One of the problems with preconceived notions is that eventually the one-size-fits-all explanation will inevitably encounter something that does not fit. The average person might prompt then reevaluate their beliefs and views. Those holding fundamentalist views simply dig their heels in deeper and try to force their solution to fit, even when it is painfully obvious the explanations do not work or are riddled with contradictions. Those flawed explanations and contradictions do not stop those holding fundamentalist views, which tends to result in some rather disconcerting positions.
For example, when Sam Seaborn commented in Hugo Schwyzer’s blog, he stated:
I think, hey!, that Kimmel is not wrong on the insecurity part when it comes to why [the DKE chant that caused some recent controversy] was chosen, but I doubt it’s about reasserting dominance. If my understanding of the structures of such a fraternity is right, then the weakest members were forced to express the emotional insecurity felt by the others (those who came up with it) and there was certainly a rational understanding that this is not acceptable. Otherwise it wouldn’t have made much sense as an initiation ritual.
So, like you say, this seems to be a sign of things having changed. So, seeing this, and apparently agreeing with Kimmel, what does that mean to you and your tendency to analytically downplay male insecurities/problems and the social difficulties/problems stemming from them?
To which Schwyzer’s responded:
Sam, I think I write quite frequently about male insecurity! But as with the DKE pledges, the source of the problem is not women’s empowerment but men’s anxiety about losing status as a consequence. As I’ve blogged time and again, men are the primary architects of their own adversity.
No one prompted Schwyzer to give that answer. It just happens to be the ready-made answer he always gives when asked about the problems males face. His response is always that it is men’s own fault. When Sam takes Hugo to task for this, Hugo’s only response is to argue that he has offered men help via workshops (and he took a shot at men’s groups) and does more work for boys and men than his critics. That masturbatory answer may bolster Schwyzer’s ego, but it does not address Sam’s point. Schwyzer appears not to take male concerns and insecurities seriously, and the comments he offers do not appear to help. Sam sums up his point about Schwyzer’s views well:
So when I was saying “possibly not helpful” I was mostly looking at what I perceive as your attitude with respect to male problems in your writing (in your writing on this blog – it’s my only source) – and thus, indirectly, about your moral reference system. Remember that recent post about you marginally changing your position on porn *because you thought about it after you received letters from women*? It’s totally possible that your changed position is totally independent of that fact, but it’s certainly coming across as if you value *male positions* on the matter less than female positions. You see what I mean? You seem to have incorporated the feminist position that women have an epistemological privilege in gender matters across all your positions to a degree that seems to make it difficult to look at male confusion and just take it at face value (an individual’s pain) without saying, “but, dude, you’re a man, you brought this upon yourself.”
Unfortunately for Schwyzer, Sam’s point rings true. One can read any number of Schwyzer’s posts about masculinity, men, boys, or male insecurities and find the thread of “men brought this upon themselves” running through all of them. Schwyzer seems so wrapped up in his feminism that he cannot see or does not want to see that thread in his writings. That view seems so all-encompassing that when Sam uses the Red Army’s invasion of the German territories in 1945 to illustrate the flaw in arguing that because some victims are part of a larger group that had created a problem, those victims should be viewed as the primary architects of their own fate, Schwyzer responded with:
Sam, I reject the analogy. The German civilians who got raped by Russians were German women (though men are occasionally raped in wartime, it’s not at an equivalent rate). Even there, German men and women didn’t suffer in the same way.
And who are the Russians in your analogy? Women? No — the problem is patriarchy (or kyriarchy) and stifling masculine social structures. Individual men didn’t create them by themselves, but they were created by other men collectively and not by women. Extricating yourself from complicity is thus the first step to one’s own healing.
It never occurred to Schwyzer that Sam’s analogy was not about gender relations at all. His analogy only questioned notion that should men become victims (at the hands of anyone), one should hold those men responsible for their own victimization simply because another group of men may have created the social structure that caused those men harm.
Yet, Schwyzer seemingly could not help but argue that women have it worse, therein proving Sam’s point. Sam followed up with:
Of course, women have nothing to do with the bad stuff in a Patriarchy matrix… nothing. You know, I do recognize the seductive power of ideology. Really. Sometimes I wish I could convince myself of this or some other conspiracy theory, convince myself that there really is a simple mechanism that all else derives from, that there is a single unified structure making sense of it all. Makes finding answers so much easier… except – it’s not actually answers.
And suddenly Schwyzer is out of answers. He is stumped. Or rather he is caught, because it appears Schwyzer does realize the contradictions at play. He sees them clearly enough to try to work around them. However, as was mentioned above, eventually preconceived notions hit a roadblock and no longer work. In this situation the logical response would be to concede one’s position could inadequate. Not wrong, not flawed, just not the end-all solution. Yet Schwyzer does not offer the slightest compromise.
Sam mentioned the seductive power of ideology, however, views like Schwyzer’s go far deeper than that. Ideology can prompt a person to focus more on one set of issues over another, but it rarely causes a person to harbor an absolutist worldview. That comes from the seductive power of certainty.
Sam stated that everyone possesses axiomatic beliefs that are hard to justify, and he cited Gorbatchev and George W. Bush as examples, arguing that the difference between the two was that Gorbatchev was intellectually able to see beyond his beliefs while Bush was not. Sam compares Schwyzer to Gorbatchev, but the more apt comparison is with Bush because like Bush, Schwyzer operates from a position of certainty. It is not that Bush was intellectually incapable of seeing beyond his beliefs; he simply did not do it. Everyone can see beyond their beliefs, but not everyone wants to.
What Sam describes sounds more like the seductive comfort of ideology. Having all the answers, or least having a method to get all the answers, takes away the ambiguity that frightens people so much. The world is no longer nebulous shades of gray, but clear-cut black and white. That makes it much easier to handle, even though that view results in tons of false answers. Sometimes the simplest answer is not correct the answer. Sometimes things are much more complicated, much more nuanced, and far less intentional than people think.
Later on in the comments Sweating Through Fog asked Schwyzer for some evidence that Schwyzer has the balanced view about men and women he claims he does:
I’ll continue to await the demonstration, not the claim, that you have a realistic view of men and women, and a belief that they both have the full complement of human nobility and human sin. A suitable demonstration would be taking any man’s side against any women regarding any incident – simply stating that in this particular case (just pick one, they aren’t at all hard to find) this particular woman did something morally wrong to this particular man and she deserves our censure. Just one post.
You won’t do it. You can’t do it. Feminist women could, theoretically, criticize a particular woman and take a man’s side in some cases. Feminist men can’t. You might be gallant, but you are not so stupid as to do that.
To which Schwyzer responded:
And I came down very hard on Mary Kay LeTourneau for sexually abusing the young boy Vili Fualaau. He was an innocent child, she was a predator. Done. All you wanted was one incident; there you go.
Actually, that one does not count. Hugo commented that his inclination was to congratulate the woman for marrying her victim, then he turned to discussing female victims, and he ended by stating that “for what it was worth” (whatever that means) he was glad LeTourneau went to jail and wished her and her victim well in their marriage. That does not sound like he came down very hard on her. An example of him coming down hard on someone (undeservedly, I might add) would be his post about Pal Sarkozy.
As noted before on this blog, feminist men are in a very difficult place. They cannot be too critical of women or feminism. They must constantly walk the fine line between being revered, tolerated, and hated, and unfortunately the line is not always clear. However, that has little to do with the absence of feminist men taking a man’s side in some cases. It has more to do with feminist men not thinking they should take men’s sides in some cases. If one does not think men have valid complaints about their interactions with women, there is no reason to take their side.
Granted, STF’s request was technically unfair. No one should have to prove their credentials to anyone. Even though Schwyzer’s worldview is problematic and leads to detestable comments like his Pal Sarkozy post, he is entitled to his opinion. Of course, that is not the reason why STF asked Schwyzer for an example. He probably did so because he knew Schwyzer could not come up with one. To that extent, STF’s request has some merit, as it leads back to Sam’s point: “You seem to have incorporated the feminist position that women have an epistemological privilege in gender matters across all your positions to a degree that seems to make it difficult to look at male confusion and just take it at face value (an individual’s pain) without saying, ‘but, dude, you’re a man, you brought this upon yourself’.”