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David Gilmour Doesn’t Like Female Writers?!

By Kelly Tansor, Copy Editor (ktanso2@uic.edu)

David Gilmour is an award-winning Canadian novelist who has written works such as Extraordinary and The Perfect Order of Things.  He also teaches at the University of Toronto and has recently come under fire for some comments he recently made about female writers in his class.  In a recent interview with Random House, he had this to say:

“I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.”

Gilmour’s statements left many people angry.  He quickly issued an apology, saying “I’m absolutely surprised, but I’m also extremely sorry to hear that there are people who are really offended by it.”

Not exactly a heartfelt apology.

According to Gilmour, it’s not that he does not like female writers – it’s just that most female writers do not inspire him.  Virginia Woolf is an exception, though she is very difficult to read (probably the only thing Gilmour and I can agree on).  This is something that has plagued many writers over the years.  The elephant in the room that no one seems to address is that in many professions, including writing, men are taken much more seriously than women.  For example, J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series, published her works under J.K. instead of her real name Joanne because she didn’t think boys would read something written by a girl.  She also published her crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith; the crime novel genre is so male-dominated (think Stephen King and James Patterson) that it is no wonder she was fearful of going by her own feminine name.

Does this mean women are just not as great writers as men?  While writers like Checkhov, Tolstoy, Fiztgerald, and Kundera (one of my favorites) are great writers, they are not the only great writers.  Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, Sylia Plath, and Maya Angelou are just some of the most prolific writers of the last few centuries.  Their works continue to be taught in many English and Literature classes to this day and almost everyone can still identify with their writings.

The female writers thing is not the only thing that bothers me – it’s the “serious heterosexual guys” statement Gilmour made.  It is not enough to teach male authors in his class; they need to be real “guy-guys.”  What does that mean to Gilmour, exactly?  Does this mean the male writers have to be completely masculine and have no feminine qualities whatsoever?  If any of the writers he admires were gay or bisexual, would he no longer teach them?

Glimour claims he cannot relate to female writers, but most of the people in his class are women.  So while he may not be able to relate to those writers, many of his students can.  His stubborn refusal to teach prolific female writers in his class seems very biased and unfair to his students.  Sadly, though, he is a professor that can teach whatever he wants, whether his students agree or not.  If his students do not like it, they can choose a different class.  Maybe Gilmour should choose to read more.

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