It all started with the public meltdown of faux feminist Hugo Schwyzer. Schwyzer, a self-proclaimed feminist and a professor who taught women’s studies at a community college in California, got on Twitter last Friday and apologized (sorta) for his years of harassment and abuse directed at women of color feminist/womanist bloggers and their supporters. According to Hugo’s account of why he treated these women so badly, he explained that they “were in his way” and he suffered from mental illness, specifically, bipolar disorder.
I’ve been a feminist and a blogger for years and I’m well aware of Schwyzer’s sordid history in feminist spaces and on other progressive outlets. Among his stomach-churning confessions he felt fit to write about include a description of an attempted murder-suicide on himself and his ex-girlfriend, he and an ex-girlfriend successfully colluded to cuckold her new boyfriend into marrying her and unknowingly raising a child that was biologically fathered by Hugo, sleeping with his students, cheating on his wives (he’s been married 4 times), etc. And this is just a partial list.
But the real questions are these:Why was Hugo allowed to masquerade as a liberal feminist dude for so long in feminist and progressive spaces? Why did such prominent feminist outlets continue to publish his work, knowing full well his history of anti-woman behavior? Why were Hugo’s critics sometimes actually banned on sites when they attempted to criticize him, his actions, and his works?
The short answer: Hugo Schwyzer used his white male privilege to 1) get a job he wasn’t qualified for (i.e. teaching women’s studies when he had no academic background in the area, but hey, he wanted to teach it, so the administrators at Pasadena City College allowed him to teach it), 2) use his status of a professor of women’s studies to remake himself into a prominent feminist, and 3) silence his critics, particularly women of color, by using backdoor channels to quiet them down. Hugo Schwyzer manipulated a lot people before he finally broke his silence on Twitter and admitted to his many frauds.
One of Hugo’s former publishers was professional feminist Jill Filipovic, Editor-in-Chief of the feminist blog Feministe. However, in about 2008, Jill stopped using her forum to publish his work and even banned links Schwyzer’s works–apparently, even she’d had enough of Hugo’s antics at that point and the complaints from her community members were growing more vociferous.
But now, it’s 2013, and Schwyzer reaches out to Jill via Twitter during his confessional. Jill tells him to get off Twitter and call his therapist.
Women of color feminist blogger Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia), a person familiar with Hugo’s history of using his privilege to silence WOC and also familiar with Jill’s history re: Hugo, reaches out to Jill to ponder why Hugo’s mental health is being treated as if his health and his feelings are more important than the mental health and feelings of the WOC he harmed.
This moment of confrontation–WOC feminist to white feminist–is when the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen was born, created by Kendall to describe the lack of solidarity between white and WOC feminists. The confrontation erupted into a worldwide trend, with thousands of feminists and non-feminists from around the world using Twitter to give voice to their feelings of exclusion from the most popular feminist bloggers and spaces.
Mikki Kendall was invited to appear on HuffPost Live to talk about the hashtag and the divisiveness in the feminist movement.
#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is still trending, and the important discussion is still taking place. Feminism is not perfect (and never will be), and these dialogues are necessary for the movement to become more effective by becoming more inclusive and more understanding.
Join the dialogue.
Jamila Akil tweets and blogs. Commune with her on Twitter target=”_blank”>@jamilaakil