Monday, May 26, 2008

Dead Old White Guys


A female author, a middle aged woman who claims to have been the victim of discrimination, and who waves a feminist flag with bitterness and bile, made numerous statements about diversity and feminism. Yes, the corporate world is dominated by white males over the age of forty. Yes, the United States government is also dominated by males. I do not for a moment dispute these statements. I consider myself a feminist and believe in equality and work toward it each day.

However...one comment this woman made troubled me enormously. I come back now to address it. She said, in her typical vitriolic way: "Thank God the curriculum in schools has changed. We have more women writers being studied, as well as African American authors and authors from other minorities. We are no longer being forced to study the work of dead old white men."

Dead Old White Men. Sounds like a blues song, doesn't it? Maybe the opening of an advertisement for the likes of Viagra or some male enhancement product.

My issue here is that a culture stands on the shoulders of those who came before. Surely there is a way to appreciate these earlier artists and pioneers without throwing those people under the wheels of the bus. Do we forsake Shakespeare? Yeats? Poe? Hardy? Dickens? Lewis? Does Mark Twain no longer have value?

What about the ideas of Rousseau, Locke, or Hobbs? Maybe we don't read the original any longer, but their ideas have helped ferment a revolution and brought forth a constitution which is a living document that has thus far lasted at least two hundred years.

I know this woman author is a sensationalist. But her flippant comment is one to consider. Cultures change. The work of contemporaries is important. Vital. In our culture we should also acknowledge the contributions and ideas of those outside our culture, from other pasts from other countries.

However, failure to pay attention to our past, to create and maintain a shared culture, is a disservice to our children and to future generations.

8 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I won't be reading this female author. Your point is well taken. We don't need to throw out the good stuff among older works and just because someone is a white male doesn't automatically make their viewpoint undesirable.

Travis said...

Well said. There's no need to throw over what came before in order to appreciate fresh offerings.

SQT said...

Feminism just for the sake of feminism is pointless. I've heard women say that if you're a woman you should be voting for Hillary. Just as I've heard black people voice the same sentiment for Obama.

Apparently judging someone for the quality of their mind doesn't really matter anymore.

Donnetta Lee said...

Our past is a part of our present. We keep building on it and those who populated it. How can you have one without the other? And the past is multifaceted. More than just dead old white guys there!
Donnetta

Stewart Sternberg said...

Charles, even if she hadn't said what she said, you wouldn't reader. A most unpleasant person. Trav...I agree. SQT, I think anything for the sake of anything is wrong, without commitment and principle it is shallow.

Donnetta, you are correct. Old White Guys did their thing, but there were many other people contributing to history. Perhaps it reflects the poor woman's inferiority complex that she made such a bitter statement.

x_X_xThe Black Rabbitx_X_x said...

Yeah, I don't in any way consider myself a feminist... In fact, a lot of feminists scare the living piss out of me. It is really disarming to think that there is a group of women who think that they are better than men...
In a way... isn't it like white supremicy? These women, instead of thinking their race is better, think their sex is better.
I am quite content just dealing with myself.

Cappy said...

As if anyone cares what a dried-up hag like her thinks!

James B. said...

Bravo. Well said. I remember when I worked in Richmond, Va. The first week there, several co-workers drove me around town taking me to different areas, so I could familiarize myself. The first or second night on the job, one colleague drove to an area of the city where there were statues of Confederate war legends - Gen. Robert E. Lee, etc. Well, when the colleague realized where we were, she blanched and sped out of the neighborhood apologizing profusely and tripping over her own tongue. All this prompted me to look at her as though she'd grown a second head from her shoulders and ask her what the hell was wrong with her. Her response? "Oh, I'm sure it was painful for you to see that stuff!" Really?

Anyway, I told her she was nuts. History is history. We can't pretend it didn't happen or refuse to talk about it 'cause we don't like an aspect of it. Just have to learn from it. Again, great post.