The Unsurprising Sexism of Male Progressives

August 13, 2013

Multiple Pages
The Unsurprising Sexism of Male Progressives

“I’ve been married to a capitalist, a communist, and a fascist, and neither [sic] would take out the garbage,” Zsa Zsa Gabor supposedly said.

In the pre-Internet era, I’d attributed a shorter version of that quip to actress Elizabeth Ashley and used it as the epigram for the first poem I ever wrote.

It related the true story of my fight with a Trotskyite at an anti-apartheid rally:

and he said You obviously know nothing about the history of feminism
So Tracey screamed Then tell us all about the time you were gang raped
And the three of us pushed him into a grey Globe & Mail box
and stomped off to join what had been advertised
as A Day of Peaceful Protest.

During my stint on the left, I met white-ribbon-wearing “male feminists” who were sincere, thoughtful, and decent, but many others ranged from patronizing to abusive.

So sexist “progressive” men such as Anthony Weiner, Bob Filner, and Eliot Spitzer don’t surprise me, but why is anyone else shocked by their hypocrisy? I’m not just thinking of Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy; second-wave feminism began as a revolt not against mean old fathers and bosses, but against the misogynist college boys running the ’60s peace movement. (Eldridge Cleaver, anyone?)

“No neocon’s ever called me ‘honey.’”

In contrast (and contra Zsa Zsa), the “right wing” guys I know are matter of factly gender-blind. No neocon’s ever called me “honey.”

Which brings me to Hugo Schwyzer.

Schwyzer is a 46-year-old professor of History and Gender Studies at Pasadena City College. An ambitious controversialist, he’s branded himself as a “male feminist,” opining about porn, body image, unpleasant sounding sexual practices, and modern masculinity at snarky lipstick feminist sites such as Jezebel and xojane, along with that proving ground of beta-male faggotry known as The Good Men Project.

Schwyzer is “Internet famous” on the left while remaining a near nonentity on the right, even as a figure of fun.

Until now.

On August 1, Schwyzer wrote on his highly polished, headshot-heavy site:

I’ve said my goodbyes to the internet for the time being. (And those of you betting on when I’ll be back, it won’t be soon, and those of you betting on my suicide, fuck you.)

That night, he tried to kill himself.

What brought that on? An avalanche of new revelations that, compounded with older, equally sordid stories, finally drove Schwyzer (almost) over the edge.

The old flakiness? Schwyzer converted to Judaism so he could marry his fourth wife. He was voluntarily circumcised at 37 because, he wrote, “I wanted to feel as if I was starting over sexually.” He once tried to kill a girlfriend and himself. “He systematically picked on Women of Color.”

Here’s what’s new:

After selling himself as a devoted family man and recovering alcoholic, Schwyzer has admitted that he’s lied about his sobriety and has had two physical extramarital affairs along with one virtual “sexting” fling with a “sex worker activist” who, like him, has borderline personality disorder. (“It made her even sexier.”)

That crazy chick is also nearly 20 years his junior, a particularly embarrassing detail since Schwyzer has condemned older men who chase younger women as “creeps.”

Unable to stay out of the spotlight—especially when New York Magazine is on the other end of the phone—Schwyzer stupidly tried to explain himself after his suicide attempt. In doing so, he threw out a phrase that his delighted detractors have been using as a beach ball:

“I had an affair, which is very off-brand for me.”

A nasty online backlash ensued. Schwyzer, a social-media compulsive, claims this torrent of Internet hatred drove him to his most recent suicide attempt. As of this writing, his Twitter account displays a sadly comic stream of tweets about “getting his meds right” and how he’s going to shut down his computer any minute now.

One more thing:

Hugh Schwyzer has tenure.

And—I suspect before the year is out—a book and movie deal.

Now, I don’t know what house the moon is in or anything, but at the same time the Schwyzer meltdown was roiling the feminist movement, the “atheist community” was experiencing a broader crackup.

The editors of both Skeptic Magazine and Skeptical Inquirer stand accused of serial rape and sexual assault, respectively. Two other atheist celebrities—physicist Lawrence Krauss and (egad!) Bill Nye the Science Guy—are accused of similar nastiness.

(Those who recall the Incident at Skepti-quiddick may be, well, skeptical about all these charges.)

They say that when women hang out together, their menstrual cycles eventually sync up. For whatever reason, liberal chicks across America have suddenly gotten it into their pretty little heads to throw out a dumpster full of male movement “garbage” en masse. 

Pass the popcorn.


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