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  • John Harris

    To CWILA

    Rob Budde’s statement against the culture of male privilege in Creative Writing courses is admirable as far as it goes. But in dealing with only half the problem (people who male-identify) it can result in only half a solution.

    In what I consider a blockbuster article about the problems of creative writing courses, published in This in May/June 2015, Nashwa Khan reveals that women, particularly feminists, are an important part of what professor Budde calls the “gendered hierarchies” of creative writing.

    These women are mostly, but not entirely, white. They include any women “immersed in the very simplistic and classic ways literature is taught, those who uphold white feminism and let it seep into their writing and work-shopping of pieces.” In other words, they are women who adhere to standard, western theoretical approaches to the evaluation and writing of literature, including the feministic approach that rose to prominence in the 1970’s — the approach that seeks to expose in literature the mechanisms of patriarchy.

    White-feminist creative writing lore and theory has been adopted by men, including MOC according to Khan, whose “male privilege” as Dr. Budde puts it, makes it even more of a burden on WOC. The activities of the feminists “who would let myself and the other women of color in my class know how to write about our bodies and existence, question our use of words from our mother tongues, and surveillance our truths . . . were cosigned by the silence of men of color.”

    Furthermore the accumulated canon of what Elaine Showalter termed “gynotexts” (works by Alice Munro, Amy Hempel, Eudora Welty are Khan’s examples) has been enforced on WOC in creative writing classes as oppressively as works in the classic white male canon, and these works are as meaningless. As Khan describes it, the feminists have reverted to the old humanistic idea that humans are in most ways all the same. The male canon was taught as if it was applicable to men and women equally; gynotexts are taught as applicable to all women equally. Khan affirms that Alice Munro, for example, is simply “white Anglo-Saxon protestant default writing” that can mean little to WOC.

    I propose a statement against the culture of feministic privilege in Creative Writing courses.

    John Harris