Seriously, Schwyzer?

There are very few things that leave me temporarily at a loss for words these days. But last Friday’s pathetic and manic Twitter meltdown of “feminist” pornography professor and frequent Jezebel contributor Hugo Schwyzer did just that. Among other things, Schwyzer admitted to rampant infidelity, sexting (“of course”), ignoring his own maxim that men should sleep with women their own age, and sleeping with students — “two dozen female students, somewhere in there,” he says in a Daily Beast interview, “it’s a ballpark thing.”

There are just so many problems with this story that I hardly know where to start.

First, why did Pasadena City College allow him to “make amends” by “swearing off sleeping with women” — and why was he permitted to continue teaching pornography and gender studies courses, rather than the history courses he was trained to teach?

How was Schwyzer able to get tenure as a medievalist and British historian, when his primary “publications,” per his own admission, were blog posts for Jezebel and an article for The Atlantic?

Why does Schwyzer seem to think that, once out of the hospital, he’ll be able to either continue teaching or be placed on permanent disability? Are all forms of debauchery excusable as a mental illness, and thereby grounds for graceful separation from the university?

And why, oh why, is it that the voices of male feminists carry more weight than their female counterparts? (As Slate blogger Noah Berlatsky points out, New York magazine practically came running to interview him last month when he announced that he was going to quit for a while. Would they have done the same if a female feminist decided to throw in the towel?)

18 thoughts on “Seriously, Schwyzer?

  1. He taught how to objectify women, and ended up escalating his porn addiction into objectifying women. No big surprise there.

  2. I’m confused. Why does he (and the New York magazine interviewer) act like he’s the only ‘feminist male’ on the internet? I didn’t even know who he was until he was mentioned in yesterday’s post on the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen tag.

  3. There are lots and lots of things wrong with Schwyzer, but it’s worth pointing out that Pasadena City College is a 2 year community college. Tenure generally doesn’t depend on research, and faculty are often asked to teach courses outside their areas of research specialty. So, there’s nothing terribly odd about Schwyzer teaching those courses and gaining tenure with those as his major publications.

    But Schwyzer’s rampant sex with students is another matter. This has been public knowledge for years. Schwyzer writes about it in his columns. It’s incredible that this wasn’t better handled by PCC, especially given other details of Schwyzer’s life (if you read his columns, for instance, you’ll find that he once tried to murder an ex-girlfriend).

  4. *I should say in regard to the last post that I’m not familiar with PCC’s tenure policies specifically. I’m just inferring from what is standard procedure at most community colleges.

  5. Like others, I had hardly ever heard of this person. And, like others, I cannot fathom why his college would keep him on after he admitted to sleeping with students.

  6. Matt is right. Hugo has written articles about trying to murder is ex-girlfriend and about sleeping with his students. It boggles the mind that Jezebel frequently ran his articles when there are actual, careful, male feminists out there.

  7. “… why, oh why, is it that the voices of male feminists carry more weight than their female counterparts? ”

    Because unenlightened men always have to be given more credit than their female counterparts. A man who is truly a feminist should know that he’s being decent— not radical and more feminist than female feminists— and should be challenging other men, instead of preening for feminist cred.

  8. “A man who is truly feminist… should be challenging other men, instead of preening for feminist cred.” Nice point, wileywitch. Are there other things we should expect of male feminists? Anyone have any thoughts about what sorts of advice one might give to an aspiring male feminist? (Should, for example, they try to re-direct media focus to female feminists — or simply accept the fact that they have a certain sort of power, and use it to good ends?)

  9. As a female in philosophy, I’m not surprised by Schwyzer’s admissions. I took a course with a male “feminist” pornography professor who made sure to inform his female students that they should feel comfortable, if they wanted to wear low-cut shirts or dresses to class. After a female student informed the Graduate Director of the Department, he chose to dismiss her complaint.

  10. Theano, regarding why male feminists carry more weight than their female counterparts — though there are certainly contexts where that isn’t true — I believe that a large part of it has to do with being perceived, rightly or wrongly, as unusual or underexposed. And “carrying more weight” probably isn’t exactly it. I suspect that New York magazine showed interest in interviewing Schwyzer last month the way the Bronx Zoo might show interest in acquiring, say, an albino deer (even a mediocre physical specimen) if the opportunity presented itself. They already have quite a few of the other kind. (Of course, the magazine may have caught a whiff of scandal on the breeze, which would also account for its interest.)

    One often sees in the media a similar preoccupation with other folks who are perceived as going against the grain in light of their personal characteristics, background, etc.

  11. Hi ejrd,

    It boggles the mind that Jezebel frequently ran his articles when there are actual, careful, male feminists out there.</blockquote.

    Not to mention all sorts of female feminists, womanises, trans activists, etc. There's not a shortage of amazing, compelling talent out there.

    Hi theano,

    Anyone have any thoughts about what sorts of advice one might give to an aspiring male feminist?

    “Benefit others more than you benefit.” Esp. if it’s status, material gain, etc. You don’t need to be a martyr, but feminism is, in part, a social movement looking for justice. Activism implies aiming for the greater good.

    “Do the shit jobs.” The shit jobs always need doing so why not do them? If you don’t do them, someone else, often with less resources, ends up doing them. But don’t preen or anything. Just do them.

    “Speak for yourself among others.” Don’t speak for others, but only yourself. Use your own voice while recognising that it is a voice among others. Think about the voices as much as what’s said. Listen a lot and look for listening opportunities. Be more glad to have heard someone or something new than to have said something awesome. Use your voice to facilitate new voices over extending the reach of your own. I find Joyce Treblicot’s Dyke Ideas very helpful reading here.

    “Own and repair your fuckups.” If you mess up, own it fast and make serious efforts at restitution. If that means leaving a scene, then do that. Try hard to do better. If you persistently fail to do better, recognise this and consider whether you are a net good. Ask for help *before* the next big failure. Even if your fuckups aren’t your fault (or you think they aren’t’) think more about fixing them then getting the blame right.

    I’m sure there are other things, but these seem pretty useful to me. I try to follow them.

  12. Great advice, Bijan. I’m going to steal it, write it in my voice, and use it— it’s fundamental, practical, and direct (three of my favorite things).

  13. Bijan, I’m a little confused by the blockquote. These are your words? I want to put this in a “great comments” post, so want to know if I credit you.

  14. Very wise advice, Bijan. I like the point about listening and thinking about the voices as much as what is said — and the invocation of Joyce Treblicot’s Dyke Ideas — we mix our ideas in the potluck of feminist philosophy, rather than engaging in the tyranny of persuasion. Thank you! I’ll certainly refer back to this.

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