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Such men are dangerous

More on David Gilmour.

Gilmour seems to think enough of himself to believe that he’s somehow unique in his approach to teaching literature. The only female writer whose work he teaches is Virginia Woolf, and then only a single short story. So he’s proud of teaching a curriculum that’s limited to his own narrow viewpoint, which is apparently going unrepresented “down the hall,” in a class that is clearly beneath him.

It’s obvious to me, having read the full transcript, that Gilmour is an appalling misogynist. Not only does the transcript show him interrupting the female reporter several times, he also addresses her as “love” and describes a female author’s book as “sweet.” You can read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions to his comments on “serious heterosexual men,” and the fact that he doesn’t like any Chinese authors. The transcript was released by Hazlitt when Gilmour claimed the reporter quoted him out of context. As though the full context of his remarks would make them any less reprehensible.

I wouldn’t say misogynist, I would say sexist. He doesn’t express outright hatred, he expresses casual oblivious dismissive contempt. It’s friendly enough, in a patronizing way, but it’s utterly belittling.

Men like Gilmour are dangerous. They’re dangerous because they’re not your run-of-the-mill misogynist/racist/homophobe stereotype. He’s not a frat boy. He’s not a Klan member. He’s not toothless redneck swilling Budweiser and complaining about the gays. He is a man who is appears thoughtful and intelligent. He’s a college professor and a published author. It is assumed by the reader that his opinions have been shaped by his education, that he has a better understanding of the world than your average pleb.

That is exactly right. That’s why it was worth pointing out and disputing Shermer’s “It’s more of a guy thing.” It’s precisely because he is a man who is appears thoughtful and intelligent and it is assumed by the reader that his opinions have been shaped by his education, that he has a better understanding of the world than your average pleb. Both men have intellectual influence, so when they talk sexist nonsense in public, yes, that’s dangerous.

So when he says that he’s not interested in teaching anything but white male produced literature, he’s lending credibility to the pervasive belief that if there’s something a woman/person of color/LGBT identifying person has to say, a white man can probably explain it better. Because the only thoughts and experiences that matter are the thoughts and experiences of educated white men. The world must consume the material produced by these important figures, and anything written by anyone else is optional. And he’s teaching his students and readers to believe the same.

But at least tv and movies are doing a better job.

Wait…

Comments

  1. Jenora Feuer says

    What really seems to me to be the issue with Gilmour isn’t really the sexism. That’s certainly there, as you say, the sort of casual not-really-thought about sexism. But that’s really just a side effect.

    The main issue with him seems to be that, fundamentally, he’s a shallow man with enough Dunning-Kruger to consider himself deep. He’s the ‘stupid person’s idea of a clever person’ without enough self-awareness to realize that he’s not as clever as he thinks he is. He’s proud to have lifted himself out of the muck without realizing that he’s still underwater.

    At least, that certainly explains the bragging about what he’s read, which could sound impressive to someone who wasn’t actually a literature professor.

  2. Al Dente says

    Jenora Feuer @1

    I agree. His insistence that the only authors worth teaching are those he likes (and his favorite authors include a couple of quite mediocre writers) shows he’s a dilettante pretending to be a professional literature teacher.

  3. Mark R says

    What am I missing here. He’s not belittling anyone. He simply said that there aren’t any women authors that he “loves enough to teach”. Also, note that he mentions VIrginia Woolf and how extremely sophisticated her writing is.

    Am I correct that people are actually suggesting that we should tailor our tastes so that they are ethnically and geneder diverse? In other words, if I like rock music, do I have to automatically like an equal number of female rockers as I do male rockers? What if I don’t like the same number of Chinese rockers as I do East African rockers? Does that make me a racist? Should I get an Excel spreadsheet out to properly devise a list of things I like to make sure they’re not offensive? Isn’t that taking things a bit too far? People have the right to enjoy things that they enjoy without having to answer to people too eager to criticize them as sexists and racists whenever they open their mouths. Isn’t this supposed to be “FREETHOUGHT” blogs? Where’s the free thought in condeming a man because he happens to like mailny white male authors?

  4. says

    No, you’re not correct in suggesting that. The issue is what a professor or instructor of literature at university level should teach, and how he should understand that. That might be clearer if you read the previous posts on the subject (assuming you haven’t already).

  5. says

    I fantasize for a moment how I might teach a class on literature. Certainly, it would not just be a litany of the authors whose work I like – I think the high point of the class might be the section on Dan Brown.

  6. says

    do I have to automatically like an equal number of female rockers as I do male rockers? What if I don’t like the same number of Chinese rockers as I do East African rockers? Does that make me a racist?

    If you were claiming to have any sort of opinion about rock-and-roll and didn’t know who Pat Benatar was, I would dismiss you as a poseur. Or, if you said you were a fan of rap music and the only rapper you knew of was Vanilla Ice, I might wonder if you were, um, culturally impaired.

  7. atheist says

    @Marcus Ranum – September 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm (UTC -7)

    I fantasize for a moment how I might teach a class on literature. Certainly, it would not just be a litany of the authors whose work I like – I think the high point of the class might be the section on Dan Brown.

    This really made me chuckle.

  8. newguy says

    The blog post that was quoted from here makes so many misrepresentations of what Gilmour said. And if you read the transcript, he was prompted by the inteviewer to make his heterosexual “guy guy” comment, which you wouldn’t know from reading what was published in the article.

  9. atheist says

    @Jenora Feuer – September 27, 2013 at 1:31 pm (UTC -7)

    The main issue with him seems to be that, fundamentally, he’s a shallow man with enough Dunning-Kruger to consider himself deep.

    I tend to see his sexism as a symptom rather than a cause as well.

  10. A. Noyd says

    Mark R (#3)

    Isn’t that taking things a bit too far?

    Maybe stick to things people are actually saying instead of making up outrageous bullshit to get outraged at.

    People have the right to enjoy things that they enjoy without having to answer to people too eager to criticize them as sexists and racists whenever they open their mouths.

    Actually, they don’t have that right. Or, rather, they can decline to answer but they don’t have the right to freedom from criticism of their preferences. Not when they open their mouths and share their preferences with the rest of the world. (Preferences which, by the way, which do not develop in a vacuum, but are heavily influenced by cultural norms and notions of prestige.) If avoiding criticism is so damned important, they can always keep their mouths shut and enjoy what they enjoy in private. However, that doesn’t apply here because, as you apparently overlooked in your eagerness to stick it to “the woman,” Gilmour is supposed to be a teacher at a universty, not some hapless, private connoisseur of painfully orthodox He-ManLit explaining what he gets up to in his free time.

    Isn’t this supposed to be “FREETHOUGHT” blogs? Where’s the free thought in condeming a man because he happens to like mailny white male authors?

    Well, first off, no one’s condemning him for that. That’s your strawman. As for “FREETHOUGHTZOMGWTFBBQ,” I’m gonna ask Alex Gabriel field that one. Wait, he already did, just yesterday: “Freethought is not ‘free thought’ or uninhibited inquiry…. Freethought is a specified tradition, European in the main, whose constituents have by and large been countercultural, radical and leftist….” So the only contradiction here is an illusion of your abject and aggressive ignorance.

  11. says

    Isn’t this supposed to be “FREETHOUGHT” blogs? Where’s the free thought in [lather,rinse,repeat of a very tired old dictionary misrepresentation]?

    Dear Mark R,

    A housewife is not a woman who has married a house.
    A crow is a black bird, but it is not a blackbird.
    A lawsuit is not clothing which abides by a courtroom dress code.
    A Non-Conformist in Elizabethan England held a very different worldview than that of someone who calls themselves a non-conformist today (the capitals and when and where and which status quo is defining conformity do make a very large difference).

    So, follow through on the common ground between my examples above. FreeThought//FreeThinking is a distinct philosophy with a history going back several centuries, not just freely thinking any old thing at all. If you didn’t already know that, you could have used your internet connection to look it up.

  12. Al Dente says

    newguy @8

    The blog post that was quoted from here makes so many misrepresentations of what Gilmour said.

    I read the blog post and the transcript of what Gilmour said. I didn’t see him being misrepresented. You may not agree with Trout’s reading of Gilmour, but I saw what she saw, a sexist, narcissistic guy who dabbles in literature and teaches only what he likes. Also Trout quotes Gilmour extensively to illustrate her points about him.

    And if you read the transcript, he was prompted by the inteviewer to make his heterosexual “guy guy” comment, which you wouldn’t know from reading what was published in the article.

    And your point is what? An interviewer asking leading questions is not against journalistic ethics. Rather it’s a common technique, especially when the subject tends to get distracted, which Gilmour did during the interview.

  13. says

    Yeah, so, you were prompted to say something bigotes You then go on to either say something bigoted, or not say something bigotes. It’s not like it was a magical command. “Expectellate Misogynismo!”

  14. newguy says

    ”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.”

    I just thought this quote was misleading when smashed together like that, without the dialogue–especially given Ms. Trout’s reading of it. And this stuff about him being a dillitante? He IS a novelist. His character is certainly glib and naive and abrasive but then that seems to be his ‘style’.

  15. newguy says

    And just to follow-up on the prompting point: I agree he didn’t have to go along with it (he even says in the transcript that it was a good observation) but that doesn’t mean that he was not in fact prompted and I think it’s misleading to present it to the readership as if he was not. I’ve no competency in journalistic etiquette but if that’s the case then my criticism would extend to journalistic etiquette; which we know isn’t exactly faultless as it is.

  16. says

    newguy #16,

    And this stuff about him being a dillitante? He IS a novelist. His character is certainly glib and naive and abrasive but then that seems to be his ‘style’.

    As a teacher of literature, Gilmour has shown himself to be a dilettante. His status as a novelist is not relevant, while his lack of scholarship is. He’s made it blindingly obvious that he’s a vapid dabbler who managed to secure a sweet gig somehow (presumably because of his reputation as a fiction author), and student fees really could be better used to pay an instructor who actually demonstrates a rigorous scholarly understanding of a broader range of literature.

    Being glib and naive and abrasive are not relevant to whether he is or is not a dilettante either, although that ‘style’ of his certainly doesn’t assist him in making his case that his I-do-it-my-way instructional methodology is just super-duper fine A-OK.

  17. newguy says

    Tigtog (#18): My understanding is that he was invited to lecture at the school explicitly on the basis of his status as a novelist, and not his work as a scholar (although I’m open to correction on that point) so I don’t think you’re point on his securing a “gig” stands at all. I’d really have to see his course material to know what I think about his “stuff” as a lecturer but I’m intrigued by some of what I’ve read (while goggling at how he doesn’t seem to even be aware of the existence of Indian English authors– I don’t think think anyone’s ever accused Rushdie of failing the
    ‘masculinity’ test)

  18. newguy says

    Also, if he was hired on the basis of his being a novelist, as I suspect, then that rather qualifies his comment about going “down the hall” if the students didn’t like his stuff; I think that’s a really good point, actually.

  19. says

    newguy, by essentially rephrasing the exact point I made, you show that you didn’t understand why I made it. I surmised that he got the teaching gig on the strength of his reputation as a novelist, and you have now confirmed that this is also your understanding. So why does my point not stand? He’s quite obviously not qualified to teach at the tertiary level, and whoever offered him the teaching job on the strength of his reputation as a novelist made a pedagogic mistake.

  20. says

    Is it really THAT misleading? Reader may be misled into thinking that Gilmour says horribly ignorant, bigoted things unprompted, when the reality is that Gilmour says horrible, bigoted things when prompted.

    Prompted vs. not-prompted? This makes a big difference to your estimation of him?

  21. newguy says

    No, I understood what you meant, which is why I said that he was hired EXPLICITLY for that reason rather than ‘covertly’ or tacitly as you seemed to imply. Even Ophelia mentioned in a previous post how she thought that that (hiring a novelist to teach literature) wasn’t necessarily a terrible mistake. Which is why I think his comments about “going down the hall” are being misconstrued: this course was sold as a “novelty” taught by a visiting lecturer who was a novelist. That may or may not be a wise thing to do on the part of the university but it certainly doesn’t speak ill of Mr. Gilmour.

  22. says

    newguy, I didn’t mean to imply that it was either covert or tacit, merely that it appeared to be outside the normal academic hiring process. You appear to have confirmed that this was indeed the case.

    I never said otherwise, but for the record I agree with Ophelia that hiring a novelist to teach literature is not necessarily going to always be a terrible mistake. Whether or not it is a mistake depends on whether the particular novelist understands the broad history and conventions and diversity of literature or not. Hiring someone with a deep understanding of literature who *just happens* to also be a novelist? Marvellous. Hiring someone *just because* they are a novelist so therefore they ought to understand literature? Problematic.

    The bulk of Gilmour’s career seems to have been as a film critic before he moved on to writing fiction. If the university had hired him to lecture about film rather than literature, that would probably have been a more sensible decision.

  23. newguy says

    Sallystrange #22: “Is it really THAT misleading? Reader may be misled into thinking that Gilmour says horribly ignorant, bigoted things unprompted, when the reality is that Gilmour says horrible, bigoted things when prompted.
    Prompted vs. not-prompted? This makes a big difference to your estimation of him?”

    Sally, what bothers me other than the blatant dishonesty is that the author of the article, by excising the interaction, took a shortcut to make it appear more sensational.

    Also, from what I’ve read of the transcript he did not in fact say anything other than mildy sexist; it’s certainly possible to read between the lines and speculate about more, and it wouldn’t necessarily be wrong or incorrect to do so, but it is wrong to say that he said things he didn’t (again: other than–or perhaps because of–simply being dishonest, it also plays demagogically on people’s emotions).

  24. newguy says

    “Shorter newguy: It’s not sexism, I know because reasons.
    Thanks dude. That’s really, um, new.”

    No, that’s not right. I’ve said that some of his comments were at least midly sexist. Are you referring to my “go down the hall” comment? All I meant was that if his course was being sold as a novelty then that might qualify his remark: but if the person “down the hall” was understood to be a female colleague, and especially if he denigrated that individual in anyway, then of course that would nullify my point entirely. I’ve read conflicting accounts so far.

  25. newguy says

    “The bulk of Gilmour’s career seems to have been as a film critic before he moved on to writing fiction. If the university had hired him to lecture about film rather than literature, that would probably have been a more sensible decision.”

    I second that! I’m rather surprised he didn’t lecture on his memoir: it seems to be what he’s known for (to the extent that he’s known at all).

  26. Martha says

    @Tigtog (#11)

    Thanks for that brilliant explanation. Do you mind if we used it frequently? Sadly, I don’t think there will be a dearth of opportunities any time soon.

  27. says

    Martha, not all the examples are original to me, some came up on PZ’s recent thread about dictionary logic. I take full credit for the lawsuit and Non-Conformist examples though.

    Happy for anyone to remix as desired.

  28. says

    p.s. wishing I’d also pointed out that ‘blackbirding’ in the history of Queensland, Australia has nothing to do with birdlife at all, for instance.

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