I don't know if you're already familiar with Hugo Schwyzer. I don't know that you really want to find out -- but in a nutshell, he's a Professor at Pasadena City College whose writings about men quickly turned him into the most famous male feminist on the Internet. Well, like many seemingly too-good-to-be-true scenarios, it all went to shit.
Schwyzer was exposed for cheating on his wife and having affairs with his students and with much-younger women. And... more or less being exactly the kind of predatory, sexist asshole he's been telling other men not to be. And then he had a mental breakdown on Twitter. We should all probably just step away from him at this point and let him fade away into obscurity. But the Daily Beast wanted one more interview -- and what Schwyzer told them is exactly what I DO NOT need to hear at this point in my life.
So Schwyzer cops, rather glibly, to being a total fraud since he's been living his life in direct opposition to what he's been preaching. And he admits he was just writing what he thought women wanted to hear because he wanted validation from us. Whatever. There's a lot that I find disturbing here, but let's zero in on this little gem.
He says he presented himself as the "ideal husband, father, and reformed bad boy." He gave us an "idealized picture of what's possible for men." And then he says he doesn't know any men who are actually reaching the standard for ideal manhood that he set. "No. I think there may have been a few who’ve come close, but none who succeeded."
This spring I started dating again after ending a very long marriage. And in the past five or so years, I've found myself surrounded by my friends' crumbling marriages as well. It's hard not to be cynical about commitment in that climate.
Then there are my single friends. "Start by assuming every man you meet is an asshole, and then work from there," was the advice one friend recently gave me. Oof, really? It's that bad?
So what I'm hearing from Hugo and others is that nearly all men are failing Good Manhood 101. They're just going to disappoint me, so I'd better set my expectations really, really low. Like in the basement, somewhere. And as a newly-single lady, well, that's kind of a bummer. At this point I just want to have some fun, get to know a few guys, figure out what I like. I don't want to start with "you're probably an asshole." I want to start with "you're probably a decent, honorable person doing their best."
I totally get that we all have to have realistic expectations. None of us are the "ideal" man or woman. Apparently many of us are trying. But... are any of us close enough? Not Hugo Schwyzer close enough, I mean sincerely, earnestly close enough to hold the fabric of society together. I don't know.
Let's make a deal, guys. I'll be realistic with my expectations, and I'll show integrity and be honest and kind and respectful. You don't have to be feminist of the year. If you harbor fantasies of bonking me over the head with a brontosaurus bone and dragging me off to a cave to ravish me, well, that's all right. Just as long as you agree to conduct yourself with integrity and honesty and treat me with kindness and respect. I think that's as good a place as any to start. And let's see if you can prove Hugo Schwyzer wrong.
Do you think all men are ultimately disappointing, or have you know men who can really live up to (or near) your ideal?
Image via Kevin Dooley/Flickr