Friday, June 10, 2011

To Hugo Schwyzer, The Good Men Project, and any man who believes using and promoting the term "Sl*twalk" is pro-feminist activism

photo portrait of Hugo Schwyzer is from here
I want my daughter to grow up in a world in which all men are safe, responsible, reliable. We don’t have that world yet, of course. -- Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo could improve his daughter's chances of seeing that world if he was accountable to women who understand what is not pro-feminist about promoting events which use the word "sl*t" for women.

Hugo Schwyzer is not liked by MRAs. I'm not thrilled with his behavior, but not for the same reasons as MRAs. This doesn't mean "my enemy's enemy is my friend". For one thing, Hugo isn't my enemy. He's a very, very privileged white pro-feminist man with whom I disagree about many issues related to responsible pro-feminist behavior and activism. For another, he and I have a lot more in common than either of us do with MRAs.I believe Hugo is acting from places of great privilege and entitlement in supporting men using terms and being part of protests and actions called "Sl*twalk". I've already posted on this issue once, and that is linked to below. Also below is a modified version of my comment posted for Hugo to read. He has not responded to me.

My issues with him supporting things called "Sl*twalk" with a "u" replacing the asterisk, in case there's any doubt what word that is, are multiple.

1. The most marginalised and trafficked women typically do not have the option to feel or be empowered by using the word "sl*t" because men are daily using the term traumatically against them--in many languages.

2. Many people are called this term, with derision, with contempt, and with other forms of violence accompanying the verbal assault. Among those people are Indigenous women, Black women, Brown women, Asian women, gay men, trans people, and children across sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, and region. We might note that Hugo is not marginalised or oppressed in any of those ways. I contend it is partly because of that political position, and because of his accompanying entitlements to behave as he wishes without accountability to those of us he structurally oppresses, that he calls on men--probably mostly other het white men like himself--to also embrace the appropriation of misogynist-racist-classist language in the guise of being good profeminist men.

3. As a gay male who is stereotyped as being promiscuous, aka "a sl*t", I object to the use of the term to promote ending violence against people who are either women or who are denigrated, harassed, and beat up for being viewed as too feminine. Women are targeted by misogynists who actually believe some women are "sl*ts" and "h*s" and "wh*res", and many other terms in many other languages, far too often; far less often gay and bi males are abused similarly but in a very different political context--males always have some male privileges and entitlements, whereas women do not.

I also don't believe in promoting men as "good" as he does at The Good Men Project as long as these "good men" are not fully accountable to the people they structurally oppress. Unless they are accountable, they're not significantly different than any other men, in my view. Because without accountability, they are socially capable of doin whatever they want with the power, entitlements, and privileges they have.

What follows is from The Good Men Project. You may link back by clicking on the title below. Also included are some of the comments directed at Hugo, along with my own which is last on the list.

Why Men Should Join SlutWalk

May 24, 2011 By Hugo Schwyzer 86 Comments

Los Angeles SlutWalk steering committee member and GMPM columnist Hugo Schwyzer argues that SlutWalk is for men, too.

The sluts are in the streets. From L.A. to London, Minneapolis to Melbourne, this has become “SlutWalk spring.” (Down under, I suppose it’s “SlutWalk Fall.”) SlutWalk began in Toronto, Canada, in response to a police officer’s remark that if women wanted to avoid being raped, they shouldn’t dress like sluts. That exercise in victim-blaming led Heather Jarvis, Sonya Barnett, and a handful of their friends to put together a small march and rally through the streets of Canada’s largest city on April 3.
Perhaps it was the controversy around the name, or perhaps it was the cause itself, but in the less than eight weeks since that first SlutWalk, the movement has become a global phenomenon with widespread press attention. Satellite SlutWalks have taken place or are in the planning stages on six continents. The Los Angeles SlutWalk happens on June 4; I’m proud to be on the steering committee for what we expect will be a major event.
There are many reasons why men should be involved with SlutWalk. The important ones have nothing to do with what the women marching might—or might not—be wearing. (There is no dress code for SlutWalk, and past marches have seen folks rally in everything from bathrobes to bikinis to Brooks Brothers suits.)
When that cop in Toronto made that unfortunate remark about women “dressing like sluts” being more likely to be raped, he was telling a partial truth. He wasn’t right about who gets sexually assaulted—there is no study that shows that women in miniskirts or tube tops are statistically at greater risk of rape than their more modestly-clad sisters. Rather, he was telling a truth about how our culture sees men. And that truth is based on one very great lie.
I’ve been doing work around gender and sexual violence for nearly 25 years. I developed my college’s first interdisciplinary course on “Men and Masculinity” a decade ago. And in all my years of teaching and activism, I’ve come to believe that there’s one lie that’s bigger than any other we tell about men: we cannot reconcile our arousal and our compassion. In other words, the lie says we can’t truly respect what we also desire.
More than a few men, if they’re honest with themselves, know that this isn’t true for them. As boyfriends and husbands, many straight guys discover that they can both lust after and be genuinely in love with the same woman at the same time. We learn (most of us) that the older boys in the locker room were wrong: a hard dick can have a conscience. But we often suspect we’re the only ones who can reconcile our libidos with our ethics.
And so out of fear what other men might do (or, perhaps, what we fear we might dream of doing ourselves) we urge our little sisters and our daughters to “cover up”, to avoid dressing “slutty” in order to ensure respect for men. Deep down, we know that the women we love are as vulnerable to rape in a mu-mu as in a miniskirt. Men rape as much out of rage as frustrated desire—and there is no outfit short of steel armor a woman can wear that will protect her from an obsessed stalker or a drunken frat boy filled with a sense of entitlement.
I’m involved in organizing SlutWalk LA for many reasons. But I appreciate one assumption that the Toronto founders made in particular. Though what constitutes “slutty” clothing is obviously open to debate, SlutWalkers believe in men’s capacity to do two things at once: be aroused by what we see while honoring the humanity of the woman whose body attracts our eye. The most pernicious of all lies about men is that because of our makeup, lust and empathy can’t coexist within us. If you want kind and compassionate men who will respect women’s boundaries, the myth suggests, those women will have to conceal the parts of themselves that will turn men bestial and irresponsible.
There’s another lie SlutWalk refutes. It’s the one that says that men only need to “respect women who respect themselves.”
Too many of us still believe that “self-respect” for a woman means chastity and modesty. If she’s wearing revealing clothing, enjoys attention, and maybe even likes sex outside of a committed monogamous relationship, we call her a “slut”—and accuse her of not respecting herself. Perhaps she does respect herself, perhaps she doesn’t. (Promiscuity is not perfectly correlated with low self-esteem, despite what a lot of pop psychologists tell you.) But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Women aren’t commodities whose value is based on their own fluctuating sense of self-worth.
Common decency means respecting people because they’re people, not because of how we imagine they feel about themselves. So if a woman dresses in a way that we think invites sexual attention, or if she chooses multiple sexual partners, we’re not required to approve of her lifestyle or her fashion choices. But we are required to respect her right to move through public and private space unchallenged and unmolested. That’s not too much to ask for any man.
When I was first publicly identified as an organizer of SlutWalk LA, someone sent me a tweet asking how I’d feel if my daughter turned out to be “a slut.” It’s not as offensive a question as it sounds. It was a reminder to me as a dad that I shouldn’t advocate for others what I wouldn’t want for my own child.
What I replied (in more than one 140 character tweet) was that my daughter was foremost in my mind when I committed to the SlutWalk campaign. I want a world where she is free to grow into a woman’s body without fear of being raped. I want her to have the freedom to express her sexuality safely and joyfully in whatever way she chooses, whenever she’s ready (and not a moment before). And I want her to grow up without shame about her own wanting and about her wanting to be wanted.
I want my daughter to grow up in a world in which all men are safe, responsible, reliable. We don’t have that world yet, of course. But the reason has nothing to do with biology: it has to do with our crushingly low expectations of men’s capacity to reconcile lust and humanity. In order for our daughters and little sisters and nieces to be safer, we must demand better of ourselves as men. And one way to start is to challenge the very roots of our thinking about sex, desire, and respect. That challenge is part of what SlutWalk is all about.
—Photo by troismarteaux/Flickr


  1. Chiagoush says:
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    I think we need to change the way men see women period. If I wear a skin tight dress, it is not a non-verbal way of saying ,”have sex with me please!” And men need to understand that a woman dressing slutty is not a valid reason to sexually assault or rape her! How would men like it if every time they wear biker shorts outside, a women would rape them at gunpoint? It’s sickening! I cannot even wear a sun dress with out men trying to harass and assault me! And on another point, I think there is something wrong with a person who feels the need to have SO many sexual partners. Men have this problem more than women and I think there is something going on in men’s minds where they are lacking something!
      •   wondering says:
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        There is a whole lot of difference between dressing sexily and being open to approaches and dressing sexily and being raped. The difference is consent. Your friends are complaining not because they are not being raped but because they are not being approached in a friendly, interested, and nonthreatening manner.
        You are right that communication would solve that problem. If horny women felt more comfortable approaching men that they are interested in, they’d probably get laid more often. Of course, that is behaving in a way that women have been taught not to since birth, so it is really hard to get over – especially since there are social consequences for behaving that way. Because women aren’t supposed to ask – aren’t supposed to have to ask – and if you do, there must be something wrong with you. Fun fact, I’ve had men leave the club simply because I asked them to dance. Apparently “would you like to dance” is code for “I want to marry you, have 6 babies, divorce you messily, and take every penny you have in child support”. Or so I surmise.
  2. AlekNovy says:
    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6
    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.
    Slut-shaming will end the exact same day that creep-shaming ends. Both are ways society uses to control the sexuality of members it deems “unworthy” of access to sex or social status.
    So, asking men to unilaterally fight for women’s liberation is literally arrogant. If women do not care about dismantling the creep label, men do not have a contractual obligation to help women shed the slut label.
    I would support a creep/slut-walk.
    Guys are told continually “If you were falsely accused of rape, sent to jail and ass-r**ed for 20 years – well its your fault, coz you were creepy looking”. If women attack you and harass and bully you, well dude, its your fault, you were creepy etc… etc…
  3. jason says:
    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5
    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.
    what is a female issue doing in a mens site? we have had affermative action for 40 years which is sex discrimination anti male at its best , I wanted to march to support womans movement to stop violence against women but was told no only females allowed as “we ” males assult women.
    I am sick of my taxes going to every womans program ever devised , women in business , women represented in government , womans programs . all childrens government support monies to the ‘mother” as though Fathers have no say ? the divorce courts discriminating against males , taking their children , that term ” a male getting in touch with his feminine side ? meaning compassion, caring , love as though only females have that?? .and your “masculine side means agression!!! utter crap!
    the glass ceiling ? wtf?? only for high paid “clean” exec jobs ? what about” equality” on the dirty hard jobs men do ??? yes i am all for equal rubbish collectors, brick layers , sewage workers . truckies !! farmers, mechanics, plumbers , no it wont happen !! to hard lol
  4. Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    I appreciate the points re: “the lie that says we can’t truly respect what we also desire.” However, re: why men rape (“Men rape as much out of rage as frustrated desire”), the root cause of rape is the rapist’s violent insistence on having power and control.
  5. Julian Real says:
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    Hi Hugo,
    I hope that men also learn to stop calling women sl*t, b*tch, and all the other misogynist and racist terms so many men across sexual orientation think are so cool that they’ll now call men the same things–which, as far as I can tell, does nothing at all to stop men from using them against women. What’s your experience with hearing the terms men call women? Any change over the years that you’ve noticed.

    To add to the conversation on Sl*twalk, I posted this:
    I would hope that women with lots of privilege would be accountable to those women who are most negatively affected by those terms–and the violence backing them up. I support the least privileged women being the people others go to for advice and responsible use of such terms, particularly when they are being used “in feminism’s name”.

    All the women I know don’t like or approve of the liberal tactic of “appropriation” of misogynist terms.



Rather than so-called profeminist participating in a march which will have the opposite effect and justify violent men's common excuses/justifications for continued sexual/physical/psychological violence against women and girls they should be doing this. Namely those men should be organising a male only march condemning male violence against women and holding men accountable for condoning and or committing violence against women.

But it is far easier for these men to participate in a pseudo march which will do nothing whatsoever to challenge male hatred and male contempt for all women. Women cannot reclaim a misogynistic term created by men to excuse men's violence against women and justify male domination over women.

I know many women of differing backgrounds who have been called this women-hating insult by arrogant men who think women exist to serve them in whatever capacity they demand. Men hurl this sexualised insult and other insults at any woman or girl who they perceive is not according them due deference to the supposedly superior sex. A woman might just say 'no' to a man's demand she smile for him and immediately he throws a tantrum and calls her 's..t' because in his view women and girls aren't human so he can subject her to sexualised insults with impunity.

Male violence against women is global and whilst its justifications/excuses differ the violence men commit against women is not different but all too common and all too commonly denied and/or justified.

I don't want men to proclaim themselves 'good' I want men to accord women the same level of dignity and respect men accord other men they view as their equals. But that apparently is too much to ask so instead we have men proclaiming themselves to be 'good' which means they are supposedly better than other men. Well who decides these men are 'good?' Is it other men or do these men actually listen to what women tell them in day-to-day interactions. Especially when the man overrides the woman's view because he considers himself to be the expert and the 'little woman' should remain silent and listen to his wisdom (sic).

Those pro-feminist men could start by denouncing that misogynistic word 'sl.t' and tell other men to cease uttering such vile sexualised insults at women. Now that would be walking the walk not just posturing in an attempt to have their egos massaged by women.

Dark Daughta said...

Hi Julian, Thanks for posting this.

I have my own issues with the myth around wimmin's dress being the source of men's impulse to rape. I think, however, that slut walk hides some other agendas that don't actually have to do with unpacking this myth, that are distinctly about erasing feminism and foregrounding a particular kind of consumption/adoration of white wimmin's beauty and bodies, of young white wimmin's beauty and bodies that I find abhorrent.

Setting that aside, however...I'm not a fan of hugo's by any stretch of the imagination.

I wrote a post about the non-existence of male feminists years ago when I first came pregnant with my son to the blogosphere challenging men like him who defined as feminists.

I think it's bullshit for any patriarch to define as a feminist.

All I see online is men who define as feminists taking that definition as space to demand certain accommodation from female feminists and also insisting on having full leeway to define and affect the agendas for feminist struggles.

I don't like that. I think it's misled.

I think that the beauty of feminism for me has always been that it was a movement defined by wimmin, different kinds of wimmin who had different needs and agendas, who could struggle and debate over what the priorities were but whatever our disagreements, it was primarily our movement for us about us by us.

I don't like the idea of the "special"/magical male feminist rock star. I think you straddle that line, yourself Julian. But you are able to mediate that notoriety, that celebrity, that acclaim by grounding yourself consistently in your own privilege, not distancing from it, implicating yourself in the suffering of wimmin and doing the work in a way that speaks to this not being about attention and popularity for you.

I don't think all men who speak/write/blog on feminist issues are able to drag themselves back around to dealing with the not particularly glamorous everyday effects of their own privilege.

I think that men like hugo become confused and lose their way, never actually reaching full potential, as reaching full potential would see them shedding their liberal beliefs about themselves as male feminists.

I think they are offered too much leeway by wimmin and forget to check themselves. I think they get too much attention from wimmin and glut on it. I think they get too much understanding and way too much cred. I do think they tend to be rude to wimmin, to use their male privilege to dominate wimmin who don't agree with them, that they use their status as anomaly rock stars to behave disrespectfully and get lots of support for doing it.

They are male despots supported by wimmin who are so damned happy to have a man saying anything even remotely useful that they will bend over backwards and not pay close attention to the fact that men like hugo are not at all useful to us as feminist warriors learning to speak/write our piece fully.

I need more humbleness from these men than they are supported to give. I need less sexy male feminism, less pop star iconic male feminism and more of them standing back and letting wimmin hold the reigns of a movement that was conceived as a special place of power for us and not for them.

I more appreciate men attempting to connect with each other and explore what making a planetary movement for anti-patriarchal change looks like from inside the ranks of patriarchy might look like.

That would be a different beast, though.

I haven't visited his blogsite in years. I don't find him particularly deep as a blogger although he seems to get quite a bit of attention/hits/visits from other amerikkkan (feminist) bloggers.

I wish he'd spend less time being smug and arrogant and more time talking about maleness, masculinity, the myth of the "special"/magical feminist men and their privilege and male domination of us wimmin.

That would be sweet. :) Glad to see you're back, Julian. Hope all is well with you.

Julian Real said...

I'm glad you're around too, Dark Daughta.

I'm having trouble getting online, so my visits here are more sporadic than I'd like.

I'm working on it, and will respond more when I get the chance.