The article begins by talking about Canadian lecturer David Gilmour, whose mouth has gotten him into a spot of bother. He said in an interview: "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."
I agree with the article on the fact that what he said was wrong, but little else, unfortunately. The author of the article, Emer O'Toole, then says that she's recently taken up a university post and is devising a new curriculum:
'I'm struggling to include women's voices on the contemporary Irish theatre course I'm devising for next year, because the vast majority of celebrated living Irish playwrights are male. Speaking to colleagues in other disciplines, similar pictures emerge.'
This is fair, and I can see why the struggle to find female Irish playwrights is frustrating. But then Emer goes off on a tangent about how she started internet dating. She says she noticed that on the dating website, not many of the singletons listed any females in the 'favourite authors' section. But an internet dating site is not a reliable source, nor is it an accurate portrayal of the rest of the public.
'Were they afraid they'd catch pregnancy or menopause from female writers or something?', she asks. Perhaps they just picked their top authors, who happened to all be male.
'I explained that we live in a society that teaches people to value male thought, art, and leadership above female thought, art and leadership. I explained the difference between active and passive discrimination.'
Adding 'passive' in front of 'discrimination' doesn't mean that someone quietly sitting down and reading a book by a male author and enjoying it is discriminatory. If that's the case then I'm a raging passive sexist.
'The canons of our time are not going to represent diverse voices unless we consciously intervene...we need to be brave enough to call this what it is: not personal preference or taste, but sexism. Whether active or passive, it is discrimination.We need to educate: to honour the female writers that we love, and share their work.'
I'd love to write a book one day, but if people don't read it because I'm female, I think I'd be more offended if someone 'intervened' and shared my work because I'm a woman. Saying women need extra help, in this circumstance, is patronising. Successful female authors are so because of their talent. If a woman is talented, she'll get the success she deserves. And if not, that's unfortunately how life goes sometimes - for men and women.
We need to pick our battles. We need to make sure we don't sound patronising. We can't tell people to prefer women authors, it's up to the individual to make that decision. And if we don't, it's not harming anyone else. Gilmour is an exception to that, but he made the news precisely because it was a rare case and it was out of order, and, as a society, we recognise that.
I see men and women as equals, but my favourite authors are all male. In fact, so are most of my favourite journalists. I seem to prefer women bloggers, but none of these preferences are a matter of sex. They're a matter of personal taste and nothing else.
Sometimes women will request to see a female doctor. Is that sexist, or is it down to taste and preference?
Women and men have differences, no-one can argue with that. They can sometimes offer us different things, but that's not to say one is the lesser sex.
My favourite genre of music is blues, and I listen to mostly men. It's never occurred to me that I should intervene and force women musicians on others.
The world of literature might be biased towards men, that I don't know. But forcing people to read books by women is not the answer. If someone tells me I need to change my reading habits and buy some female books for the sake of equality, I'm likely to do the opposite, because that's how humans work sometimes.