An Open Letter to David Gilmour

25 Sep

Dear David Gilmour,

As a woman writer I’d like to say thank you.

No, honestly, thank you.

Thank you for being privileged enough, culturally tone-deaf enough, and even just plain stupid enough to say that you don’t love women writers enough to teach their works in your class. Thank you for saying what so many other male professors think but are afraid to admit. Thank you for opening up this huge fucking can of worms that most people are happy enough to pretend doesn’t even exist.

Seriously, thank you for reminding me that, as a writer who happens to be female, I will always be a woman first and a writer second.

Oh and thank you especially for throwing in that little racial comment about how you also don’t love Chinese writers, because you might as well shit all the beds while you’re at it, right?

But thank you. Thank you for proving how very unequal the world is when it comes to female writers and queer writers and trans writers and any writer whose skin isn’t lily-fucking-white. Thank you for pulling back the curtain and showing the dark, misogynist, racist underbelly of academia. Because when people like you pull shit like this, everyone is finally forced to pull their collective heads out of the sand and accept how very biased the academic world is.

Look, I’m not here to tell you what literature you should love or not love. None of us can help which writers resonate with us while others, though we can admit that they are technically proficient, brilliant with language, and certainly not without talent, fail to move us. We like who we like. I get that.

What I don’t get is how very little self-reflection there seems to be in your discussion of which writers you love and why. Have you ever wondered why you might possess such a bias against female writers, Canadian writers, and (apparently) Chinese writers? Have you considered what influence your own professors and their prejudices have had on you and how they have warped your perspective and taste? Have you thought about the fact that your own relative privilege means that without serious thought and introspection it’s going to be a real fucking challenge for you to understand the context and nuance of writers who don’t fit the mold of cis-gender white male?

And maybe what I really want to know is if you were ever up for that particular challenge, and if the answer to that question is yes, then I need to know when the fuck you got so literarily lazy that you could no longer stretch yourself enough to inhabit a skin that didn’t resemble your own. Because that’s what the best literature does, right? It takes us completely outside of ourselves and forces us to view the world from a completely different perspective. If done well enough, that experience changes us. Hopefully it makes us better people. I don’t understand how you could ever become a better person if you only ever read books with protagonists whose take on the world is, ultimately, not so very unlike your own.

I also want to tell you that as a professor, your first responsibility is to your students, not yourself. Like a good book, a good professor should change a student. The best teachers that I’ve had in my life have been the ones who’ve taken me out of myself and made me see the world in an entirely different way. Passion for what you teach is, of course, incredibly important and can’t be discounted, but so, too, is the ability to extend yourself beyond your own petty likes and dislikes in order to give your students a well-rounded view of literature. How can you possibly be doing that when every year you devote all of your time to re-hashing all of your favourite books? How can you open someone else’s eyes when you refuse to do anything but perpetuate your own biases? And honestly, if you can’t challenge yourself when it comes to how and what you read, how can you ever challenge anyone else?

Finally, I want to ask you how, as someone who is a writer who also happens to be female, I am supposed to process this. When you say that you “teach only the best,” what should I take away from that? Am I supposed to just sadly shake my head and assume that my vagina* prevents me from ever writing anything interesting or good? Am I supposed to laugh in a world-weary way and say, “well, that’s just one man’s opinion,” as if your opinion isn’t symptomatic of a much larger problem within academia? Or am I supposed to think that you are somehow trying to throw down the gauntlet, as if you could maybe bully women into writing something that you love?

Because the thing is, I’ve got my own fucking gauntlet to throw down.

I’ve got a dare for you, David Gilmour. I dare you – I fucking dare you – to spend six months reading nothing but writers who aren’t white cis males. Read female writers. Read Chinese writers. Read queer and trans and disabled writers. Read something that’s difficult for you to love, then take a deep breath and try harder to love it. Immerse yourself in worlds and thoughts and perspectives that are incredibly different from your own. Find a book that can change you and then let yourself be changed.

I’ll even put together a top-notch reading list, if you like.

In return, I will let you teach me to love one of the books on your curriculum. I live in Toronto; I can easily audit one of your classes. Prove to me that you’re a decent professor, and that the books that you teach will, in fact, change me the way that the best literature can and should.

I’m totally up for this if you are.

Sincerely,

Anne Thériault

Photo on 2013-09-25 at 4.18 PM

*Not all female writers have vaginas, and not all people with vaginas are female. However, since in my case my sex aligns with my societally-expected gender, and because I love the word vagina, I’m gonna run with this.

335 Responses to “An Open Letter to David Gilmour”

  1. Jen Donohue September 26, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    I have two reactions to David Gilmour: 1. he’s allowed. 2. he can suck it.

    I think that about covers it.

  2. ihatehugsalot September 26, 2013 at 5:25 am #

    Reblogged this on it's whatever i guess and commented:
    You’re so fucking genius.

  3. Anthony P September 26, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    I don’t see what’s so wrong in wanting to teach only what one is truly passionate about. Would there have been such an outcry if a female professor stated she only teaches works from female writers? Are our egos so fragile that we must scapegoat whoever doesn’t share our worldview, even if that worldview may threaten our own? Do our professors have to embody our own perceptions of what is perfection? Can’t an individual, even one we don’t like, be, if not accepted, at least tolerated in all their faults? To character assassinate an individual for what we consider a wider societal problem and ask for their dismissal is not only petty but unfair. It’s hard to take many of the comments seriously when a lynch mob mentality holds sway.

    • sue Nelson September 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      simple answer. call his course, “Male Literature”.

  4. evolution September 26, 2013 at 5:50 am #

    Aarrr, what is the deal with tho term “women writers”? I just attended the Donna Tartt’s stop in Amsterdam to promote her newest book “The Goldfinch”, and I witnessed male authors and publishers swarming around her like she was a demigod. Thankfully there are many men out there that love authors that just so happen to have a vagina.

    • John Grant September 26, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      What more needs to be said?!?!

      JG

  5. Ronan Guilfoyle September 26, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    I came across this on a Facebook post and followed the link, and I admit I didn’t know about this statement from Gilmour, nor did I know who he is. And I am sorry to say I wasn’t familiar with your work – but this is a brilliant response to an idiotic attitude, and I look forward to exploring your writing further. Sometimes the internet can be used for good rather than evil 🙂

  6. Kevin September 26, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    “I don’t understand how you could ever become a better person if you only ever read books with protagonists whose take on the world is, ultimately, not so very unlike your own.” Am I the only one who didn’t miss this perspective? Does this not pigeonhole all male writers to writing ‘ultimately’ the same characters over and over? Is this, in itself, not an insult to all male writers? A great writer imagines characters who are diverse and complex. If they all thought alike, all books written by male writers would be boring. I’m not saying Mr. Gilmore is not a sexist, boorish, entitled buffoon, but be careful of being the pot calling the kettle black.

  7. Rhonda Kronyk September 26, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    I’m a proud Canadian, but it makes me incredibly sad that I share citizenship with this cretin. His assumption that there is it acceptable to teach narrow-mindedness angers me. I can accept his literary preferences (we all have them). I can’t accept that he is allowed to teach he is the arbiter of good literary taste. Bah.

    This is why I read (and will keep reading your blog). Huzzah!!!!

  8. Synaesthetik September 26, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    As a woman and a feminist, I’ve been thrilled to be able to take courses like Minority Women Authors. But you could ask why the Minority Women Authors course doesn’t teach books by white men…Oh yeah, the prof picked the books she liked.

    Gilmour said something stupid and came across as a jerkass. He’s allowed, as the above poster (Jen Donahue) pointed out. I don’t see what he’s done that’s so bad. He didn’t say he dislikes women, or non-English, non-white people. He just likes the writing that he likes and he happens to like 20th century white male writers. He doesn’t feel responsible for moulding young minds, because he’s not. By the time you reach third year English, you should be accustomed to picking your courses. And if it’s Minority Women Authors you want, that’s the course you take, not Jerkass Males.

    Perhaps some of the responsibility rests on the students, to check out the curriculum before they toss out a thousand bucks on a course (or a prof) they may not like.

    That said, please post your reading list. I, unlike Mr. Gilmour, love discovering new writers. If you haven’t read it, I’d like to recommend Ravensong, by Lee Maracle. She’s Canadian (strike one), a woman (strike two), and non-white (Canadian Aboriginal, in this case, not Chinese).

    • geonz (@geonz) September 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

      Except the title of his course isn’t Jerkass Males.

    • Hal Cooper September 26, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      This, this, this… Pompous ass who thinks of himself as the arbiter of what’s good (and rereads and tells you how many times he’s read the same literature over and over), but misogynistic, anti-gay,Canadian-hater he’s not.

    • John Grant September 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      “He just likes the writing that he likes and he happens to like 20th century white male writers. He doesn’t feel responsible for moulding young minds, because he’s not. By the time you reach third year English, you should be accustomed to picking your courses. And if it’s Minority Women Authors you want, that’s the course you take, not Jerkass Males.”

      As Nick Mount points out: “There might be an argument for a course on middle-aged, white male writers,” Mount said. “But that’s not what the course is called.”

      Huge debt loads for a “UofT education”, that will be FAR more difficult for women than men to pay off. And for THAT they get male crap literature under the guise of something quite different.

      JG

  9. Tim Holloway September 26, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    In a commentary by Lauren Strapagiel on Canada.com, she quotes David Gilmour saying the following:

    “I teach middle-aged men writers not because they are better or because women are not as good. I only teach what I adore and can communicate. I’m simply not passionately enough engaged in female writers. That’s all.”

    This sounds totally fair to me. There seem to be differing views about priorities as a teacher, but Gilmour seems to want to teach what he loves, not what he doesn’t. Unless he is expected to fulfill a rounded curriculum encompassing various ethnicities or sexualities or personal backgrounds, I don’t see any reason why he should bother against his better judgement.

    I don’t know this man, but I see no reason he should be so heavily criticized. Then again, to me, it’s possible that it’s this very attitude of equality that has diluted much of literature, even and especially that done by women. Writing and reading are NOT rights. It makes zero sense to me, all rational things considered, that anyone be read when they are not liked or readers don’t want to learn from what they don’t like.

    Life is pretty short. I don’t want to take the masochistic route of studying a bunch of garbage, regardless of whether the author had a penis or a vagina or who the ancestors were. I don’t want to read it and I don’t want to write that crap. And to be honest, unless it comes in a FAIL compilation in which I can laugh at its stupidity, it’s too much effort.

    Or, if everyone wants to advocate for initiative, perhaps they can all take their fucking heads out of their asses and deal with the problems of the world instead of complaining about this junk. It’s literature, not detention. I don’t want to learn anything from fiction unless I choose to or the literature is persuasive enough to trick me into it.

    And you, Anne Thériault, don’t seem to have anything insightful to say that hasn’t been said before. Your “fucking dare” just goes to show how sado-masochistic you are, at least. It sure would be nice if you or Strapagiel had taken the time to write something worthwhile that truly got to the core of the issue instead of playing the PC card or acting like you’re victims. But you are victims, aren’t you? All women are, right?

    Maybe David Gilmour, like me, doesn’t want to read the whinings of anyone leaning on the fact they have a vagina (or a penis) when they write as validation. I certainly don’t want to read the female equivalent of a so-called dumb jock making every so-called feminist excuse to make themselves sound important or relevant.

    Did you read what he said about the works of Virginia Woolf? In the interview you linked to on Random House’s website?

    I quote: “And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class.”

    And did you notice that most of the names he gives are authors who lived near the turn of the 20th century? Virginia Woolf, too. My guess is that back then, before women’s suffrage or around that time, women seeking equal rights had GUTS. They didn’t write whimpering piss like you have, Anne Thériault, using those hard-won rights to justify changing one man’s curriculum based on his personal tastes. These were women who I imagine would piss their names in the snow if it helped their cause ~ not because they wanted to be like men but so as not to give men the slightest edge over them.

    I noticed you didn’t give a single example of a woman auther David Gilmour might appreciate. Your reading list remains hidden. That dare of yours ~ lasting SIX MONTHS ~ would be crazy to follow, especially for a man who has probably devoted a very considerable chunk of his life reading a variety of literature. And that’s quite the cheap-ass return for his efforts you offer: that you will LET him TEACH you ONE of the books on his curriculum… so you can just sit there for about 40 hours over THREE MONTHS after having read ONE book, and that’s if an entire semester is spent on it. Is that your idea of fairness? Equality?

    The kind of crap-centred, fluff-bunny blog entry here is just the kind of shite I’d want to avoid in a literature class, either as the subject matter or the discussion.

    Some women actually fought with everything they had to get rights for women ~ rights they should have reasonable had all along. Others endured serious discrimination in the workplace to get sexual harassment and discrimination laws to become a reality. And although women may still be on the receiving end of sexism, I’ve seen enough terrifying sexism from women to cry a big FUCK YOU to modern feminism. Have you watched The Amazing Atheist’s “It’s Only Sexist When Men Do It”? He talks about an episode of “The View” where they laugh about a woman cutting off her husband’s penis and throwing it into the garbage disposal after he asked for a divorce (one of them saying “I do think it’s quite fabulous”) and paints the picture of a circle of men laughing about a man cutting off a woman’s clitoris or cutting off her breasts. He says we’d be calling for their heads on sticks. Yet this is what some women have chosen to do with their freedom and their relatively recently hard-won rights.

    Honestly, I don’t really see why women can’t just be better than men and MAKE it work for them. Oh, perhaps we men have it easier, but I don’t think I regularly witness female oppression around me.

    I’ll tell you what, Anne Thériault: I dare YOU to find a book written by a woman that is truly comparable to any of the authors David Gilmour seems to love, including Virginia Woolf. Find just one and tell everyone why. Argue it clearly, as clearly as David Gilmour would or at least clearly enough that it warrants the attention of one of his classrooms of first-year or third-year students.

    And if you can’t do that, just remember to put down the seat before you pee, because I don’t want to do it for you or anyone like you anymore. You’re not a “real” woman until you can represent other real women without championing their mediocrity.

    Oh. There is one other thing. I respect authenticity far more than drudgery. If a professor/teacher is to respect me or put me first, I want them to be honest with themselves enough to tell me the truth instead of bullshit me. That’s what “real” men do, too, instead of forcing everyone into things they don’t want.

    • Fred September 26, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Well said!!

    • Elena Zeledon September 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      Let’s just start with Isabel Allende’s “House of the Spirits”. Makes poor old F.Scott Fitzgerald wanna roll over and die again. Same themes, but Allende does it way better.

      • Tim Holloway October 1, 2013 at 9:05 am #

        Okay. I think I’ve seen the movie starring Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and Jeremy Irons, but fair enough. My lingering impression is that it was noteworthy. I will have to take a look. Thanks.

    • Soozeekew September 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Although some of your comments are actually valid, especially the bit about the women on The View and their reaction to a woman cutting her man’s penis off, when you say “Oh, perhaps we men have it easier, but I don’t think I regularly witness female oppression around me”, I’m gobsmacked. I don’t think you’re looking very hard, or very far.

      • Tim Holloway October 1, 2013 at 9:16 am #

        You’re right, I’m not. I don’t look for it. What I end up noticing about women is how they fall into sexual or sexualized roles, looking a certain way, being concerned about certain things. I know some women I really respect, and although acting “like a woman” can be part of it, what I see in them is that they’re genuine. At our ages, most of them are mothers, so that forms a great deal of their focus, but like I said, I don’t think I regularly witness female oppression. I hear about it in the news happening in other countries. I don’t see it in the streets and I don’t find it when I’m out shopping or in the workplace.

        I’m certainly not claiming it doesn’t happen or that men having it easier sums up the situation in general on an international scale. But when it comes to women’s equality, I think the fact that we have the relative luxury of such a debate over the curriculum of a single professor says much, both for our freedom of speech (regardless of sex… and ethnicity) and our decadent use of it.

        I think men having it easier is really a lingering symptom of a past of sexism that’s carried into the present. I’d like to think that men in my generation (and women) generally don’t give or receive prejudicial treatment, though I know that’s not true. Only seven years ago, I the president of the University of Victoria Dance Team/Company told me they didn’t have any men that year because last year’s men didn’t pay their fees. I expect that kind of petty judgement will always be around in some form or another. Also, I notice in ads for shared living arrangements on craigslist that there are sexual preferences on both sides but I dare say the majority of such expressed preferences are in favour of women. As if my having a penis or a vagina should be relevant when looking for a place to live!

    • godsprey September 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

      Wow. You really sound like someone who’s constantly on the lookout for examples of female oppression. How about this one: at the time that many of the authors Gilmour cites were writing, women either had no access or very limited access to education, and were, for the most part, expected to shut up and stay in the home. Doesn’t that count as oppression? Doesn’t the fact that women’s literature has only in the past century started to be taken seriously (really only the past 50 years or so) – compared to the millennia we’ve spent studying men’s literature – count as oppression? Yours is a sad rant, rife with bullshit if I have ever heard it.

      • Tim Holloway October 1, 2013 at 9:29 am #

        You… did actually read what I said about suffragettes, right? I don’t know what they went through. Social Studies was my worst subject in high school. But I do believe that they were very unfairly treated to say the least. I believe what you say about women back then.

        It seems you’ve not really taken in the context surrounding my statements. I did point out that women fighting for their rights should have had those rights to begin with, without the fight. Yes, it was oppression!

        Although I have a BA in Writing from the University of Victoria, I know little about the history of literature as concerns the sexes.

        Whoa whoa whoa whoa. If I’d read your last sentence before writing, I wouldn’t have even bothered. If that’s your attitude, you can go back a hundred years where women were oppressed. Some people, regardless of sex, should be shut up.

        It seems you had little patience to read my “rant” as you put it properly. Fine. But I was never arguing that women haven’t been oppressed or aren’t at some disadvantage today. I do mean to suggest that I believe that stuff has little bearing on the choices of David Gilmour… unless you combine the era of his favourite authors with the difficulty of female writers at the time getting published. Then you’d be spot on.

        But I think you’re the one with the sad rant. Yours is rife with unnecessary statements to someone who’d already suggested most of them in the “sad rant, rife with bullshit” you’ve so meanly dismissed.

        Maybe if you really want to learn about history… or our present condition, you should pay enough attention to the subject matter to make an informed or relevant statement.

        I did, however, pick up one thing from what you’ve said. You’re right that we’ve been reading men or have the writings of men as a record of our history and pervading the written word for all its uses throughout history. That’s extremely unfair. But I sure wish you’d used what words you chose to make a better point. Bashing what I’ve said like you have was counter-productive and, to me, irrational.

        You are someone else, based on what you’ve said, that I would not lower the toilet seat for :-p

    • awesome September 26, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

      bravo bravo!

    • Anne September 26, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      Well said.

  10. Debra O'Brien September 26, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Reblogged this on The emperor's new frock and commented:
    Anne Thériault, a writer, posts an open letter to a university professor who refuses to teach women writers. Great article ; heroic and hilarious comments.

  11. Strong Heterosexual Male September 26, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    all profs teach what they like, so he’s no different there. then the argument really becomes about what he likes and how he talks about it. let’s remember, he’s not teaching some mandatory 101 course, so he doesn’t HAVE TO teach anything in particular that he doesn’t want to teach and you don’t have to take his course. (not that profs who teach those courses exercise any less personal choices in their pick of material)

    let’s break down the things that offended people about his comments:

    how is him asserting that some authors’ writings embody his personal idea of heterosexual masculinity offensive? (try not to read into this statement what isn’t there)
    is the very idea of classical heterosexual masculinity now offensive?

    he also only teaches American and Russian authors — is he anti-Canadian based on that?

    and so what if he doesn’t care for most female writers, other than Virginia Wolf, whom he apparently considers “too sophisticated” (what a sexist pig thing to say, right)?
    there are plenty of other courses who teach female writers exclusively and nobody complains about the choices of those profs. (some of them are not even subject-relevant: in my 3rd year I had a prof, who made us buy, aside from her course reader, about 7 books, all of which were by female authors. it was a History course on the rise and fall of Soviet Union — no reason for having all-female authored course material other than prof’s own feminist agenda. at lest in his case you know what you’ll be getting and can make an informed choice on taking the course).

    and even if he was a bigoted old turd (which is not the case based simply on his classification of authors he likes and choice of material for his courses, though you really do work hard at scewing his words and putting things into his mouth to make it seem as such), since when have the universities become a vehicle for popular opinion indoctrination? isn’t the whole point of having diversity in learning, that one can go and take some middle of the road balanced literature course, then take a course on gender and sexuality in literature, then take some batshit crazy feminazi course, then go to the other end of the spectrum and take a course by some cook who thinks he is being the last bastion of heterosexual masculinity — take all of them or only a selection and make up your own mind, isn’t that the point?

    this is nothing but desperate bait for controversy by a two-bit hack, who either haven’t read the full comments she is responding to or thinks nobody will notice the lengths of manipulation and misrepresentation of those comments to which she goes to in order to construct her scewed straw man so she can then knock him down. throwing down a “challenge” in her utter stupidity and ingorance, actually thinking a professor of literature is less well-read than her comical entitled self.

    P.S.: UofT has a Faculty of Theology, for Christ’s sake, a whole building, and you are griping about this?! C’mon people!

    • THANKGOD September 26, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      THANK GOD FOR YOU! I am a straight female and I can’t say how annoying all of these rants are.

  12. skywanderer September 26, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    Great job, huge knock-out to this prime member of the narcissistic “academia” of a$$holes. Evidently he is a sexually disturbed pseudo-intellectual, fascist bastard holding a PhD degree in the distinguished major of M.F S.O.B.

    Sadly, the same narcissistic and racist crap that this subhuman entity represents goes on in every sphere of our narcissistic society.

    The hardest thing of all is to find the “proper way” to respond to the provocations of full-blown pathological narcissists like this Gilmour. If we stay calm and unresponsive, then we are staying in their realm of hypocrisy thus may cause harm to our souls; if we rebel in anger, which is the healthy thing to do, they will point back at us: look at this raving ready-for-asylum idiot.

    If I may attach my humble message to this eminent specimen of all woman-haters, please forward this to him – maybe he and his rightly gendered students can together analyse it in class:

    “Thou arrogant knotty-pated bugbear, traitorous earth-vexing varlet, adulterate sheep-biting devil-incarnate, thou venomed muddy-mottled measle, degenerate tickle-brained slug, thou earth-littering, bootless idle-headed writhled shrimp, thou saucy long-tongued, clay-brained malt-worm, thou venomed beetle-headed minnow, go ahead and mate with thyself!”

  13. yondar September 26, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    You GO GIRL…. What a wonderful way of not telling this “man” he needed a set of balls… I’ve learned much more about writing from Vagina clad humans than I ever will from those without….

  14. Kevin Craig (@KevinTCraig) September 26, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    I love you so much for writing this letter! Sincere apologies from a cis-gendered white male who is outraged by Gilmour’s comments and saddened to know that he is not alone in his obtuseness.

  15. Nina Gaby September 26, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    We can’t help what we love. I’m a dyed-in-the-womb 63 year old feminist who cut my teeth on the seriously hetero white male writers and I’m not proud to say I usually resonate best with them still, just as I will still cry in front of a Rothko or a Hamada tea bowl. But I have the luxury of wallowing in my own opinion. The crux of this wonderful blog is: “AS A PROFESSOR YOUR FIRST RESPONSIBILTY IS TO YOUR STUDENTS-NOT YOURSELF.”

  16. lelbc43 September 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Can we have that top-notch reading list?

  17. MoonshineHigh September 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    This article is brilliant!

  18. Katalina4 September 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    YES.

    • Caro Soles September 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Brava! And I, too, would be interested in that reading list. I wonder if this instructor has any female or queer students? 🙂

  19. Joanna September 26, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Never read you before but now I am going to “follow you”. BTW, I had to google Gilmour to remind myself who he was…

  20. Greg Klymkiw (@GregKlymkiwCFC) September 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Dear Anne: It must be noted that while David Gilmour is an asshole, a marginal talent and a senior citizen (not, as he asserts, middle aged) he is, as Holger Schott Syme illuminates in the fine article entitled “The Loneliness of the Old White Male, that Mr. Gilmore is not even a real literature professor. He’s not a member of the University of Toronto English Department, but appears to be an untenured lecturer in some questionable courses at Victoria College. Much as I agree with your brilliant, funny, incisive and impassioned piece, Anne, your assumption that David Gilmour would even be capable of doing what you suggest he do is probably beyond his meagre grasp.

    Sincere Regards,
    Greg Klymkiw – Writer/Filmmaker
    http://klymkiwfilmcorner.blogspot.ca/

    • lysias2 September 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      I’m afraid it’s even more dismaying to learn that Gilmore is on the fringe of academia, which only goes to show how entrenched the establishment is–that it can use a lesser footsoldier to advance its cause effectively (as the various defenses of Gilmore here illustrate).

  21. Rupert September 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Gilmour comes off as a pompous ass, but unless he’s recommending that women (or Chinese) writers be excluded from the U ot T curriculum entirely, I don’t understand why he’s being lambasted for wanting to teach what he feels he can teach most effectively.

    • THANKGOD September 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      THANK YOU

  22. Alfalfa September 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    And thank you for judging the entire world based on one idiot.

  23. Michelle September 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Brilliant! Thank you for responding to that pile of crap so eloquently.

  24. Janice Price September 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Brava!

  25. Boulderbird September 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    I want a copy of that reading list!

  26. Anna Therien September 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Touché. I would love a copy of that reading list when you’re finished 🙂

  27. sheila potter September 26, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    I think you give him too much credit. In the minds of many, a writer is a writer. He has his head firmly up his own arse and in his arrogance, thinks that “teaching” is all about himself. If he were alone in the lecture hall, that would be OK. Otherwise, he will never be a teacher – merely a pontificator.

  28. Lynda Simmons September 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    No better way to bring attention to yourself and your work than by saying something outrageous in a public platform. The man wants us to react, to tweet about him, to write columns about him, to get his name out there front and centre for weeks to come. Let’s just agree that he’s entitled to his opinions and ignore him completely. That will drive him crazy.

  29. Tim September 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Could I maybe get that reading list? All my favorite authors are dead white dudes, though I did like what I’ve read of Urula le Guin and Margaret Atwood, and it might be cool to read something else.

    • manofdistraction September 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      I’m with Tim, bring on the list … my mind is open and thirsty!!!

    • Vonn New September 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      second this.

  30. Joe Wilder September 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    This is pointless. I see “women’s studies” classes. Go bitch about that, why don’t you? I don’t see anybody writing in about that, and there are NO “men’s studies” classes to counterbalance that I’m aware of anywhere. If he went in saying he was only teaching men, and the University was okay with that, your beef is with the University, not Gilmour. And no, we don’t all want to hear about your vagina…and I would doubt if you went waving it around that many would find it attractive enough to look at twice.

    • THANKGOD September 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      THE BEST

    • Jemster September 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

      Most of *society* is nothing but “men’s studies” classes. And that last line…stay classy bent outta shape dude.

    • liz September 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      Um I dont know…maybe because every other literature and history class is basically already a men’s studies class?

      • dkaplan73 September 26, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

        This suggests two things: 1. That all general studies courses focus exclusively on male accomplishments and careers. 2. That the subject of men and masculinity isn’t deep enough as to warrant it’s own version of “women’s studies”.

        First, I’m certain – from preschool to college – you’ve been exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of examples where women contributed to the accomplishments of humanity throughout history. Whether it be Joan of Arc, Susan B. Anthony, Harriett Tubman or Amelia Earhart… there are famous and not-so-famous women be taught about in core curriculum throughout schools and universities all over the world. So, this statement is patently false.

        Second, most people – myself included – can appreciate the variety of injustices that women struggled with throughout history. And while I certainly wouldn’t deny a special place for those wishing to increase the depth of their knowledge when it comes to the topic of women and femininity – that still doesn’t negate the fact that men and masculinity are two topics that are as deep and multifaceted as any topic one would explore in an academic setting.

        There is absolutely no reason why those unique topics can’t be explored and researched with as much depth and passion as philosophy, physics or “women’s studies”.

  31. James September 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    You miss his point completely and end up sounding like a petulant spoilt child. You have no idea what he has or has not read. Stop whining, cough, clear your throat and speak as if you have some balls. Otherwise it’s impossible to take you seriously…..and I’m really trying to.

    • THANKGOD September 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      WIN

    • manofdistraction September 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      I think she spoke quite well. Apparently she knows she doesn’t actually need balls to speak, just a brain and a mouth. Sadly, it seems that yours are standing in the way of you understanding, even though you claim you’re trying.

      I got it, me and my balls, we understood.

    • Jemster September 26, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      Ah, you imply – erroneously – that you need balls to be tough. So sad.Really. You need a *brain* to be tough, two things hanging outside the body have nothing to do with it.

  32. Nagzilla September 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Beautiful! Thank you!

  33. Carolyn September 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Hey! Nice choice of words:) —-can you post the original citation of what Prof. Gilmour actually said?? I think I like what u have to say but, it’s hard to read with any perspective of my own as I’m not sure what he said.

    • JB September 26, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      She did post the original citation! Just look back up, the very first link where she tells us all what he said. it’s linked to his original article.

  34. Sheila Horrell September 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    very well written, and true. Please post the reading list!

  35. sue Nelson September 26, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    please start a petition. he is NOT allowed to be using/ teaching based on misogynist practices and beliefs. lets toss him out.

    • sue Nelson September 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

      a letter to U of T with a few thousand signatures ought to have more effect than commenting here or anywhere.

      • THANKGOD September 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

        how many of those signatures would just be from angry females like yourself? see if you can also get a few thousand signatures from the angry chinese as well. oh wait…they aren’t bitching about this. why is that? oh right, BECAUSE THEY DONT GIVE A SHIT

    • Fred September 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      Oh he’s not allowed to have an opinion now cause it differs from yours?! This should now cost him his job? He’s open about his opinions from the get go and if students disagree they can walk. It’s a funny world we live in when we preach freedom of speech and diversity but it really means is freedom of speech for those who will preach our word and diversity in looks, not opinion.

  36. Tom Allen September 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Fantastic letter. While I know he doesn’t deserve it, I’m currently tracking down an address for Gilmour so I can send him one of my copies of ‘Americanah,’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: it’s just the meatiest damn novel I’ve read by anyone, male, female, cis-gendered, queer, Chinese or otherwise, in a very long time. Sure, she’s a woman of colour, and *gasp* an African. But she’s also one of the best writers of her generation, period. Again, Gilmour doesn’t deserve this book as a gift, but he sure needs it.

  37. David Jonsson September 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    dont put deaf and stupid together in same sentence. it implies deaf are stupid. that is inconsiderate and audist

  38. Nancy Zrymiak September 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    You’re awesome, love your passion and your post!

  39. Anthony September 26, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Reblogged this on In the Interval and commented:
    As a theatre professional, one of the things I love most about theatre is that I get to experience people I might never meet. I gain at least a small understanding of other people’s lives and experiences; either through playing a character or watching a portrayal. ONe would think that literature could serve the same purpose. And, it can if we allow it to. I’ve never heard of David Gilmour, but Anne Thériault has, and she’s mad as hell about it – with good reason.

  40. Debbie Bateman September 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Thank you for your posting. It gives me heart. I respect the challenge you put forth. Unlike the comments made by Mr. Gilmore, you demonstrate integrity and openness. I wait for his response, but doubt that he has the courage or integrity.

  41. SO annoyed September 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I am a white heterosexual girl and I have to say this has been so blown out of proportion it’s actually quite disgusting.

    Firstly, we are always saying we want to be treated equal to men. If the broad had interviewed a woman and she had said she prefers to teach novels by female authors ALL of you would be commending her for having strong female rights. Nobody would be saying the awful, deplorable things that are being said toward Mr. Gilmour. If he had said he teaches more female authors than male because he thinks women are beautiful, sexy and powerful I am sure all of you uptight feminists would then be saying he is an egotistical pig.

    Lets look at the facts here. If Mr. Gilmour were such an awful person why was he doing an interview with a nobody in the first place? He must have been a smart man and knew how much free publicity he would be getting out of it. Also, if you google top 100 books LESS THAN 1/3 of those are by female authors. Go ahead, look, I went to multiple websites.

    Why are we being so awful and judging someone because they spoke their mind? Isn’t freedom of speech something we should all be proud of having? Now the next person that this Emily Keeler interviews is going to have to watch their back.

    I am excited for the next time a woman says something degrading about men. Lets see how you raging feminists act then.

    Think before you act people, things can easily be taken out of context.

    P.S to the author of this lovely letter to Mr. Gilmour I have to say…

    Dear Anne Theriault,

    As a woman writer I’d like to say thank you.
    No, honestly, thank you.

    Thank you for being feminist enough, fucking ignorant enough, and even just plain stupid enough to post a picture of you giving the finger. That gives a fine example of what women should carry themseves. How about you handle this situation with a little more class next time. You don’t have to include a picture trying to be cool.

    Ps. Your nose looks like a penis, as a femist, how do you feel with that on your face?

  42. elburtruk September 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    jesus … i haven’t read the article by the prof you are referring to and you haven’t referenced any of his quotes to support your thoughts so, how am i supposed to know if you are telling the truth or not? soooo, just because you have passion i’m supposed to believe every word you say? i wonder if everyone who commented and agreed with you, read the article you are referring to or, are they accepting what you wrote purely on blind faith? i think of myself as a liberated male but, you have to prove to me that you are either a liberated woman or, a frustrated person with a chip on your shoulder who is trying to manipulate the thoughts and feelings of people who are susceptible to hearsay. ks

  43. Marty September 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    My God I love strong, articulate women. Bravo.

  44. dkaplan73 September 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Anne –

    I have to say, and I know this is going to sound offensive, but as a self-proclaimed writer I found this response to Gilmour to be rather pedestrian and banal from a literary standpoint. It’s not that I don’t think you’re right on some level, but I expected more from a professional or semi-professional author. Other than the usual feminist studies trappings (i.e., “cis males”, lots of cursing and outrage, etc.), there really aren’t any particularly interesting or thought-provoking ideas in your response – outside of some book club version of an adolescent, school-yard Battle Royale.

    Given your self-portrayal as an accomplished writer, your vocabulary and ability to articulate yourself seemed somewhat… common.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with being common.

    But, when you’re a self-proclaimed author protesting another author’s remarks about the art of writing, authorship and literature, as well as, the endemic institutional biases within English and literary departments across campuses around the Western world – I would think you’d prefer to use bigger words.

    Anyway, I don’t disagree with your opinion. But, I also don’t disagree with Gimour’s opinion much, either. Fiction is largely about taste and each individual’s is unique. All I’m saying is I love to read, enjoy big words with thought-provoking and emotion-evoking ideas, and, as authors, both you guys seemed to have failed at that task.

    P.S. You need new nail polish.

    David K from Philly

  45. Ms. Flâneuse September 26, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Reblogged this on diary of a flâneuse and commented:
    At first I thought this was the guy from Pink Floyd, but naw, it’s just some racist, asshole Canadian professor.

  46. Brigitte Fielder September 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    For what it’s worth, Gilmour is by no means representative of all academics who teach literature, many of whom have been openly critiquing his apparent racism, sexism, and poor teaching philosophy this week. Many of us dedicate our careers to opposing the rhetoric that one can only understand/teach/learn about/like literature or authors with whom one identifies. This philosophy is pure schlock, and decent professors — and the vast majority of professors I know, really — ascribe to a better pedagogy than this. Nor do the vast majority of people I know who teach literature at colleges and universities only teach or write about texts they “love” – myself included. This is a narrow, and unfortunate way to think about literature and the complex process of thinking, talking, and writing about it. As someone who seldom teaches contemporary literature, I neither require nor expect my students to “identify” with the texts or authors I assign – at least not in the way Gilmour describes. But I do ask them to study them, think about them, discuss them, and learn from them, despite these differences. I think this is best done with diverse groups of students, who bring a variety of identities and perspectives and voices and ideas to the table. You’re perfectly right in saying that students deserve better than what Gilmour has to offer. Please know that there are vast numbers of academics – women and people of color and “white guys,” alike – who actively work to do a better, and more interesting things with literature than David Gilmour suggests we might by “loving” or “identifying” with it.

  47. The Double Parent September 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Nail on head again. Belle Jar. Well done. And thank you.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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