Dashing any remote hope we might have had that sexism was, indeed, a thing of the past, this week author and University of Toronto professor David Gilmourblithely announced to an interviewer that he's simply "not interested in teaching books by women". Incredibly generously, he made an exception for a single short story by Virginia Woolf, "the only writer that interests me as a woman writer". Thanks David.
But the real damage in Gilmour's apparently offhand remarks isn't to the authors themselves (Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith, and Toni Morrison seem to be soldiering on remarkably bravely despite his inattentions), but to the students in his class. It's like the damage done when Boris Johnson recently joked that women only go to university to find husbands. Or when the conductor Vasily Petrenko claimed men will always be superior conductors – because orchestras are distracted by a "cute girl on a podium" – and when eminent artist Georg Baselitz declared "Women don't paint very well. It's a fact", the real damage is done to the young aspiring female authors or academics, musicians or artists, looking to their heroes for inspiration and seeing the door clearly and unequivocally slammed in their faces.
Each instance seems almost utterly preposterous in isolation, but for all four of these incidents to have occurred within the space of the past year alone reveals the sad truth that we are still fighting, in 2013, simply for it to be acknowledged that women are even