Early last year, women’s studies professor Hugo Schwyzer disclosed on his blog that he had attempted to murder an ex-girlfriend in the course of a 1998 suicide attempt. That admission first attracted broad attention a few weeks ago, and has since sparked considerable controversy regarding Schwyzer’s position in the feminist movement.
In his 2011 account, Schwyzer said that he called a friend to warn her of his plans before he slipped into unconsciousness, describing this as the successful effort of “the small sane part of me” to ensure that help arrived in time to rescue them.
But in a 2007 blogpost, republished in 2010, Schwyzer — who at the time described the incident exclusively as a suicide attempt, and the woman as his girlfriend — made no reference to any phone call, and declared that it was only his neighbors’ noticing the smell of gas that saved their two lives.
Earlier this week Schwyzer edited the 2007 and 2010 posts to remove the reference to the neighbors and acknowledge that the attempt to kill the woman was intentional. As I write this on January 7, the original version remains in Google’s cache of the 2007 post. The relevant passage reads as follows:
My last episode of drinking and drug use ended on June 27, 1998; my body filled with massive amounts of alcohol and prescription pills, I blew out the pilot lights on the stove in my old apartment and turned on the gas, trying to kill myself. I not only nearly took my own life, I came close to accidentally taking the life of my girlfriend as well. Had the neighbors not smelled gas and called 911…
I just wanted to get that in the public record before the cache went away.
August 2, 2013 Update | Yesterday Schwyzer posted to his blog a new retelling of the story of the murder-suicide attempt — his fourth or fifth, by my count. It’s longer than the previous accounts, and intended, he says, to correct the original version, which he now describes as “sloppy” and “terrible” in the course of suggesting that it was the cause of much of his recent trouble.
I don’t, however, see much that’s new in it. The claim that the murder-suicide was thwarted by his drugged decision to call a friend is still there, as is the oddly eroticized tone. Neither does the most recent account address Schwyzer’s past refusal to understand the murder attempt as a gendered act of domestic violence. But as he describes this version as “the final record on that sad story,” I thought it would be appropriate to reflect that here.