Teach what you love (unless it’s male writers?)

“But I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them. That’s all I’m saying. What I teach are guys. If you want women writers, you go down the hall. The limitation, to me, is quite clear there. The limitation is in my ability to teach these women, and I don’t want to do a bad job. It’s not got anything to do with whether or not they’re great writers or not. It has only to do with my capacity to teach them passionately and well.”
David Gilmour

It’s an old saying that you should “do what you love”, but apparently, some feminists have a problem with an university teacher doing exactly that. The quote pretty much sums it up — he states that he feels a connection to male writers and thus uses them in his teachings (full interview here).

I find the criticism he is getting really, really strange, but then I have a problem with the current brand of feminism. The one which seems to argue for women as eternal victims, is past-oriented, wants rights without responsibility, etc. The one aptly criticized by Thunderf00t in some of his videos.

Frankly, I don’t understand the issue blogs like “Hook & Eye” take with Gilmour’s statements. He makes a personal statement what he is teaching. Yes, it could have been phrased better, it sounds a bit condescending. But he’s not setting policy or making a general assessment. He is teaching what he can teach best and he chooses the best writers — for him, not in general. And it makes a lot of sense to teach what you are passionate about.

What is the problem here?

That he has a personal preference for male writers? It happens, he probably reads a lot, he knows what he likes, and he makes an observation about his preferences. Sure, categories overgeneralize and it’s unfair to reduce writers to their gender, but so what, it’s personal preference.

That he teaches what he loves? How can that be offensive, isn’t that what we want from a teacher? Passion, interest, love of the subject and the skills that usually go along with it?

That he made some off-hand comments that can be seen as offensive? Sorry, but being offended is a personal problem. People are offended all the time. I’m offended by the apparent stupidity of some people, esp. when their actions or inactions have consequences for the thinking rest of us (e.g., inoculations) or when it unnecessarily complicates the interactions between the sexes. But as an adult, you have to learn how to deal with your emotions, esp. in social situations, and you have to own your emotions. They are part of you and yours only.

That some female writers might see this as an indication that they will never write something he will love? Sorry, ‘love’, but you do not have the right to be loved. If your ego is that fragile writing might not be the ‘safest’ profession.

But what really gets me are comments that (seem to) suggest that he should “learn to love” (here: other writers). Trying to determine what people think is … problematic at best. Sure, there is a lot to be said against prejudice, stereotypes, racism, sexism (works both ways, BTW) and the like. But fighting prejudice should be about education, about arguments — and not about censorship or trying to achieve thought control by public pressure. And sorry, this is not about who is better but about personal preference. Of being able to feel a connection and help others to see it too.

But even worse than thought control is saying that this person need to “learn to love” other writers. Really? Are there really so-called feminists out there who think they have the right to determine what others feels and even what they love? That his preferences and emotions are wrong? Really?

Trying to control the thoughts of another person is deeply inhumane. I think the only crime that is worse is trying to control another person’s emotions. It is the utter defeat of free will, of everything that makes us human.

How can anyone with even the slightest respect of the integrity of another person want that?

2 Comments

  1. When I am reading, I just want a good story. I do not care about the gender of a writer. I think the criticism for this comment is that Gilmour has judged a piece of writing based on gender rather than merit and then has cast this prejudice over all such writing.

  2. Hmm, I too don’t care about the gender of the author. I deeply love the writing of Jacqueline Carey and J.K. Rowling (both female), as I do love the writings of Terry Pratchett and Robert A. Heinlein (both male). And in no case has the gender of the author any bearing on the quality of the story.

    But I think the issue here is that people confuse personal preference with an objective statement about the merit of the writings. And perhaps, Gilmour was not aware that when he speaks in his role as a teacher it is something different than speaking as a private person. For me, he stated his personal preference, something he has every right to, but some people thought he was making general judgments. I think that confusion caused the negative reactions, and it triggered reactions by people who want to change the Academic landscape and control what people think and (worse) what they feel.

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