Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Oxford as a “sexist little dump”

Ruth Padel was elected to the position of Oxford Professor Of Poetry after Derek Walcott withdrew as a candidate once allegations surfaced that Walcott had been involved in sexually harassing students.  But now Padel has resigned from the professorship after serving for only 9 days.  Such was the case after Padel admitted that she played a role in having the press cover Walcott’s sexual harassment history.

A number of the British literati were disturbed by the resignation.

Novelist Jeanette Winterson said: “It’s a pity she has been backed into a corner. What she has done is so much more ­trivial than her contribution to poetry. This feels malicious and nasty. We ought to be able to look beyond the woman to the poetry. This is a way of reducing women; it wouldn’t have happened to a man. But then Oxford is a sexist little dump.”

Now wasn’t this in essence what the defenders of Walcott had said- that we ought to look beyond the man to his poetry; that what he had done is so much more trivial than his contribution to poetry; that this would not have happened to a woman. 

But when Winterson characterizes Oxford as “a sexist little dump” such goes beyond the poetic fringe.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion,  the Oxford debacle represents a form of poetic license, of poets running amok.

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May 25, 2009 - Posted by | ethics, feminism, higher education, Oxford College, poets, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, United Kingdom

1 Comment »

  1. I’m sorry to read about this. And if the post had been made on the basis of merit, and merit alone, this would never have happened. Instead, it went into the sleaze of gender and sexual politics.

    And Winterson’s comments seem hypocritical, to say the least. It’s wrong to conduct intrigue in order to get a post, full stop.

    Comment by DCP | May 29, 2009 | Reply


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