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. Fred September 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    More femanazi rhetoric! Everyone has a right to their own opinion and preference! What ever happened to deversity among opinion?

  2. KW September 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    I would like to see that reading list you mentioned! Always looking for more good books not traditionally recommended by traditional academics.

  3. Jeff September 26, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    I support your cause, but seriously keep your issue between you and David Gilmour. Labeling academia as ‘misogynistic’ is incredibly hypocritical; You’re complaining about prejudice while you stereotype.

  4. Bob Triggs September 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Amen, Sister! When I am reading anything my first consideration is not the author’s identity, or gender. My first consideration is the experience of the work. Of course it does matter, who and what the writer is, their gender etc. To think that a professor would exclude any category of writer is absurd. To find one who excludes women writers is astonishing.What a turd. Thank God for women writers!

  5. Joe Wilder September 26, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Somehow I just don’t take someone seriously who has a bed head hangover look in a coffee shop, with chipped goth fingernail polish that looks more like a punk with an attitude problem than someone who wants to make a valid point. Just sayin’.

    • Marty September 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

      Dude, putting on a costume and a mask is easy. Don’t judge what is stated based on the appearance of the presenter. Don’t be affected by superficial things. Get real.

    • threears September 27, 2013 at 2:23 am #

      Question: were you taking her seriously before you looked at her picture?

      Somehow I doubt it. The picture was just the only thing you could actually find to criticize.

    • Kiddalee September 27, 2013 at 3:05 am #

      Welp, I don’t take genetic fallacy seriously. Although I do take its popularity very seriously. The number of people on the web who think they are smart and then use red herrings for their core arguments is sobering.

    • Elonwy September 27, 2013 at 3:09 am #

      Ah yes, real people cannot be trusted. We must all look Stepford to fit your societal view of what a female is in order to be taken seriously while you just hear blah blah blah and admire our coiffed do and 12 second old manicure. I’m sure next time she snaps a quick photo she will be sure to make a hair appointment, put fake nails on and locate an appropriate venue to pander to the lowest common denominator such as yourself – where do you hang out? Dj Clubs? Golf Course? Water cooler in a beige paneled office?

      Also, please don’t end a sentence with Just sayin’ because we know your are merely stating your (flawed and senseless) opinion, we don’t need your outer monologue to reiterate that for us,

    • Ciara Raven Blaze September 27, 2013 at 3:22 am #

      you don’t get out much, do you, Joe?

    • patty cake September 27, 2013 at 4:57 am #

      yes, let’s focus on what she looks like…..how apropo

    • Sharman September 27, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      If you put enough squares together, eventually they will create a circle.

    • Carla September 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      There you go. Come on, people with a “bed head hangover look in a coffee shop, with chipped goth fingernail polish that looks more like a punk with an attitude problem than someone who wants to make a valid point”, you’ve just been added to the list of unwanted writers. Please, dude, do us a favor: reread the post, replacing “David Gilmour” with your own name.

    • pete September 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      But isn’t there only one David Gilmour who matters? Other than the Pink Floyd one, who cares?

    • Barry September 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      “Somehow I just don’t take someone seriously who has a bed head hangover look in a coffee shop, with chipped goth fingernail polish that looks more like a punk with an attitude problem than someone who wants to make a valid point. Just sayin’.”

      Interesting reply, considering that the topic is an alleged professor of literature who made an unsupported, sweeping and quite foolish dismissal of the vast majority of the human race as writers.

    • gmikihayden September 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      Read the words. In writing, it’s the words that count.

    • inurashii September 27, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

      Perfect first comment. Perfectly illustrates what we’re dealing with here.

      • Rick September 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

        Exactly. The top comment _must_ be a comment on a woman’s apperance.

    • △△△YVNG INFOWVRZ△△△ (@thizzlord187) September 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      i would like to say that i object to this observation and it would be more accurate to say that the person making this observation is a big dumb shit eater that likes eating shit a whole lot, lost their virginity to their dad at the ripe age of 45(in the most consensual way possible), and also fucks dogs a whole lot and also maybe a couple of horses and that i have done extensive research to make these discoveries

    • dz alexander September 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      Have you seen David Gilmour?
      And since we don’t know what you look like ….

    • Celia Lewis September 27, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      Ooooh, you DIDN’T read her post, you just looked at her picture, probably to see if she is hot enough for you to bother reading. Go back and READ…

    • the next Prescott Niles September 29, 2013 at 4:21 am #

      You know who _I_ don’t take seriously? Superficial, undercultured putzes who say things like “Just sayin’.”

  6. Patricia Sands September 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Bravissima! Seriously! And thank you.

  7. Stephanie September 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    I think this an overreaction the guy is a dumbass, but You can’t say that because he’s saying sexist or racist things that the rest of academia is sexist or racist. It’s jump to conclusions and it creating an adversarial relationship. I’ve spoken with numerous feminists and they loath the fact I group them all together because some hold this view or that view. I’d suggest if you don’t want people being angry and hold you accountable for the things other feminists say, perhaps you could judge the academic community not as a whole but rather each person individually.

    • James Hepler September 26, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

      A simple Google search for “sexism in academia” reveals no shortage of examples and arguments to support the premise that there is a “dark, misogynist, racist underbelly of academia.” In fact, by using the reference to an underbelly, the writer is making a point to concede that the “academic community as a whole” does not necessarily demonstrate these attributes. Your criticism of her perspective lacks merit on the grounds that you completely misinterpreted her position.

  8. Hal Cooper September 26, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    I followed the link you included to https://bellejarblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/what-its-like-to-be-a-writer-who-is-also-a-woman/ . While I understand and sympathize with the situation (I especially liked a comment that essentially said “insert profession here”, the software development world is pretty similar), entries like the above serve to throw you back into the “woman writer” category. A measured response that didn’t stretch every word and context into “bad, bad, man” and instead took him to task for being an idiot or choosing his words better, or being less pompous, or not serving his students well (I don’t agree with all of these, but they could be argued) would have been sage advice from one writer to another. But by becoming the the defender of all female, minority, gay, transgender authors everywhere, you wave the flag that says “I don’t want to be thought of as an author first”. And then we’re back to https://bellejarblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/what-its-like-to-be-a-writer-who-is-also-a-woman/

    • Portland, Oregon September 26, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

      Mr. Cooper – You are an intelligent man, obviously, and literate. And you give what in some situations might be valuable advice. But it is not needed here. The woman is spot-on with her description of the situation, and she has spoken clearly and in a manner which suits her passion. Let her have her say, for God’s sake. Your “advice” reeks of a male attempt to drive the discussion off the tracks and into the tall grass.

    • Nic Rufioo Anthony September 27, 2013 at 1:50 am #

      You’re basically telling her to rise above her womanhood in hopes of joining the boys’ club so she can become a Real Writer. Go Fuck Yourself.

    • Kiddalee September 27, 2013 at 3:35 am #

      I didn’t realize the “woman writer” category was defined as angrily defending minorities. Also, in your comment I see the idea that a woman writer who gets political is the reason for stereotypes. This idea stems from confirmation bias. You acutely notice women writers who are angry, when they are angry. It’s not that male writers never defend minorities, or that women writers always do, but for some reason you only notice the ones who fit your stereotype. I’ve got news for you: it’s because you want to.

  9. jelenawoehr (@jelenawoehr) September 26, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Wonderfully stated.

    Incidentally, did anyone else notice that the one woman he finds worthy of his respect as a patented Literary Genius Real Heterosexual Guy is Virginia Woolf, who suffered enormously from abuse imposed on her as a woman (and a bisexual or gay one at that) by patriarchal cultures and institutions, so much so that this suffering contributed to the mental illness which finally took her life? So apparently to be a woman writer worthy of David Gilmour’s “love,” you must be all about how miserable and insufficient it is to be born a woman. In fact, you must be suicidally depressed as a result of suffering from the terminal condition of femininity. (Not that such a statement really encompasses Woolf’s work, but I think it’s a good summation of the attitudes toward Woolf of habitually misogynist male writers.)

  10. My Inner Chick September 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Obviously, David Gilmour, is an arrogant, racist asswipe.

    • Hal Cooper September 26, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

      Curious, can you list your favorite Chinese authors?

      • Kiddalee September 27, 2013 at 3:44 am #

        Can you list exactly which ethnicities of authors you purposely don’t read?

    • Pádráig O'Gáirmléadháigh September 26, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      While I agree with your description of Gilmour, we must not lose sight of the fact that 99% of female produced literature is unreadable trash, pulp fiction, unless you are a ten year old boy and the book is Harry Potter. At 62, I have read a lot of books, some of them by female writers and I cannot for the life of me say I ever enjoyed a book written by a woman….. Worldwide book sales would confirm that I am not alone in that and that is also true of female readers…..misogynistic maybe, realistic definitely!

      • Kiddalee September 27, 2013 at 3:49 am #

        99% of everything is trash. This includes white male authors as well. Worldwide book sales could be interpreted in numerous ways.

      • Paul September 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

        Seriously? That’s a very interesting statement.

        What are your favorite books? Favorite authors? Do you think knowing or not knowing the gender of the author would make you more or less likely to pick up a book?

        Truly curious!!

      • john September 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

        No accounting for taste, Patrick (doing the Gaelic). But teaching one’s personal prejudices (not biases, but prejudices), and lying in a course description about what you’re up to: that’s another matter.

        And that’s just for starters. Much of what G. has said subsequently in his own defence either gives new meaning to the phrase “putting your foot in your mouth,” or shows he’s an out-and-out bigot.

        JG

      • Fiona McMurran September 27, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

        “I cannot for the life of me say I ever enjoyed a book written by a woman…” Your loss. For my part, I can honestly say that I usually find good fiction by women infinitely more satisfying than that by men.

  11. Marty September 26, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    Effected. Crap. Don’t leave a reply without proof-reading. Sheesh.

  12. Lothian September 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Hi Anne,

    I REALLY get your point!!! However, I suspect that mr. Gilmour makes those statements for some obscure and banal reason, considering his role in the career/artistic development (as if she needed help…;-)) of the wonderful Kate Bush (who is VERY MUCH a woman)… ?

    • watersfan September 26, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      Wrong David Gilmour Lothian

  13. Roe Ravid September 26, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    LOL I read the first few paragraphs of this under the impression that this was an open letter to David Gilmour, guitarist/vocalist/saxophonist/etc. of Pink Floyd. That makes this 10x funnier.

    This is a great letter that hits on the key points of the unfortunate remnants of a misogynist academic community, and I hope that Mr. Gilmour reads this and gains a new perspective. Although you may have sounded a little extreme and truthfully are giving him exactly what he wants, you made some good points (especially the line about a teachers primary responsibilities– so true!) and for that I commend you.

    Reading these types of letters, though, makes me wish that comments were disabled in general. The reactions of some of these readers (realistically, those individuals who read this and are infuriated enough to add their own points–which are indeed most often incoherent, clearly extreme, and transparently posted for the sole purpose of driving along their own agenda) are the very reason that mainstream society has developed an aversion to even the mentioning of the term ‘feminist’. It has come to a point where many people are so over-the-top about it that it loses sight of equality, and becomes an issue of superiority. Not to say that every person feeds that, but certain comments here genuinely make me sad, because it is you fools who are holding back the rest of us who try to make an impact. Don’t get me wrong, my whole family is totally pro-equality, my grandmother is like the big kahuna of feminists, and we’re definitely not there yet, this is clear from basic data. Just don’t…. don’t be ridiculous. I’ll let you take that as you may.

    ‘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….’

    yondar. please leave the internet so that the beautiful young ones can truly grow.

    thanks for the good read!

    ~Roe

    • john w. fahy September 26, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

      Go Get him Annie ! More Power to YOU !

    • fivrelden September 26, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      Thank you.

    • Jacqui Pegg September 27, 2013 at 12:07 am #

      Yep. Funny, because I have read two boks by David Gilmour. After the first, i thought, wow, I don’t like this author, i feel like he doesn’t like women, and like he’s writing for other men who don’t. Honestly, I recall it vividly. The second book, some years later, I had forgotten his name and didn’t realize I had read him before. I got partway through, and wasn’t liking it. I felt like it reminded me of another book I hadn’t liked… something to do with his represetnation of women. I checked my shelf. Holy crap, SAME guy! Note: despite this, I at least finished both books. I am willing to read outside my comfort zone, Mr. Gilmour, and as Ms. Theriault is suggesting, perhaps you might try the same.

      • Jacqui Pegg September 27, 2013 at 12:07 am #

        Darn, correction, I’ve read two “books” by him. sigh.

    • Veage September 27, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

      Excellent Piece. What I dont get is, how can you be a professor and claim to be well educated? Last I checked, part of be well learned is to explore things outside your comfort zone; to learn about stuff you’ve never experienced. P.S., everyone attacking you over your picture at the end of this article, is a neanderthal.
      what’s more important, the messenger or the message?

  14. Tim Mahoney September 26, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    “I want 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.”

    I love that! Some words just form into incredible thoughts.
    Tim

  15. Bobo September 26, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    The greatest authors, poets, playwrights, scientists, composers, essayists, philosophers, and film makers are overwhelmingly male.

    Shoe-horning mediocre talents into a syllabus (say, the truly terrible Maya Angelou) for the sake of ledger-sheet diversity is an affront to the canon.

    Instead of a reasoned, dispassionate response to Gilmour all we get is a petulant finger. I expected better and I’ve yet to see a proper rebuttal – say, which female author can stand with Tolstoy, which playwright with Ibsen (the answer is none).

    • Kiddalee September 27, 2013 at 3:58 am #

      “The greatest authors, poets, playwrights, scientists, composers, essayists, philosophers, and film makers are overwhelmingly male.”
      Why do these arguments still exist? They’ve been rufuted for hundreds of years. Of course there are going to be more good male writers if women haven’t been allowed to express themselves for most of history. Thanks for proving we’ve still got a ways to go.

      “I’ve yet to see a proper rebuttal – say, which female author can stand with Tolstoy, which playwright with Ibsen (the answer is none).”
      Which woman author is as good as your favourite male authors is going to invariably be defined by you, so it would be impossible for anybody to find one. Further, even if it were possible, I don’t see how that is the only legitimate rebuttal to academic sexism. I think the idea that a good reader stretches their range is a perfectly fine rebuttal.

      • lysias2 September 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

        You’re right, Kiddalee, but Bobo’s argument is even more intrinsically flawed. The traditional canon was created with a lens designed to favor certain kinds of writers over others. Standards like “greatness” reflect more about the pre-judgments of the speaker than about the inherent merits of the work. I won’t say that woman writer X is greater than man writer Y, simply because the formula itself is skewed, but I much prefer Anna Akhmatova, for example, to Leo Tolstoy.

      • Bobo September 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

        Refuted by whom? Certainly not by you…
        Let’s take the flip side of your argument – that is, Shakespeare is only lauded as a genius, because his competition was oppressed by the patriarchy and his primacy among English language writers (or, let’s call a spade a spade – all writers) is only a result of male partisanship over time. What utter bollocks and what an insult to his legacy not to mention a slap in the face to scholars of both sexes.

        Dostoyevsky is only great because of being historically lucky?

        You’ll have proven you’ve come a long way when you can equal an Ibsen a Chekhov or a Bard. No woman can (and no modern man can either).

        That goes for poetry too. Pinter will never be the equal of Yeats. No critical reader would accept that equivalency – and Maya Angelou is the lesser of Coleridge.

        There is no female essayist on par with Gore Vidal (before he went nuts) or the late David Foster Wallace. You can blame the patriarchy if you’d like – go right ahead – or you can read critically.

        The fact you put “greatness” in quotes is unsettling – as if the scribblings of JK Rowling can be compared with CS Lewis or Tolkien and it’s some sort of arbitrary designation.

        to that end…I would WELCOME a woman writer X is greater than male writer Y, or hell..with great directors too (anyone with half a brain can tell Kathryn Bigelow is superior to a host of male directors )… Or that Camille Paglia is 20 X more thoughtful, provocative and interesting than Klosterman, etc, etc…

        so we could have a reasoned debate instead of a gesture that’s best reserved for someone who’s cut you off in traffic.

        This colonization argument is utter BS as well. English introduction to the Indian subcontinent caused an EXPLOSION of talent – to wit, Rushdie, Naipaul, Desai, Mistry…

    • Paul September 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      “Greatest” in whose opinion? And in what context? People and cultures who have been systematically pushed down and pushed away and not taken seriously because they weren’t white men could be great – but if they weren’t allowed to write or wrote but weren’t appreciated in the so-called Golden Age of Literature (Tolstoy, Ibsen, etc.) then people aren’t exposed to them!

    • D1 September 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      And do you know why? Because the opportunities were not there. Women weren’t educated and were not encouraged (prevented) from having careers. You can’t be a great author or scientist or philosopher if you aren’t taught to read or sent to university or allowed to be anything other than household chattel. It’s a self-fulfilling argument: “We can’t teach women to write, look at how uneducated they are….”
      I think Mr Gilmour is just trying to get some media attention.

    • stargazer1957 September 27, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

      We’re coming … historically, women were too busy having future generations. and cleaning up … we didn’t have time to be Tolstoy or Ibsen … or any of the so-called great male writers of the male oriented world that we women were granted passage only because we could carry the babies … I can think of quite a few authors, poets, playwrights, scientists, composers, essayists, philosophers, and film makers who could take on the men, and still have (especially in the past) to battle the sexist attitude of their day. Marie Curie, Rachel Carson, to name just two off the top of my head. We’re coming, Bobo, and we’re going to be just as good as the other half of our sex.

    • Rick September 27, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

      I take it you’ve never cracked open a history book, eh?

      In any case, do you understand that “greatest” is a value judgment, not an objective assessment.

    • Chichachachi September 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      I know that this is mindless, attention-starved trolling but I actually think trolls contribute. They are easy to respond to, denounce, and build a body of theory against.

      There was a great study recently on the gender disparity within philosophy. It comes down to very much the kind of teaching that David Gilmour espouses. The fact that a professor will prop up none save male authors results in the females in the class feeling very little excitement or connection with the material.

      Here’s some analysis of the study: http://bit.ly/127Ytqi

  16. Engeline September 26, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    Thank YOU! You are now officially my new hero. I can’t count all the ways this was pure genius.

  17. fivrelden September 26, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Reblogged this on Fivreldens ordvev.

  18. Jodi Willis September 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    i think you are just awesome!

  19. Fornstar September 26, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    To Ms. Anne Theriault… I’m am not a writer or journalis. I am not an academic and have no idea who David Gilmore is truthfully. I’m just a guy who came across your open letter through a Facebook post.
    I have to say that if your open letter is any indication of what mr. Gilmore was referring to then he might have a point??!!
    Great writers either male or female don’t use “fuck” every 3 sentences to make a point. I would expect as a writer your vocabulary should be far more extensive then that!
    Furthermore, your attempt to embarrass and call out this mr Gilmore, was nothing more then a spoiled child’s attempt to pout for disagreeing with their parent.
    I understand that you are young and angry and the world is not fair… Boohoo!
    However for whatever it’s worth, let me tell you what you should do. Write a letter of apology to mr. Gilmore expressing your disappointment with yourself for ranting and putting out an open letter with such distaste and anger. Explain that It was an impulsive act and was not thought out well. You can mention that you still feel hurt and disappointed with his point of view and choice of literature he chooses to use as literary examples of greatness and perhaps even offer him some of your suggestions that you and academia find to be very high regarded.
    Perhaps you might even round up some of your old professors and invite him for a coffe to discuss his opinions maybe have him express his point of view with these professors and see if his peers might disagree with him and put him on the hot seat. I guess ultimately the choice is yours but as a complete outsider to academia, literature, writing etc… you my dear are the one who looks like a fool right now.

    • Janna September 27, 2013 at 3:52 am #

      passion has no other word than FUCK sometimes. Action always speaks louder than words. and you know…. FUCk sometimes just says it all. sorry for being so unacademic in my “vocabulary” or grammar. GAWD

    • Patrick September 27, 2013 at 4:17 am #

      No Fornstar, (whatever the fuck that is) you’re certainly not a writer, nor a journalis (sic); your a fucking idiot and a boring one at that. The minutes I spent reading your illiterate, paternalistic drivel is precious time I’ll never get back. Oops did I say fuck? Fuck yah!

    • Editor September 27, 2013 at 7:31 am #

      You’re not a writer! Never! What an illiterate and condescending post. My word.

    • John Howard September 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      Completely agree! I got two paragraphs or so into this article and was reminded of Eddie Murphy. There were some great jokes between the words fuck and shit. The point was delivered; however, the foul language and general attitude of the writer made it troubling to agree with her. Could it be that I am a white male? Or could it be that I am just a grown up?

      • inurashii September 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

        Mr. Howard, please examine the implications you make in this comment. They are, to say the least, troubling.

      • John Howard September 27, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

        I examined the comments and stand by them. I understand the author was going for “over the top” rhetoric with foul language. Again, I just think a point can be made (and accepted and possibly understood by the targeted party) without the profanity. I live in a professional world where dropping the F-bomb with regularity would leave me with no clients and a starving family.

        I apologize if you took my comments as disturbing. I guess our differences can be celebrated, and I understand our opinions differ. Heck! If everyone shared the same opinion, we’d only need me. Have a very good night!

      • Chichachachi September 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

        It didn’t let me reply to your reply below, but it’s hilarious that you couldn’t see inurashii’s point. I’ll try to put a circle around what she was trying to highlight.

        Your two lines: “Could it be that I am a white male? Or could it be that I am just a grown up?”

        Remove those two lines from the context of this conversation and view them alone on the page. Do you notice anything? Anything?

    • J_Scott September 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

      The author of the post is expressing a concern with exactly the kind of dismissive response to women’s writing that you’re reiterating in your response, Fornstar. I can explain what I mean by showing you that the very logic you use in your comment participates in sexist culture (which often diminishes, belittles, and dismisses women on the grounds of their intellectual abilities, maturity, and seriousness.) I’m not sure if you realize what sexism look like (or that you are participating in it here) but I’m hoping my words are informative. Note how you disparage this female author by undermining her abilities as a writer and claim that, because she knows the word “fuck,” she must be a writer without an extensive vocabulary. Your next point is an effort to infantilize this adult woman by calling her concern for gender equality “a spoiled child’s attempt to pout for disagreeing with their parent.” Is Mr. Gilmour the “parent” to the author’s “child” in this scenario? Note the power-inequality implicit in the analogy you’re using. You reiterate the author’s youth when you mock her by ventriloquizing her position as “young and angry and the world is not fair.” Next you tell the author what she “should do”: this effectively strips authority from the woman writing this and assumes that you (as “just a guy”) can deem what’s best for her. You go on to suggest that writer’s post was “an impulsive act” and “not thought out well.” There’s no need to accuse this woman of not acting rationally or thinking clearly. Again, to imply these things denies her position as a rational adult with a thoughtful opinion. Finally, you simply can’t call an adult woman you don’t know, “my dear.” It’s belittling, and it’s the very fact that she has no power or authority that makes it seem appropriate to wield such terminology in this context. To be clear, the author’s concern has nothing to do with her youth or her inability to think clearly. The world is not fair because straight white men are in a privileged position in our culture and their words, because they are so often spoken from positions of power and authority, have a real effect on the world everyone who is not a straight white male has to live in. No one disagrees with this fact of life but many acknowledge it’s not just to continue living with social inequality and are trying to find more ethical and humane ways to exist and even thrive by addressing these conditions. Understanding what sexism is when we see it is the first step.

    • Rick September 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

      Let’s see…bad grammar, bad spelling, capitalization failure, and despite your relative lack of basic literacy, you feel compelled to condescend to any other human being about writing?
      That really takes an incredible lack of self-awareness.

    • Chichachachi September 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      Oh gtfo. Her words were lucid. Her challenge is one I try to do myself. White men permeate written works. They are everywhere and hard to avoid but at the very least I try to alternate every white dood writer with one that isn’t either. That’s the best I can do at the moment. Try it, fornstar. Or at the very least, look back at the works you have read as they stretch back in time. You might get an inkling suspicion that you are buffering yourself within a single ideology.

  20. Richard Evans September 26, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Your opinion is as valuable as his.

    You are entitled to like what you want, or not like what you want.

    When you get to be a professor, you can dictate what you teach.

    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 a professor who doesn’t fit the mold of what a white female might consider acceptable, and that you wrote a huge letter based on a half-ass interview he gave, half-jokingly, to a half-ass magazine?

  21. Carl Rosenberg September 27, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    I found this article excellent. I found two things dismaying about “Professor” Gilmour: his idea that as a teacher he has the right to confine himself to his favourites, rather than giving his students an overview, whether or not he personally likes all of it equally; and his apparently inability to relate to literary works about people who aren’t exactly like himself. It seems a narrow, self-indulgent approach to both teaching and reading.

    This was confirmed for me in a Globe interview which Gilmour gave in response to the controversy stirred up by his initial statements: “I teach best when I teach subjects that I’m passionate about …. I believe that if you want to teach the way I want to teach, you have to be able to feel this stuff in your bones. Other teachers don’t, but I don’t think other teachers necessarily teach with the same degree of commitment and passion that I do – I don’t know.” Judging by the last line, his tunnel vision seems to be compounded by arrogance.

    • lysias2 September 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      Absolutely. Traditional sage-on-the-stage teaching favors solipsism defended by the power of the gradebook. Compare the statement “I teach best when I teach subjects that I’m passionate about” with “I teach best when I inspire passion in students.”

  22. Michelle Barker September 27, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    Bravo! Love the photo, too. And please post your reading list.

  23. Deborah Janewoman- Power September 27, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    Wow! Brilliant! Hope Gilmour takes you up on this seriously and all other vagina hating white male elite writers. Kudos to you! Did CBC pick this up?

  24. Chad Murphy September 27, 2013 at 12:45 am #

    Anyone else fall in love with this girl?

  25. Jeremy Potvin September 27, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    This is just excellent.

  26. Ninja September 27, 2013 at 2:13 am #

    It’s not just academia. It’s still everywhere.

  27. Gene Gregorits September 27, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    Yawn. Literature is masculine, dear. You don’t like that? Then write a book brilliant enough to throw that masculine world on its ear. I also do not think women have contributed much to literature, and I doubt they ever will. On the other hand, my books are deeply misogynistic and I am a misogynist.

    Some advice: looking like a spoiled, over-privileged brat in a “selfie” is probably not the best way to make your point. Also: a real writer would not define him or herself in gender terms; the writer simply sits down and writes. The writer does not waffle on at length about a pop star’s attack on them. Unless, of course, that pop star happens to be hitting a nerve. Personally, I don’t give a flying fuck about David fucking Gilmour and neither should you.

    • inurashii September 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      Weak neg, man.

      • bellejarblog September 27, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

        Right??

        “I am going to keep making inflammatory comments until you acknowledge me. OH GOD PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE ME.”

    • stargazer1957 September 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

      “The writer simply sits down and writes.” So freaking true (getting bored with the “fuck” word).

  28. Gene Gregorits September 27, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    The girl’s very pretty. Not expecting much of her writing.

    • ralph September 29, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      Oh, lordie. Not expecting to change **your** point of view here, but does not anyone realize that what makes a Shakespeare is how the views are adopted by the social group that likes it? The “value” of literature that we take to be normal is merely the size of the group that walks around saying it’s great?

      Men have had all the public group power throughout history, and we have little to understand why that might be so common except to expect that it’s an outcome of sheer physical strength. As a result, pointing to male authors and saying they’re “better” is a tautology: you make tons of arguments about why any writer is better, and it’s likely to be merely because the writing suits your desires for it more than others.

      Of course, we try to separate ourselves from this, because it’s “uncomfortable”. Non-male, non-“white” writers are every bit as brilliant as any other writer — or not — to the extent they can use their skills to bring your brain alive to something. NOT because they sell the most, or coined 2,000+ words when the language was barely written at all, or because of any other essentially social reason.

      So to call attention to her gender prior to reading a book is essentially saying that you, too, don’t care for the possible value of female experiences to the world OR that she is not allowed to even be publicly female in her comments, approaches, or anything else.

      David Gilmore can say that female lit sucks, but she can’t reply that David Gilmore’s take on lit sucks? Like, what kind of crap is that? I say flame on, Anne, and everyone else who loves what writers try to do no matter who they are or how fucking annoying they are. If the Internet shames Mr. Gilmore, he’s still free to continue writing, publish himself, and who knows? Perhaps 100 years from now everyone will be amazed at his work.

      My bet is that he vanishes quickly into the mist, because there’s just nothing there. This is the risk all writers take. Life’s rough. Anne’s spot on, with everything, including the picture.

  29. Gede Prama September 27, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    thank you for the information … and regards compassion

  30. Tony Hunt September 27, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Being writers eventually affords us the ability to count everything we learn as a positive and forward thinking experience, until we can’t, and then we just write more about it.

    There will always be critics and there will always be fans, and I liked what I read here today, but it isnt because you’re cute and flipping someone off, it was more because I was entertained even though the topic is serious. The point is that sometimes the critics can be fans, and they can STILL also be complete assholes.

    I hope you get your inspiration, but I’d be disappointed if you let it come from that douchebag 😉

    -Tony

  31. Editor September 27, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    Reblogged this on intersectionelle and commented:
    This boring middle-aged quasi-literary “talent” has lost his career (hopefully) and helped make a step towards shining some light under the fetid rocks of the academy. This article is wonderful.

  32. Stewart September 27, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Attacking the guy personally adds NOTHING to the discussion. Saying you have the right to do so because you fancy yourself to be a writer is irrelevant.

  33. Christopher September 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    This is a bit of an overreaction. The relentlessness of the sarcasm also makes it pretty unpleasant to read. This guy, whoever he is, is not claiming that no other type of books should be taught: he is saying only that this is what he teaches, and that he loves teaching it. This obvious fiery enthusiasm for his genre (if that is what it really is), as well as the (spurious) claim that “No one teaches it except for me”, suggests to me that he at least believes he’s contributing to teaching positively, and is probably committed to doing it quite well. His obvious enjoyment of the controversy he stirs up indicates not only that he is making no effort to hide the teenage agent provocateur that survives in him (as it does in all interesting adults), but also the confidence that whatever people’s objections, he actually isn’t doing anything wrong. Basically, either treat him like he’s trolling you and ignore him, or identify exactly what he’s said that you think is false.

  34. Donna Kirk September 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Now THIS is writing, Anne Theriault! However, I wonder if David really dislikes female writers etc. or was he just having a bad semester and needed some attention…

  35. Jeff Meyer September 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Please make a reading list, regardless if he takes you up on your challenge. Would be a great resource!

    • Chichachachi September 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      I don’t read much fiction, but some authors I love that happen to be female include:

      Marilyn Strathern
      Anne Fadiman
      Inge Bolin
      Ursula Le Guin
      Denise Arnold
      Mary Weismantle

      Anyone who does not see Strathern or Le Guin as theoretical and literary greats… [insert insult here.]

  36. Dany Boom September 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Woah guys why the hate ? And comments about her looks ? This was an excellent letter – balanced, fair. Honest. Under the surface was some emotion ya but Gilmore is a Pratt and e had it coming.
    I like her idea about the reading list too. I’m happy I took the time to read the whole thing.
    Just lay off the comments about looks and feminazis, jerks.

  37. Coleen Shin September 27, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    The photo is charming in its honesty. What would you have her do, go get glammed up to flip an dgit ? The crooked, wry smile, the clear and intelligent eyes, I do like the whole package. Concise, unafraid. Fair.

    Young woman, you are a unexpected gift, well written. I hope he accepts the challenge. . Carry on, carry on.

    • ralph September 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

      amen.

  38. taylorsj September 27, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    “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’m not defending Gilmour, but I wonder if you would ever be humble and honest enough to take your own advice. I wonder if you would ever actually sit down for 6 months and only read… I don’t…. Catholic writers…. Calvinists…. some body of people whose thoughts are difficult for you to appreciate and understand. Something about the finger-pointing tone of your writing makes me seriously doubt that you’ve ever actually done this yourself.

  39. writeliving September 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Reblogged this on Writeliving's Blog and commented:
    Canadian author David Gilmour has kicked over a hornet’s next with his comments about predominantly teaching male authors to his students . I thought this response and challenge by Anne Thériault was worth sharing.
    – Martin Ott

  40. Christine September 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I was quite startled by David Gilmour’s comments. Thanks for your intelligent rebuttal. Although I doubt that anyone who would make comments like David’s has the mental or emotional depth to engage meaningfully with your challenge. I also suspect this man has some gender issues of his own that he is so adamant of ‘only’ teaching heterosexual (white) males. What is his criteria to establish that no ringers end up in his classes? Just curious……

  41. Faren22 September 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Personally, I would love to get a copy of that list. None of my required reading for this term is anything other than the time-worn white male classics, and I need something interesting to read while I choke through them once again.

  42. Matt Stephens September 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Just wanted to say thanks for writing this. While I doubt Gilmour is capable of changing, here’s hoping it broadens some horizons for others.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. An Open Letter to David Gilmour | A Scot Abroad - September 26, 2013

    […] via An Open Letter to David Gilmour. […]

  2. David Gilmour’s “Off-hand Comment” Sparks a Debate | (It's OK) To Be an English Major - September 26, 2013

    […] Strong Response from The Belle Jar‘s Anne […]

  3. A response to the David Gilmour ruckus | Angela M Cowan - September 26, 2013

    […] Thériault over at The Belle Jar penned an open letter to Gilmour challenging him to read anything and everything except cis-gender white males for the […]

  4. I don’t teach women writers because I don’t love their work… | Committing Sociology - September 26, 2013

    […] teach Chinese or Female authors because he doesn’t love their work.   See the post here. Here is a brilliant reply written as an open […]

  5. “I’m Not Interested in Teaching Books by Women” | ENG 382 - September 26, 2013

    […] Also there’s this response: https://bellejarblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/an-open-letter-to-david-gilmour/ […]

  6. If You Are Still Mad At David Gilmour… | Liblogs - September 27, 2013

    […] 8:00 on September 27, 2013 by bigcitylib Some very smart female women are yelling at him here and here.  I yelled at him a bit here, but these two gals have the amps cranked to 11.  Much more […]

  7. Women writers are women writers and men writers are just writers. | The Adventures of Professor Rottweiler - September 27, 2013

    […] about how he loves no female writers and therefore excludes them from all his syllabi. Seriously. Thériault’s response is exasperated, and extremely satisfying. That is […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: