The redemption narrative

How does a person achieve redemption after a series of serious offenses? At what point is the process deemed to be complete? What does a person have to do to be judged appropriately sorry and allowed to stop atoning? What should we feel about a person while they’re pursuing the process? What does it say about us when we can’t or won’t let it go?

(Short answer: Don’t care.)

We saw these questions come up four years ago, during Chris Brown’s seriously ballsy return to the spotlight after brutally beating then-girlfriend Rihanna and appearing to give few if any fucks. And we’re seeing it now with Hugo Schwyzer, who continues making public appearances to recount detail after lurid, gratuitous detail about his own abuses of women — sleeping with students, cheating on his wife repeatedly, trying to murder an ex-girlfriend — and provide skimming admissions of his abuses, insults, and concerted efforts to dismantle the personal and professional lives of Flavia Dzodan, Brownfemipower, Blackamazon, Amadi, and countless other radical WOC bloggers. And there’s always the complaint whenever Brown or Schwyzer runs up against a person who is unmoved by his professions of penitence: I’m doing my time. What more do you want from me?

Guys. It doesn’t work that way. Since you’ve obviously never truly atoned for anything in your life, nor given two shits about anyone you’ve hurt, here are some tips to get you started.

You need to sit the fuck down now. We, as a society, have determined that the penalty for some offenses is the removal of the offender from the public presence. So go the fuck away. When you swing on a woman, literally or metaphorically, you cede the right to decide whether or not you get to be in her presence. Maybe that means you move out. Maybe it means you take a break from your shared industry. Maybe it means you remove yourself from the very platform that you campaigned to take over, that you used to abuse and try to ruin women and from which you continue to gain attention even as you purport to decry it. And that doesn’t mean changing your politics and moving to a different part of the Internet — it means removing yourself from the public eye. The career that made you famous was built on the unwilling backs of women you’ve abused; you no longer get to prosper from those ill-gotten gains. No more posts. No more tweets. No self-serving memoir. Proofread books, cover high school sports under a pen name, become a sandwich artist, whatever — but sit. The fuck. Down.

Learn the difference between an explanation and an excuse. The free time you gain in your solitude is an opportunity for introspection that may well uncover some clue to the genesis of your offenses. This is good; that consciousness is a crucial factor in helping you not abuse again. But it doesn’t make it okay. “My father hit me” or “I have a mental illness and also white male privilege” may help to explain your actions to a degree, but they sure as hell don’t to any degree make what you did okay or absolve you of the consequences of it.

You don’t get to decide when it’s over. You didn’t tag the side of a building, and now you have to do community service until you’ve worked off the cost of repainting the wall and then everything’s square. You damaged a person. And a society. There is no fixed amount of jail time, community service, or purported penitence allotted to make that whole again. Feel you’ve done your time? Congratulations. But it’s not up to you. Your time is done when the women you threatened, insulted, dismissed, belittled say it is. Feel that in her place, you’d be quicker to forgive? That’s very generous of you; don’t care. And if you think that’s unfair, I hate it for you, but again, it’s not your decision to make. That’s the price of abusing. Don’t like it? Do better.

Examine why people are still mad at you. And chances are, it’s not because haters are going to hate. It may be, for instance, that your attitude has reflected no self-awareness or acknowledgement of the gravity of your offenses. It could be that your repeated promises to change and your repeated public self-flagellation are inevitably followed, as night follows day, by the repeated victimization of the victims of your abuse by repeatedly inserting yourself into their presence and centering your damn self. People don’t continue to hate you because they’re haters; they hate you because you’re a sack of shit and refuse to take responsibility for it or do anything about it.

There is no mathematical formula for redemption. There’s no X years served plus Y hours of community service plus Z amount of being really, really sorry, times A probation. No one owes you anything, least of all forgiveness. And if that’s something that truly matters to you — if you truly want to make amends, and you’re not just trying to burn time until you’re able to resume your previous life and hope that the people who know you’re a sack of shit won’t say anything — you’ll not just accept the difficult path to atonement but embrace it, because you respect and care enough about the people you’ve abused to want to make them whole again, to the extent that such a thing is possible. In the meantime, engage in introspection, try to dig up a measure of empathy and humility, and above all, sit. The fuck. Down.

82 comments for “The redemption narrative

  1. September 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm


  2. Beyzone
    September 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Does this apply to the women guilty of browbeating WOC as well? or just the male protagonist? Can the women still operate their websites and carry on discussing feminism regardless of the harm they caused?

    Because we’re on one of those sites now. Not like Jezebel level guilty, but where are we drawing the line here? HS should go away and think about what he’s done but the rest of us can continue. No-one is asking Jezebel to shut down (I wish) and banning them from the feminist space/time continuum.

    Sometimes I wish that actively disseminating a racist, violent pile of nonsense did mean you were banned from ever discussing feminism again. Then I remember that this would mean a whole heap of mainstream feminist blogs would disappear overnight. Lots of women would be out of work in seconds. No great loss maybe.

    ‘Go away forever’ would decimate us right now. I quite fancy the idea of a Great Rebuilding using something other than the masters tools. Lookin’ at you, existing feminist social media people.

    • September 28, 2013 at 1:54 am

      I don’t think it has to come down to “go away forever,” exile for all time. I think what it comes down to is simply centering the victims and letting them decide what it will take to make them whole again, or at least make things better for them. Maybe, as in the case with Hugo, it would mean that the victimizer just goes away. Maybe, as in the case with mainstream feminism, it would be an establishment of a truly intersectional movement that doesn’t erase the needs and contributions of WOC and white feminists who not only acknowledge their own racism but make an effort to fix it. But as a contributor to the oppression of WOC, it’s not my/Feministe’s place to make that call — WOC get to decide when it’s becoming right.

      Recently, Blackamazon wrote a post, and Brownfemipower wrote three, outlining their answers to the question, “What do you want?” #Solidarityisforwhitewomen basically did the same thing. And we who are white feminists have no excuse not to pay attention to that. We can’t put the burden on every WOC to write out an explicit list of things that need to be fixed; it has to be internalized within the movement. But we have to hold ourselves to the same standard that we’d hold anyone else to in centering the wants and needs of the wronged party in any discussion of resolution.

    • mamram
      September 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      “Does this apply to the women guilty of browbeating WOC as well? or just the male protagonist? Can the women still operate their websites and carry on discussing feminism regardless of the harm they caused?”

      I have no idea what what the answer to this is, but as a reader? My daily reading list has dramatically changed over the past few weeks. There are a few bloggers that I read vociferously for years that I’m no longer really interested in. Not even because I think people need to be penalized for promoting and defending a racist abuser (although maybe so) but because I have to doubt their judgment now. I mean, how can I have confidence in the quality of their analysis and critique if they overlooked something this egregious?

      So whether or not these people SHOULD continue blogging, I hope that at the very least the feminist blogosphere will be reshaped because readers won’t have confidience in writers with such glaringly obvious blind spots, especially when there are so many sharp folks out there for us to read instead.

  3. PrettyAmiable
    September 27, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    The following comment is not related to the Hugo Schwyzer issue.

    As a human, I’ve fucked up. I’ve done some shit I am not proud of, as an adult. And at some point, you have to go forward.

    So fine, that’s legit. But I hate this phrasing. People who fuck up don’t need to stand down. Everyone else needs to stand up and find the power in saying, “I don’t give a shit about your redemption. I choose me, which is something you actively chose not to do. And also, fuck you.”

    I get the question of redemption when it comes to HS, but sometimes I think the most important takeaway is how we collectively marginalized important voices in our community, what our own redemption narrative looks like, and whether those marginalized people who choose themselves will find a place for us.

  4. shfree
    September 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Honestly, I don’t think he’s looking for redemption, I think he’s looking for attention. If he was at all serious about redeeming himself, he would consider atonement first. And that would involve him taking actual concrete responsibility for his actions, instead of just saying “Oops, I messed up.”

    • Marie
      September 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Agreed. I don’t think Schwyzer is sincere; he’s completely self-absorbed and narcissistic. Everything he does is grandstanding, so he can be the center of attention.

  5. Anna
    September 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    I don’t care what Hugo Schwyzer does, he’s gone too far and can never be redeemed in my eyes. Feminism isn’t about making privileged white doods feel all comfy and happy. Sometimes it’s about saying, nope, sorry, you’re a sexist racist attempted-murderer asshole and you’re not a feminist, end of story.

    • Rhoda
      September 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      One thing that shocked me was how he blamed the girlfriend before the one he nearly killed.
      He says; “I’d fallen for an 18 year-old student who had dumped me in disgust …. Kiley’s transition from crush to disdain had been rapid and unmistakable, and had sent me spiraling rapidly downward.” Surely having mental health problems does not mean abdicating all personal responsibility?

      I do wish this drama hadn’t spread to UK newspapers though. It doesn’t give the best impression of feminism to the casual reader.

  6. Anna
    September 27, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    If David Duke wanted redemption, would (or should) the NAACP be urged to welcome him with big happy open arms just because he said he wasn’t a racist anymore?

    I feel like a lot of this push to redeem Hugo (and others) in the eyes of feminism or women is coming from the sexist idea that women need to be nurturing and forgiving and sweet and never angry.

    • trees
      September 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      If David Duke wanted redemption, would (or should) the NAACP be urged to welcome him with big happy open arms just because he said he wasn’t a racist anymore?

      Forgiveness would be the expectation. The post-racial “…but if it was about a black guy” thing is a personal pet peeve of mine.

      • AMM
        September 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm

        Forgiveness …

        Another abused concept.

        If you “forgive” a loan, you write it off and don’t pursue it any more. It doesn’t mean you have to lend the debtor another dime. Or have dinner with him. Or pretend you’re happy not getting paid back.

        If he’s managing by some nefarious means to chisel money out of you again and again, you don’t “forgive” those “loans,” you take whatever steps are necessary to prevent him from chiseling in the future.

        In the same way, if someone is still abusing you, “forgiveness” doesn’t make any sense. Instead, you defend yourself, by any means necessary.

        The post-racial “…but if it was about a black guy” thing …

        Sorry, I’m not getting what exactly you are referring to.

      • trees
        September 28, 2013 at 7:29 am


        It’s the belief that through the insertion of a hypothetical black man into any given situation, an injustice with be obvious to all. It’s black American experience as metaphor, and is reductive and simply untrue. I regularly see this in the comments here and it irritates the fuck out of me.

    • AJF
      September 28, 2013 at 12:45 am

      Is anyone really trying to redeem Hugo, other than Hugo?

  7. AMM
    September 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    How does a person achieve redemption after a series of serious offenses?

    If by “redemption,” you mean “wiping the slate clean,” the answer is: it’s impossible. Murder someone, and you are a murderer for the rest of your life. Spread hate, fear, distrust the way the people you mention have done, and the evil you have done will outlive you. You won’t have any more success than Lady MacBeth.

    The most you can do is to evaluate your self to see how you can be not like that in the future.

    It’s like when you realize you are an alcoholic. You can never become a non-alcoholic, the most you can do is to be an alcoholic who isn’t drinking. (One day at a time.)

    And just like with alcoholism, step 1 is to stop denying that that’s what you are.

    Actually, for offenders, there’s a step 0: stop offending. HS and Chris Brown haven’t even gotten that far yet.

    At what point is the process deemed to be complete?


    The most you can hope to say is that you haven’t re-offended for n days. Ceaseless vigilance, one day at a time.

    What does a person have to do to be judged appropriately sorry and allowed to stop atoning?

    If other people’s judgements are the issue for you, you haven’t even started being sorry or atoning. Until your own horror at what you have done (and perhaps are still doing) is worse than any punishment other people are likely to dish out, you haven’t started. If your “remorse” can be ended or taken away, it isn’t remorse.

    The deeper problem here, though, is that these terms have been pulled out of their original context, where they made some sense (even if you disagree with them), and stuck into some kind of primary-school code of conduct context, where they make no sense at all.

    “Redemption” and “atonement” (and the missing third word: “sin”) are about the damage you do to your inner self (“soul”) by turning yourself into the kind of person who is willing to commit the offenses.

    Atonement is the word for the process of bending yourself (back?) into someone who will no longer be willing to commit them. But just as an automobile, once the frame is bent, can never be bent back into the condition it was before the wreck, so no amount of atonement can erase the capacity for those offenses that actually having done them has imprinted upon your soul/self/neurons.

    “Redemption” doesn’t mean that your crimes have been undone (Word may have an “undo” command, but the world does not), it means simply that you have by some Divine Grace been rescued from having to keep re-offending. It means that sometimes you have the choice to “go straight.” The image is that, by your bad choices, you have indebted yourself to Evil (imagine a karmic Mafia loan shark), and sometimes God comes down and pays off your debt, thus giving you the chance to get and stay free of Evil — assuming you don’t turn right around and put yourself back into debt again.

    Unfortunately, when given the chance, most people choose to go right on doing what got them needing redemption in the first place.

  8. Jenna
    September 27, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    The redemption narrative makes a nice story, but, to actually get there? The first step is to stop doing the thing that was wrong. If you can’t even break the pattern, you haven’t even hit the very first step.

    People can say anything they want, but, if someone has hurt me, I look at what they are DOING. If their behavior hasn’t changed, there’s no reason to believe anything that they say. I am not obligated to forgive anyone. If I move on and don’t hold a grudge, that’s because spending the effort and energy on a grudge or on feeling anything about them takes too much damn energy on my part. I will simply ignore them, write them out of my life and move on.

    I know that women are socialized to be “nice” and forgive and all that. Maybe I am not all that nice anymore.

    I’ll agree with others that HS doesn’t want forgiveness as much as he wants attention. He can say anything he likes, but, his pattern hasn’t changed. He is predictable, and toxic, and not actually redeeming himself as far as I can tell. There isn’t any redemption narrative if you haven’t actually changed your behavior.

  9. Drahill
    September 28, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Isn’t the fundamental issue here is that people tend to ask for forgiveness and redemption generally and not specifically?

    In the case of HS, I don’t believe the redemption narrative is sincere, because, frankly, the only people who can forgive are those he personally hurt, attacked and damaged. Asking for forgiveness from the general public, or the blogosphere, or any other particular group is useless. The only people who actually have the power to forgive him are the people he’s actually wronged – his ex, the students he manipulated, Flavia, Bfp, Blackamazon, and the others. And they are under no duty or obligation to provide such absolution. It’s at their discretion. And they have every right to condition forgiveness on a display of changed behavior, or good faith, or whatever else they actually require to be satisfied. If they don’t want to forgive, well, that’s the risk you take when you behave so terribly towards others in the first place. My problem with the redemption narrative is that it usually involved being “redeemed” by people who were never in a position to grant it in the first place, instead of seeking it from the actual wronged parties.

    • Jenna
      September 28, 2013 at 10:43 am


      Asking for forgiveness in general, from the public, is usually pretty damn useless. What it usually ends up doing is causing some people in the general public to pressure the actually wronged people to forgive when they are absolutely not obligated to do so.

  10. pheenobarbidoll
    September 28, 2013 at 12:16 am

    He doesn’t deserve forgiveness, he deserves to be forgotten. He’s not sorry, he just wants to still be relevant. Take it away from him. The issue was never about him, it’s about racism and misogyny. He’s easily replaced with any other piece of shit and he knows it. Feminists need to focus on how and why they allowed their racism and some internalized sexism to be used to hurt other women. That’s their redemption narrative and the only one that matters. Making it about Hugo is not how that gets done.

    • trees
      September 28, 2013 at 7:30 am

      I second this comment.

    • September 28, 2013 at 11:13 am

      I third it, actually. I completely agree that Hugo-in-utter-obscurity is what the world needs right now. The problem there is that people are continuing to give him a platform, based on that same redemption myth — “He’s said he’s sorry, and he’s left feminism. What more do you want from him?” Well, since he’s built his entire name on the backs of countless women he’s abused, that should probably be the first to go. He’s like the abusive ex who responds to an order of protection by buying a house 501 feet away from his victim and sits out on his front porch every day as she leaves for work. People who continue to buy “He’s left feminism; what more do you want?” are the ones allowing him to stay in that house.

      And I completely agree that the white feminists who have been complicit in those abuses and have perpetrated our own have our own redemption to pursue. There’s sitting the fuck down and listening to be done. There’s recognizing the difference between an excuse and an explanation — “I was snowed by a master manipulator, and also I have white privilege, and I realize now that I’m racist” may help explain what was done, but it doesn’t excuse anything or absolve anyone of the consequences. And the entire process has to center on WOC and their needs and wants; in my response to Beyzone above, I mentioned #Solidarityisforwhitewomen and posts by Blackamazon and Brownfemipower as providing at least a starting point for what needs to be done, and that’s what’s truly important.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        September 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm

        I don’t understand, honestly, why dealing with him is any different than dealing with any other MRA or racist. Feminists who support them end up discredited. If they’re going to hook their wagon to his train, then they’ve chosen the consequences and are just as racist and horrible as whatever idiot they defend. And deserve to be called out, just like when support is given to any other random jerk. Start calling out his supporters and focus on them. Also- he isn’t a master manipulator. He never was. He’s shit at manipulation, my dog is better at it than he ever was. So please let’s stop with that talk. The people he manipulated wanted to be manipulated because he said what they were already thinking. Not because he had any real skill at it.

      • September 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm

        I don’t follow Hugo particularly closely so I may have missed this, but who is giving him a platform at this point?

      • Brigitte
        September 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

        There’s the Times of Israel to begin with, where he’s already published two columns and it seems he is turning it into a regular gig. Now, I understand that from the perspective of American media they are not that important but they are widely read across the Middle East. They are usually referred to as “the Israeli HuffPo”.

        Even more aggravating, there was this yesterday in the Telegraph (sorry, don’t know how to insert links so I’ll paste the URL directly):

        Guess what the whole interview is about? Feminism, of course! And not a single reference to any of the women he hurt.

      • Brigitte
        September 29, 2013 at 5:22 am

        It should also be noted that the journalist who did this very uncritical and whitewashed interview is the editor of xoJane UK. Neither Jane Pratt nor any of her editors have commented on how they enabled him. To add insult to injury, now one of the site’s employees is giving him a huge platform to continue doing the damage he has always done. She even celebrates her own ignorance of his actions by stating how she only knows of him through what he wrote for xoJane.

        When someone like Flavia asked for media accountability many were patting themselves in the back because feminism had been purged of this “bad” man. Not only is he sneaking back, but it’s the same white feminists giving him the platform for him to do so.

      • TMK
        September 29, 2013 at 5:57 am

        Have you read that telegraph article you quote? Because this:

        a claim of attempted murder of an ex girlfriend in 1998

        sound like a reference for me. And the whole article seems to be hardly praising.

        It has one HS quote i agree a lot, btw:

        The serious sort of feminists I grew up with would have looked at what I was writing and would have said it was frivolous

        So true. I read two or three HS pieces before the whole thing blew up, and they were redundant. He even did not write anything interesting about men and feminism or masculinity, arguably topics he could have something to say about, yet managed to be very shallow even there.

      • Brigitte
        September 29, 2013 at 7:41 am

        Because of thread nesting, I cannot reply to @TMK so I am replying to the comment above instead.

        @TMK, feminism is about centering the voices of women. A feminist account of HS and his actions would not give him a platform to come across as, once again, repentant and sorry. A feminist account of his actions would mean contacting the women he victimized (online and offline) whenever possible, listening to what they have to say and focus on their stories rather than the perpetrator’s. A cursory one line mention of his murder attempt is yet another glossing over his vile past.

        With this interview, he gets to tell his story again (as if this hadn’t happened enough times already), in a mainstream platform, while women like the students he slept with, his ex partners/ girlfriends, brownfemipower, blackamazon or Flavia Dzodan don’t get a single mention of the impact of his actions on them.

        That the interview was written by a feminist journalist who happens to be the editor of a major site for women is offensive. She should know better but instead, she is also profiting from this story at the expense of women.

      • TMK
        September 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

        I understand your point now, thanks for the elaboration.

    • TomSims
      September 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm


      I agree completely. With friends like Hugo, feminists don’t need enemies.

  11. matlun
    September 28, 2013 at 5:42 am

    I think the first question to discuss is what we mean with redemption.

    I am with AMM that if we mean forgetting it ever happened, then that is not happening in reality. On the other hand “letting the perpetrator be part of society” will always be happening except in some extreme cases (eg life in prison, death penalty), but their past actions will always be part of how we view them.

    So what does it mean?

  12. LH
    September 28, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Slightly removed from the HS and Chris Brown scenario but I often wonder about the ‘redemption narrative’ in terms of sex offenders. Specifically, online child porn sex offenders. I had a close friend who was caught with that material and jailed for a (short) period of time. He pleaded guilty (never intended to plead otherwise) and admitted it all the moment the police entered his home. He was in therapy before his case went to court and is still in therapy now (some 2 years or so later). I am still in contact with him but I am still FURIOUS at him. And repulsed and disgusted. I don’t know that there will ever be a point when I can move past what he has done. I don’t know if there should be a point where I can move past what he has done. Other mutual friends have (and are happy to have their young children around him) but I can’t seem to. He says he is sorry and that he disgusts himself etc but for some reason I still feel he isn’t taking responsibility. He makes comment on items posted on FB about child sexual abuse and says those people are disgusting etc but HE GOT OFF WATCHING THAT STUFF ON VIDEO AND SEEING IT IN PHOTOGRAPHS. I was always of the thought that a person isn’t solely defined by one action or a series of actions. But I can’t move past this in his case. I’m curious as to what other people think about this sort of scenario.

    • pheenobarbidoll
      September 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      No fucking way would he continue to be my friend, and I’d see him 6ft under before he got near my kid.

      • EG
        September 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm


        Fuck him. I don’t care if he says he’s sorry. I don’t care if he says he disgusts himself. I don’t care if he really is sorry and really does disgust himself. If he is allowing himself to be around children I don’t trust him. He’s the one who should be taking the responsibility to protect children from himself.

        And even if he were doing that, I wouldn’t be friends with him again. Child porn isn’t something you get to come back from in my world, and if he got within a block of my godson I’d kill him.

      • September 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

        Thirded. And has fuckall (for me) to do with not about being unable to forgive.. It’s about protecting my fucking kids. If I let someone like that around my kids and something DID happen, I could never EVER forgive myself.

        Hell, as my kids get older, I find I’m even side-eyeing friends of mine who tend to date “young” (you know, legal, but barely) and limiting their exposure to my kids.

      • TomSims
        September 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

        “Child porn isn’t something you get to come back from in my world, and if he got within a block of my godson I’d kill him.”

        I’d hold him down for you.

      • September 29, 2013 at 9:48 am

        Can we cool it on the threats of hypothetical violence, please?

      • pheenobarbidoll
        September 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm

        It’s not hypothetical. And women are allowed to express their anger/ rage towards rapists.

    • Donna L
      September 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Thirded, emphatically.

      And, no, “just looking” isn’t harmless.

      Nor do I buy the recent effort (reflected in at least one reprehensible article on Gawker, I think) to reframe this as just another sexual orientation. Ugh.

      • Donna L
        September 28, 2013 at 3:28 pm

        And for what it’s worth: I know EG’s godson, and he’s the second-most wonderful and adorable baby ever, and I echo her sentiments.

      • Donna L
        September 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm

        Just trying again — we need a giraffe! I accidentally used someone’s real name.

        [Thank you for this giraffe alert. – mods]

      • TMK
        September 29, 2013 at 3:08 pm

        You mean this one?–want-to-have-sex-with-children

        Pedophilia (the scientific thing, not the – iirc, more common -opportunstic child sexual abuse) is basically sexual orientation – pedophiles have preference for prepubescent children, the same way heterosexual people have preference for adults of relevant sex. That is known by psychiatry for quite some time already, although it obviously does not
        prevent the public opinion going apeshit on that matter.

        After reading the article i have to say it is quite good.

      • Safiya Outlines
        September 29, 2013 at 10:11 pm

        Trigger Warning: Child Abuse.

        Considering that nasty piece of hideousness and clickbait wrapped in faux insight, in the very first line describes in neutral terms a man “having sex with a seven year old”, rather then the actual man “raping a seven year old”, no that piece is not “quite good” and yes, people had every right to unleash a Herculean amount of push-back on it.

        Being outraged by apologetics for child abuse is not “going apeshit”

        Not at all in the mood for such nonsense on a day The Guardian sees fit to publish a big, fat excuse for Polanski under the guise of “providing nuance”.

      • Donna L
        September 29, 2013 at 10:31 pm

        I agree with Safiya. That article was reprehensible, and so is TMK’s response. How clueless does one have to be not to see that? Having sex with a seven year old? How f****ing dare you describe that as “quite good” or denigrate the angry response to it the way you did? Shame on you.

      • September 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm

        You know, I actually agree that pedophilia could possibly be an orientation and I still think that Gawker article is a giant load of victim-blaming, reprehensible filth. The first time I read it, I actually wound up retching. But I guess all that is less important than the super speshul rights of child rapists (pedophiles who have/ever act(ed) upon their desires) to feel like they’re totally justified in raping kids. Sorry for being apeshit. I guess that’s what several years of being groped by a grandparent will do to someone, right?

      • Donna L
        September 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm

        And I just read that Polanski article, speaking of reprehensible. Yes, he suffered a great tragedy with what happened to his wife, and yes, his childhood was about as horrific as a childhood can be — but no more so than thousands and thousands of other survivors who managed somehow not to rape and sodomize a 13-year old girl whom they’d first drugged with a quaalude. For which he’s never, ever once admitted that he did anything wrong. And I don’t care how talented he is, either. I can’t believe people are still making the same arguments after all these years.

      • TMK
        September 30, 2013 at 5:03 am

        Clearly we have read different articles. I read the same that one particular commenter read

        You would have to scroll down a bit for later comments to load, it begins with:

        Before anyone accuses me of being overly-sympathetic to child-molesters, hear me out. I was molested when I was 6 years by a neighbor who babysat me, and by my alcoholic father from the ages of 10 to 12. The man I dated when I was 17 years old raped me 6 months into our relationship. These things *thoroughly and completely damaged me*.

        And sums up my impression pretty well. I agree with the criticism about lack of trigger warning and i have mixed feelings about the use of sex, i get it but i think it was used from the abuser perspective, and they usually construct a fantasy where it is consensual, so i read it as that.

        Btw, Donna, your initial criticism was about the orientation, and i am pretty sure i did not denigrate anything except the public opinion.

        Polanski is reprehensible full stop, and i am not even going to read anything more about this.

    • October 3, 2013 at 12:52 am

      I agree; that’s one of the unforgivable, unforgettables, a point of no return. I have no children to feel that visceral anger, but I’m with the six-foot-under comments.

  13. tinfoil hattie
    September 28, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Stop bringing him up every couple of weeks, for starters.

    • pheenobarbidoll
      September 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Exactly. Focus on those who support racism.

      • Safiya Outlines
        September 29, 2013 at 10:14 pm


        Pheeno – I completely agree with your comments upthread. Talking about the doings of Hugo completely misses the point about why he got the support and other WOC feminists got a huge amount of negativity instead.

    • September 29, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Stop bringing him up every couple of weeks, for starters.

      Tinfoil is right on this one. The ONLY time I ever see this guy’s name is on Feministe.

    • Ledasmom
      September 30, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Just as tinfoil hattie says. It is possible to talk about redemption without ever bringing up this particular person; goodness knows fuckups aren’t that scarce on the ground that this must be our go-to reference.

      • September 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm

        It is hard, however, to talk about redemption following fuckups as a mainstream feminist blogger without mentioning this particular person, because the silence of mainstream feminist bloggers when we could/should have been supporting Blackamazon, brownfemipower, Flavia Dzodan, Amadi and others against HS’ attacks on them remains a stain on our movement.

      • Brigitte
        September 30, 2013 at 6:22 pm

        He has now been arrested on DUI charges. His vitim, a young woman, had to be flown from the scene. Flavia Dzodan posted it on her blog and Amadi confirmed it on twitter. She contacted the county jail and the office confirmed the arrest.

        Here are the screenshots:

      • Donna L
        September 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm

        Anyone who drives under the influence of 6 milligrams of klonipin, and seriously injures someone (I don’t care that he says she’s going to be OK; how does he know?), deserves to go to jail for a long time.

      • Donna L
        September 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        And I would say that even if I didn’t hold him in such low regard.

      • PrettyAmiable
        September 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm

        Shut the front door. His middle name is Benedict? No one else things this is kind of funny?

      • pheenobarbidoll
        September 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm

        Yes tig, his attacks are a stain. But so are all those of his supporters. Instead of focusing on him specifically, the focus needs to be on the feminists who willingly aided and joined those attacks. Again- he didnt manipulate anything that didn’t already exist. These attacks were being committed against WoC long before he showed up. He’s a symptom, not the cause.

      • September 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm

        pheenobarbidoll: to clarify – the stain I meant was the silence, the failure to offer support in the face of those attacks. I’m in furious agreement however that it’s the complicity aspect of that silence which needs to be owned by those of us who failed to offer support when it would have been effective, and for us to examine the reasons why.

      • shfree
        September 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm

        And what makes it worse is that picture of him with that smug smile on is face plastered on his web page. When he is writing of the awful, awful things he’s done, and still does. Asshole.

      • Jennifer
        October 1, 2013 at 1:36 am

        Oh lord, he’s at it again.

        I hope he actually makes it to prison/jail, where he can’t get online all the fucking time to pimp how awful/awesome he thinks he is.

    • September 30, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      I dunno. It sounds like WOC commenters/bloggers want Feministe to comment on HS for record keeping purposes. But if Feministe doesn’t comment on it, people will be clamoring that Feministe is supporting him by being silent.

      • 30ish
        October 1, 2013 at 4:20 am

        I’m not a WOC, but the message I got reading the comments was that WOC commenters wanted white feminists to specificallly address the part they played in the whole Hugo story. I also see this same statement made again in this thread. And talking about Hugo’s (non)-redemptions just isn’t doing that. I think the problem is that white feminists are saying “this is how Hugo fucked up” instead of saying “this is how we fucked up, and that’s what we’re doing to address it.”

      • 30ish
        October 1, 2013 at 4:23 am

        Or basically, what Pheeno said above.

      • October 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm

        Gotcha! :)

      • pheenobarbidoll
        October 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

        Exactly. You nailed it. We already know he isn’t sorry, that he’s a slime ball. He isn’t going to be forgiven by most woc, so now let’s talk about how the white feminists failed, and their redemption narrative. So far, I’m not seeing anything that motivates me to forgive them.

      • October 3, 2013 at 12:58 am

        I’d as soon never read anything about that creeper again, but if I must, I’d really like to see the word fuckup disappear from the description. Why? Because to me it suggests a mistake – a huge one, maybe, but not something intentional. This guy is a criminal – attempted murder, rape (in the sense of teacher/students) – and a racist. Those aren’t mistakes, they’re deliberate actions.

  14. Cara
    September 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Here’s the thing.

    It’s not about this narcissist’s redemption. There’s always going to be some other Elmer Gantry wandering into town.

    It’s about women’s willingness to throw other women under the bus to prove to some guy that they (we) aren’t like “those” feminists. You know–the angry, man-hating, anti-sex ones.

    And we’ll bend ourselves into pretzels to do it. Anything, anything, just so the boys don’t feel left out and not like us.

    All this creep did was provide an object lesson on How to Bring the Disease into the Recovery. He called himself a feminist and that was enough to let some of us pretend that up was down, left was right, ignorance was strength. Drag the patriarchy right in there and get the girls fighting amongst themselves (as they should be, by God). Status quo maintained.

    So. The question I have is, what will it take for feminism to get back to being about women’s lives, instead of what kind of people we are in relation to men? Will all this discussion get this train back on track? Or just provide more supply for this bottomless pit of a man?

    What will it take for this stupid battle for personhood to be over? Every time there’s a little headway the next crop of women lets some GUY redefine the terms. It’s like a mutating virus. It’s ridiculous.

    • AMM
      September 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      It’s about women’s willingness to throw other women under the bus to prove to some guy that they (we) aren’t like “those” feminists.

      (Emphasis mine)

      Yeah, I’ve been thinking along these lines for the past few months.

      It’s like ideas (feminist or not) are only real if a man says them. Just like women are only real if a man recognizes them.

      Reminds me of how they say, when a woman brings up a good idea in a discussion, the rest of the people in the room (both men and women) act like nobody actually said anything, and it isn’t until a Real Person(tm) (=man) says the same thing that they hear it, and of course the Real Person(tm) gets the credit for the Good Idea.

  15. September 30, 2013 at 9:26 am

    **slow clap** outstanding.

  16. AllyOop
    September 30, 2013 at 9:47 am

    The way I see it Chris Brown built his ‘public presence’ on music and only music, not out of the abuse of women or a promise to not abuse women, we don’t give him attentionto be moral, we don’t even give him attention to be decent, we give him attention for the music, and if people want to listen to the music then why should he step down? What does a douchbaggy thing he did have to do with the product he’s selling? Or his posts or tweets? Why does he have to essentially be banned from the internet and other public venues?

    Hugo Schwyzer Is different, he built a presense under the guise that he is feminist and promises he is atoning all the while speaking far too favouribly of his past and continuing to spout sexist bullshit. His product IS douchbaggery, but personally all I demand is he stop selling douchbaggery.

    • EG
      September 30, 2013 at 10:59 am

      we give him attention for the music, and if people want to listen to the music then why should he step down? What does a douchbaggy thing he did have to do with the product he’s selling? Or his posts or tweets? Why does he have to essentially be banned from the internet and other public venues?

      It depends on if you want to provide money and acclaim to somebody who abuses women or not. Polanski makes great movies, and I say Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown before I looked into what he had done, but he’s not getting a cent from me ever again.

      It’s one of the reasons I’m grateful that that I didn’t know about Clarence Clemmons until after he died.

      • range
        September 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

        … so naivety makes you a “good person” cus you didn’t know you were spending money on a “bad person”?

      • EG
        September 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm

        Naivety doesn’t make me a “good person.” It just means I’m not morally culpable for knowingly lining the pockets of a man who beat his partner. I actually have higher standards for “good person” than that.

      • EG
        September 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

        I’d actually go with “ignorance” rather than “naivete.” It’s not naive not to assume that a man has beat up his girlfriend.

    • range
      September 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm


      • TimmyTwinkles
        September 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

        Did you just give yourself a plus 1?

  17. TimmyTwinkles
    September 30, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I dont see why anyone in the “movement” lets any man get away with calling himself a feminist. The whole idea is absurd. I agree with some of the posters above, its like to some an ideas or activism arent valid unless there are men onboard saying “Good job girls, I completely agree, I’m with you, by the way please tell me I’m a good man, not like THOSE men over there.”

    • yes
      October 1, 2013 at 2:14 am

      This isn’t the dumbest or most useless thing I’ve ever read here, but damn if it isn’t close.

  18. 30ish
    October 1, 2013 at 4:59 am

    I have some thoughts on why attempts by white feminists (a group to which I belong, too) to deal with their complicity in Schwyzer’s wrongs haven’t really seemed convincing so far. For me it’s that the first reaction to Schwyzer’s twitter meltdown/tirade was to express distance: Emphasis on the fact that Schwyzer wasn’t a contributor here on Feministe (as an example, for Jezebel it may have been that they were fooled by him), that there never was any real collaboration with him etc. Basically, a statement to the effect that his actions weren’t in any way ours. Which is kind of the opposite of accepting complicity, because that would boil down to a statement that yes, there was some link between Schwyzer and white feminists, even if it didn’t always take the form of explicit and deliberate approval, encouragement, or support (but of course it did sometimes take that form, too). For many feminists it must have been more like swimming in the same feminist pool, occasionally exchanging pleasantries, or supporting people who then supported him. A systemic form of complicity, from which you can only meaningfully distance yourself by very actively shunning someone like Schwyzer. I was missing an upfront statement that acknowledged that this is a systemic problem in which white feminists are personally participating and that we must challenge. To really deal with complicity, the first step should have been to accept this as a fact, instead of starting out with “we didn’t actually know him that well”. I dunno. I do understand the need to express distance from a wrongdoer, but it somehow misses the problem and tends to make it about something else instead. About whether any individual white feminist has clean hands or not. Which, to me, isn’t really the issue.

    • Lateef
      October 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Completely agree.

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