Thursday, 26 September 2013

This is why it matters, because womens voices matter

     so, anyone who pays attention to literary corners of the internet will probably have stumbled across the misogynist, racist, up his own arse, literature professor who refuses to teach anything but white male writers because he only teaches what he loves. And you know fine, if he only read white male writers because that's all he loves, well I'm still going to judge him and not actually believe that he's read much of any other type of literature, but he wouldn't be hurting anyone but himself. But refusing to teach any other writers to his classes when he acknowledges in a later interview that "almost all my students are girls"  means that he is sending the message to his students that women can't write as well as men, and by extension women's voices are not as important as men, he is teaching  his male students that they don't need to listen to women and he is teaching his women students that they are not worth listening to.

Some of the responses assume that the whole thing was a deliberate stunt to help Gilmore sell books, which may be true, but the fact that he thinks so little of women and people of colour that he thinks its okay to say things like that for whatever reason is bad enough (and his "apology" does nothing to paint him in a better light) But this is also a really common sentiment heard from people both inside and outside academia, that women and people of colour can't write, or can't write well, or are too biased, (as if anyone writes from a non biased perspective) that only white men understand and have "universal" experiences that anyone else would want to read about. Some people are obvious and overt about only reading white men and will justify themselves at length but other people are ether more subtle about it or don't even notice it and they get incredibly defensive if they are expected to explain or justify it (and yet if you tell them you are only reading women they lose their shit). As Literary Magpie says

David Gilmour is the rule, not the exception. Young, eager writers learn there’s only certain things worth writing about, certain histories that deserve to be told. Some people never get to see work from people like them valued. Some people never learn to value people who are not like them.

This is a subtle process. I’m not saying that his students aren’t capable of figuring this out for themselves. But having taste projected onto you is insidious; it seeps into your brain. You might logically know that it’s artificial, but when everything you read is one way, you start to question your logic.

And I wish he would consider this: What is your job as a teacher? What kind of teacher do you want to be? Do you want to tow the status quo of how we imagine Literature, or do you want to open minds? Do you want to regurgitate or expand? Do you want to rehash for yourself, be the keeper of knowledge, or do you, yourself, want to learn each time you teach?

Just a thought.

This Way Lies Pedantry adds

He may well be the norm in the multitude of gatekeepers that close off writing for anyone but white, straight males. First the teachers, who refuse to teach or validate experiences save for those that are white, straight and male – and then the publishers, who refuse to publish save from the canon of white, straight maleness. This is how literary experiences are marginalized...And by the way, his very existence nurtures more people to become like him and take on his ways. A lot of students love to style themselves like him in literature. Academic machoness is a really widespread intellectual cliche that’s very contagious to vapid college boys.

 Kaitlin Mcnabb writes directly back to Gilmore saying

Women writers are not a novelty item or a token presence, first and foremost they are writers who happen to identify as women. Women writers write about the same things men do and even different things too because isn't that what makes a literary canon wonderful -- diversity in opinion, experience and style?

By not being accountable to your actions (re: they're sexist) and attempting to "check yourself" you reinforce the whole white male privilege thing that got us here in the first place. Saying you don't like women writers is inherently sexist because you are generalizing a whole group of people -- most of whom I'm assuming you haven't read -- and then saying "no."

I don't know how to sum up this third statement other than to say "your misogyny and white male privilege are showing." Constantly stating you teach "only the best" ipso facto "women aren't the best." You don't have to worry about male writers being left of the list. So...
I love that these bloggers and others have cared enough that they wrote these posts but I want us to go further than that. I want us to support women writers and support publishers that publish women writers. I want us to create spaces where women can talk about women writers and women's literature. Where women can teach each other that their voices matter, that we have things that are worthwhile to say, that deserved to be listened to

No comments:

Post a Comment