and why did you drive him from the Internet?
CR: I guess we need to expand on “a sociopath”?
MH: He’s a self-identified male feminist commentator with a well but not well-enough-known history as an abuser and all-around creep. Is that about right?
CR: And part of the reason it’s not well-known enough is that he stalked and darkly whispered against many of the women (often women of color) who called him out in years past.
MH: Yeah. I wanna be clear on not claiming credit for driving dude off the internet.
SES: Malcolm, I don’t think the credit is yours to claim, but rather freely given.
MH: Yeah but we know the guy has a problem crediting women, so it’s no surprise he’d do the same here.
SES: He sounded pretty shaken. You must have really scared him. Did you call him ugly, or threaten him with rape or physical violence?
MH: I probably called him old.
CR: I believe he tried to get Malcolm to have coffee with him at one point, which, lol.
SES: Is it possible that he is actually that unaware of the tone and nature of the comments women receive online on the regular for merely existing?
MH: No, but grown men are fragile.
CR: In this New York interview he says, “If you look at the men who are writing about feminism, they toe the line very carefully. It’s almost like they take their cues from the women around them. Men are afraid of women’s anger. It’s very hard for men to stand up to women’s anger.”
MH: No 30- or 40-something man I know could handle half of what young women deal with on a regular basis online. If they tried, they’d quit.
SES: “I did for a long time until finally my mental health had to be a priority.” Why are they so fragile?
MH: Society coddles them.
CR: Which, given that Schwzyer tried to murder his ex-girlfriend, is a rather literal demonstration of Margaret Atwood’s dictum about men being afraid that women will laugh at them and women being afraid that men will kill them.
SES: And was he being serious, do you think, with the “It’s almost like they take their cues from the women around them” line?
CR: I mean, we’re talking about somebody who described his affair with a student as “off-brand,” so he may lack even that self-awareness. But taking cues from women is precisely what men should do here. I don’t think men should make their living opining about feminism at all.
SES: What prompted the tweet that he cited?
CR: Oh, it was that typically gross piece he wrote about Manic Pixie Dream Girls and some woman he used to know and, most importantly, himself. (My friend Emily wrote a more sustained and damning critique of it that week.) Like I said on Tumblr, it’s so characteristic, not to mention hilarious, that Schwyzer cared only about other straight white men even when deciding to flee from public.
SES: Do you think he feels like he’s only talking to men? And therefore it’s only their critiques he should be concerned with?
MH: I don’t want to attempt to psychoanalyze the dude, but when I read that NY interview, I don’t hear a man who takes women very seriously. I think it’s clear he views women as a kind of social problem that confronts men. And that’s how “male feminist” discourses generally handle gender relations.
CR: He’s all about this “patriarchy hurts men, too!” shit
SES: Yeah, the same way racism hurts white people? Classism hurts the wealthy?
CR: And, I mean, it does, in the sense that living in Capitalist Hellworld isn’t good for anybody, but the liberation of women will quite rightly involve attacking male power.
MH: Right! He doesn’t see it as a class relation.
CR: I feel like I should quote our mutual friend Sarah Nicole Prickett here: “There’s a very particular kind of man who prides himself on telling girls that he’s a feminist, and those are among my least favorite types of men. I don’t give a shit if you’re a feminist. We’re fine, thank you. We’ve got this. I mean, you should be a feminist as part of your larger class politics, but men who tell you that they’re feminist might as well — I mean, they’re the worst.”
SES: Have you ever needed to say “I’m a feminist” to justify anything? Also, are you a feminist?
MH: I think I got drunkenly upset once when a woman at a party said I couldn’t be a feminist.
SES: Why did she say that?
MH: Probably because I was being a lout.
CR: It was an explanation rather than a justification, but somebody did recently ask me about my Sailor Moon pin that says “MY BODY, MY CHOICE.”
MH: I saw someone say on Twitter recently that being an ally isn’t an identity, it’s a practice, and that seems right to me.
CR: I know some people who don’t think men can/should identify as feminists and I totally understand that, I wouldn’t argue with them about it. I’m a supporter of feminism or an ally of feminism or, yeah, a feminist — the precise tag doesn’t matter, because it’s not about me.
SES: Did you see this dramatic exit coming?
MH: He told me I was going to have to shoot him to get him off the internet, so no. (I said attempted murder was his thing, not mine.)
SES: Do you think that his crediting other men with hurting his feelings is part of a ploy for sympathy?
CR: He sort of oscillates between extreme narcissism and public self-abasement, and like, if women stepping on his dick gets him off, he should really be paying them $300 an hour for it. I worry about his students — the guy has tenure.
SES: Do you feel like you’ve actually Done Something, or do you feel like you’re being blamed?
MH: Well he’s right insofar as it is what we wanted, and we said we wouldn’t leave him alone till he left.
CR: Oh, it’s definitely a convenient pretext to go on refusing to acknowledge non-white-dude critics on his part.
MH: I think his persecution narrative probably has less to do with his career than personal stuff we don’t even wanna know about.
SES: Yes, I would say his most vocal Twitter critics were women of color.
CR: But I am happy that my female friends no longer have to worry about him passive-aggressively faving them if they invoke The Name on Twitter.
SES: He was notorious for name-searching.
MH: Sigh, if he were Hugo Smith he might be with us today.
SES: Any other thoughts on why he seems so clueless as to what constitutes a high level of online abuse?
CR: And, you know, what higher calling is there for a male feminist than calling out shitty men. Except “listen to women.”
MH: Yeah, I always tried to be driven by my own hatred than any desire to protect women. But like Chris said, it’s easy with Hugo because women will email you being like “ewww ewww eww!”
SES: One more thing: Who’s next?
MH: Ask Marie Calloway, I hear she has the official hit list.
CR: Wait, I got it. Stephen Marche.
Photo via teflon/flickr.
Susan Elizabeth Shepard has two jobs and lives in Austin, TX.