I must have been living under a feminist rock for the past couple of months, because when I saw some sentences that jumped out at me in this blog post about Hugo Schwyzer’s abusive past and resignation from The Good Men Project (I wondered why I was never seeing new posts from him on there), I was shocked.
I’ve recently been embroiled in a staunch disagreement with one of my friends over the Chris Brown, Michael Fassbender et al. debacle, in which I’ve attempted to personally boycott all things related to wifebeaters and horrible people in general, and she’s attempted to justify her support of projects they’re involved in because of all the other people it affects (a film crew of hundreds of people, for example).
But what happens when someone I openly admire (Scwhyzer) is revealed to have attempted a murder-suicide on his girlfriend in the past?
I’d have to call myself somewhat of a hypocrite, then. I still think Schwyzer produces some of the most apt feminist and gender-based musings out there. I also think that that incident was 13 years ago and, as far as we know, Schywzer got help and hasn’t relapsed. He’s taken his mistake, learned from it, and used it to add to the feminist and gender discourse. Which is more than I can say for Brown at this point. To play devil’s advocate (because I’m still adamant that Brown is a wifebeater through and through and will definitely strike a woman again), he’s still young and perhaps hasn’t woken up to the full scope of his actions and how they have hurt both Rihanna and himself.
This whole kafuffle has brought forth these questions, as asked by Raphael Magarik in The Atlantic:
Can men be feminist leaders?
Yes, they can. I’m not someone who thinks men can’t be feminists because they don’t have a vagina. Where does that leave trans women, then? How about the many gay men who have faced prejudice and champion the feminist movement? I’ve always thought Schwyzer has valid points to make (admittedly he’s really the only male feminist I read), and I think male voices can aid in the reconciliation of equality between men and women.
What role—if any—should men’s personal experiences play in feminist discussions?
I have a couple of male friends who, when presented with talk of feminism, will undermine and devalue what I’m trying to say with the straight white male reverse-racism bullshit. But, I think, as long as men are willing to listen to what feminists have to say without diminishing it with their white male privilege, personal experiences can aid in the discourse. For example, men who’ve grown up with strong women in their lives, men who’ve been abused, men who’ve abused and are aware of why they did it and are immensely sorry.
And how should feminists treat repentant former abusers?
I know a repentant former abuser who I’ve all but removed from my life, so I’m probably too biased about the situation to be completely inclusive of them. However, I think those who’ve experienced abuse are the ones who have to be having the conversation with former abusers and be okay with them jumping on the feminist bandwagon. If they are truly sorry, have a demonstrated history of non-abuse since they last abused, and can use that history to add value to female-male relations, then I think it might be okay. But the trust is still eroded…
How [do] men feel, what [do] they think about gender, [and] what [do] they need to change?
This is what Schwyzer is concerned with in his writings: how feminism relates to men. I hate the idea of feminism as this exclusive club (an idea which has been doing the rounds since noted second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Naomi Wolf stepped on the scene, and was recently reignited with the whole Melinda Tankard Reist business) that you can only gain entry to if you’re the “right” kind of woman. To me, feminism is about equality and inclusion of voices other than the “right” kind of woman.
How do you feel about men in feminism and Schwyzer’s abusive past potentially delegitimising his feminist voice?
Related: My Thoughts on Chris Brown.