In case anyone would like an update on the Relevant Magazine/Hugo Schwyzer situation, here are a couple of emails I sent Relevant. I have been asked not to quote their responses on my blog, and I will respect that, so the following are my emails, with brief summaries of the response I got in between.
My first email:
Dear Relevant Magazine,
I write this email hesitantly, because I am expecting to receive condescending pat answers from you, and I don’t know how many more of those I can handle today. I hope that you will surprise me by refraining from those and I hope that you will read this email with an opened mind and think about the complications of this issue. Thank you.
I am a long time reader of Relevant. In fact, I once called it my favorite website. I am grateful for the things it has taught me in the past and for the ways that it has inspired my own writing career. However, lately, Relevant has done many things that have convinced me that Relevant is not a safe space for the “least of these–” abuse survivors, women, and others in disenfranchised places in society.
Most recently, you have allowed Hugo Schwyzer, a former woman abuser and an attempted murder, to publish an article about women’s issues on your site. Simply publishing this article alone probably would not have warranted an email response from me, but how you have handled this has been disturbing for several reasons.
1. You did not disclose Schwyzer’s past in his bio, or put a trigger
warning on his article.
2. Some concerns you addressed with pat answers that amount to–“God has changed Schwyzer and we need to forget his past and have grace.”
3. Other concerns you simply silenced. I posted an article on your Facebook page addressing Schwyzer’s past. My post was deleted and I was blocked from Relevant’s facebook page. Several of my friends posted the same article and reported that their posts were also deleted.
You are not only refusing to disclose this man’s past, but you are actively silencing concerns. I am asking to you think deeply about the message this sends to your readers who are abuse survivors.
Yes, I believe people can change. The apostle Paul of the Bible is proof of that. But did the Bible edit out Paul’s history? Did Paul cover up his past?
To put it another way, what if a repentant child molester came to your church and wanted to work with children? Would you allow him to do this? Would you place him in that position without warning the parents of those children of this man’s past?
Why, then, would you allow a repentant woman abuser to write articles on women without warning women of what this man has done in the past? How can you expect women and survivors to feel safe commenting on your site or writing for your site, putting themselves in a position where Schwyzer can find their information?
Schwyzer has already shown that he has no boundaries and no concern for those who feel unsafe around him (he has attempted to follow my friends and me on Twitter, even as we were discussing on Twitter our being uncomfortable with his post on Relevant). Your unwillingness to inform readers of his history is enabling him to continue to make survivors uncomfortable.
Unless something is done about this, I will continue to use my platform as a writer to disclose Schwyzer’s past myself, and I will certainly reveal Relevant’s part in this.
Relevant responded politely, and even apologized for the fact that they did, in fact, respond with predictable pat answers. But, the fact of the matter is just that. They were pat answer–claims that informing readers of Schwyzer’s past would not be fair to Hugo. I wish I could show you the email so you could decide for yourself, but I did not notice any concern for the safety of readers or for the well-being of survivors. The responder claimed that Schwyzer was actually the best person to speak for women’s issues because of his past (I don’t even…). The email claims that the people who made the decision to publish Schwyzer were feminists (…oh Relevant. I have spent enough time on the internet to know that the word “feminist” doesn’t always mean “someone who gives a damn about women.” Hush now). The email is also clear that editors were well informed of Schwyzer’s past yet chose to publish him anyway.
They did apologize for blocking me from their Facebook page and for deleting comments. They’ve promised to be more careful about moderating these comments in the future, so hopefully that means comments will no longer be deleted (so those of you who aren’t blocked can comment away! Let people know the truth).
Also, they’ve agreed to use more trigger warnings on posts in the future, but told me that Schwyzer’s post did not require a trigger warning (so, I guess that means my triggers upon seeing Schwyzer’s name don’t matter).
However, as grateful as I was for the response and for Relevant’s addressing my concerns about their deleting comments, I had many more concerns so I wrote another email.
Thank you for your reply.
Since you believe that Hugo Schwyzer has changed and is deserving of a platform at Relevant, I’m curious as to what you think about his continuing to participate in activities that make women highly uncomfortable.
As my friends and I were discussing the situation via Twitter, Schwyzer attempted to follow several of us. Also, he “favorited” a tweet of mine in which I was stating my discomfort about him. After blocking him and expressing my discomfort about his attempt to follow several of us on Twitter, I heard from several other women who have experienced the same thing–having Schwyzer attempt to follow them or retweet/favorite tweets mentioning their discomfort with Schwyzer. This suggests to me that, while Schwyzer may no longer be hurting women physically, he has no respect for women’s boundaries online.
Knowing Schwyzer’s lack of boundaries, will you continue to allow readers, many of whom are linking to their blogs and facebook pages in your comments section, or following your writers on social media, to go uninformed about Schwyzer’s past?
Also, I am curious what Relevant thinks about these very recent Schwyzer articles (trigger warning):
Do you really want to direct your readers to this material and do you really want Relevant’s name to be associated with such content?
I have created a petition asking Relevant Magazine to please disclose information about Hugo Schwyzer if you choose to publish future posts by him. So far, 72 people have signed. 72 people feel betrayed and uncomfortable thanks to Relevant Magazine. 72 people no longer feel that it is a safe space. 72 people would like to have been informed.
You say that Relevant has made an informed choice to publish Schwyzer. Why are you refusing to give your readers that same opportunity to make an informed choice before publishing comments on his articles that contain contact information or before following him on social media? Why do you refuse to give your readers the same amount of grace that you claim to give Schwyzer (though I would argue that enabling a former abuser by not keeping him accountable is anything but grace) by informing them?
If you continue to publish Schwyzer’s articles without informing your readers of his past, please know that I will continue to petition and speak out against Relevant. It hurts me to do so because of the positive impact that Relevant has had on my life, but you give me no other choice. Also know that this conversation is being shared and continued by other bloggers such as Dianna Anderson, Elizabeth Esther, and Slacktivist.
People don’t feel safe at Relevant anymore. That’s not what Christianity should be like.
If you’d like to email Relevant yourself, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, please consider signing my petition to Relevant asking them to disclose Schwyzer’s past to their readers. Every signature equals an email sent to Relevant. At the time of my writing this, 73 people have signed and Relevant has gotten 73 emails asking them to disclose Schwyzer’s past. Relevant can’t ignore these numbers forever.