So, I know I said I was going to give it some time, but, eh, fuck it. It’s actually not worth spending a lot of time on. Here’s the thing: there are a ton of drug addicts in the world out there doing shitty things. Some drug addicts even kill or try to kill other people in the course of their addictions.
That still is a horse of a different color than seeing a woman you ostensibly care about passed out on the floor of your home and you deciding that her life is of no more value, that she would be better off dead, and then making active motions to kill her. That’s not “my life is of no more value, I’d be better off dead” (a common addict’s refrain). That’s not “I need your money for drugs. Oops. I killed you.” That’s “I decided the kindest thing to do for you would be to kill you.”
And that, my friends, is fucking scary. It’s creepy, but not in the way I normally toss “creepy” around. That’s “I don’t view you as an autonomous person with a life of your own, therefore I can decide to put you down without consideration of what you might want.”
There are a lot of things that brought Schwyzer to that point that are reformable–he could get treatment for drug addiction; he could no longer have contact with that woman–things he has indeed done.
But being a drug addict doesn’t make you think that you know better than other people whether they should live or die. Being a drug addict, at most, just muffles whatever part of your brain might send up a warning signal that says “You should not act on this impulse.”
I know this kind of sounds like splitting hairs, but I’m going to split a hair. I think that forgiveness for the attempt on her life can only be given by the woman Schwyzer himself admits he tried to kill. And I think that it is not our place to be doling out forgiveness or withholding it on her behalf. Who knows what she wants? And please, let us all be kind enough to refrain from trying to find out.
But Schwyzer himself has now publicly said that he believed that he was somehow helping or justified in trying to end this woman’s life–either because she was in such a bad spot or because he was so whacked out on drugs or whatever. It doesn’t matter, honestly, why he thought at the time that it was justified. He did.
And even if I can believe that he is truly sorry for trying to kill a person–though honestly, I don’t care if he’s sorry–I don’t believe I have a successful way of knowing that he no longer believes that he knows better than another person what she should do with her life. I am wary of him choosing a profession that lets him hold a position in which he is rewarded for knowing better than young women and getting to guide them to knowledge. That, to me, doesn’t signal “I know I am no better judge than the woman before me of what she should do with her life.” I don’t think running a prominent feminist blog or putting himself out there as a male voice of feminism works to that end either.
I don’t intend to read Hugo Schwyzer. I stopped reading him in 2008, long before he provided all this information about trying to kill a woman.
But when he comes up for discussion on places I do read, or when he posts places I do read, I will be reading with a careful eye about whether what I see before me is proof that he now understands that he is not in a position to judge women or to guide us to the result he thinks is best for us. Because, frankly, it’s only evidence of that change that’s going to make me feel like the fundamental problem has been addressed.
I think this whole issue has been muddied by the way the feminist blogosphere works. People are burnt out on the constant wars, the constant infighting, the purity tests, etc. So, believe me, I understand the impulse to chalk this up to yet another round of this group of people vs. that group of people. And, yes, I get the desire to pull back and talk about these things in the abstract. Can people be forgiven? Can they be redeemed? Those are interesting questions.
But here is the truth. Hugo Schwyzer told a story about himself in which he illustrated that he once came to a point in his life when his belief that he knows better than someone else whether her life as it is has value lead him to believe it would be best if she was put down and he acted on it.
There is not a thing wrong with anyone–women, drug addicts, people who might become unconscious in front of him–for both being alarmed and disgusted at that story AND for being certain that its not our jobs to repeatedly give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s changed.
I, do, though, also want to acknowledge that Schwyzer is apparently a fine teacher and someone at least some of his colleagues and friends feel very positive about and very loyal to.
I’m sure most “angels of mercy” are fine nurses and help and save many people, as well.
So, the esteem his students, colleagues, and friends hold him in really tells me nothing about whether he now understands that he does not know better than women whether our lives as they are have value, since his job rewards him for teaching women things they didn’t know.
And I won’t put myself in the path of him, for the reasons I’ve outlined above–I cannot tell by how he lives his life now that he gets that he does not know better than women what our lives should be like.
I assume everyone else can come to their own conclusions.