I was tripping over the many tumblr conversations about Hugo Schwyzer lately. A good number of people articulated some solid points about him, as well as the many who stated their outrage and distrust of him. Some folks take his writing as separate from his life and others will not grant this as valid. From what I see, he’s done some pretty shitty things. Each one of those points is worth discussing, yet something else was gnawing at me in all of this and that’s what I want to discuss now.
How did a cis-het white man get to be a voice for feminism?
(Posted at sexgenderbody.)
I was asking myself why is Hugo Schwyzer, a cis-het-white-male, even a topic in conversations about feminism? Why are we discussing his languaging of feminist concepts? Put otherwise, how did we get a privileged face in front of conversations about the abuse of privilege, mouthing the words of the oppressed with people accepting, repeating, defending and challenging him on his merits to speak for those denied equality by the privileged class of which he is a member?
The short answer is that it depends on the audience as to whether he is or is not. So, who then is willing to accept the face of Hugo Schwyzer as a mouthpiece for feminist ideals? Who indeed? Privileged, white people – that’s who.
The world population has slightly more women than men and of the world’s women population, whites are a minority. As far as the actual world is concerned, Hugo Schwyzer does not speak for them, about them or their issues an (I think luckily for them) they don’t even know who he is.
Most of the world’s women are not addressed by western Feminism(TM) nor have been since the brand was created. Whether we’re talking about suffragettes, 2nd wavers, radfems, women’s studies depts. or any of the top Feminsm(TM) blogs – the divide between issues created by privilege have not been bridged. Most of these voices are white, cis, het, English speaking and privileged.
Feminism(TM) worldwide has a white face. Don’t take my word for it – ask the planet.
They are not bad people, they are just privileged. The issues important to them are valid and deserve attention. They are not the issues faced by the majority of women worldwide. Privileged voices are capable of discussing non-privileged persons but not to the exclusion of those voices and concerns of women across the globe, cultures, languages and identities. No one face may in fact be able to speak for everyone, but the face of the most privileged are the least representative of those oppressed by the privileged class.
Just as cis-het-white, english speaking, educated women from NYC & London and womens’ studies depts. are not a representative voice for women’s issues around the world, Hugo Schwyzer is an even less appropriate choice.
It takes two to tango – one person and one huge crowd, eager for the message.
Hugo is just one person – he can’t get all this attention all on his own. The reason he gets all this attention is because there is a market for him. That market is made of privileged or privileged sympathetic minds: white people, cis people, het people, English speaking people and anyone counting the values and definitions of privileged classes as being their own.
US and British pop culture has demonstrated over the last 50 years in concrete dollars that if you want to sell an idea (especially one from a non privileged voice) to white audiences – put a white face to it.
– Elvis Presley to represent black music.
– Vanilla Ice to do the exact same thing
– Lady GaGa to represent LGBT issues
– Tim Wise to represent race issues
– Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Andrea Dworkin, etc. to represent feminism
Where is the living brown, queer or female voice to represent the voices of brown, queer, female or any non-white privilege that is accepted worldwide to international acclaim and making as much money or more than the examples above?
Perhaps it is a fact of human nature that we all seek what we are familiar with. This is not about those individuals anyway – this is about the crowd that seeks those white faces. The crowd that we are all part of. I am writing this in English, from the USA and how many people who are not privileged will read it?
You may not like what I say and you may disagree with it. That’s your prerogative. But I can tell you this – the rest of the world, the people we have systematically silenced – they don’t give a shit whether Hugo Schwyzer lives or dies. They probably don’t much care for you nor I either.
They’re on the shit end of our appropriation and exclusion every day of their lives. He’s not controversial. He’s just more of the same.
If we want to hear the actual voices of the world – they are already speaking. They have been all along. We just need to look someplace else than behind a white face.