…But then, some pervert might interpret it as a come-on.
As evil_fizz recently pointed out – most people are aware of Walcott’s reputation as, well, someone who doesn’t respect certain boundaries with women. As most of the recent defenses of Walcott attest, it isn’t that anyone is denying that improprities have occurred – instead, people are saying that we should have a different standard for Walcott than we do for other people.
I am sympathetic to Ruth Padel, Walcott’s rival for the Professor of Poetry post at Oxford, who had to resign after it was alleged that she engaged in a “smear-campaign” that forced Walcott to withdraw his nomination for the post. I think she was being careless when she talked to the media, but what does it say about our priorities when Walcott only recently saw his inappropriate conduct affect his career, whereas women like Padel are automatically reduced to the status of evil trolls when they discuss information that’s already in the public domain?
As a young female journalist and aspiring novelist, I am routinely warned to never, EVER criticize men like Walcott. If I want to have a writing career, I am told, I need to shut up and smile and allow the Great Men of Letters to bask in their Greatness. Perhaps then they’ll let me sit in their laps, or something.
More importantly, we are taught to believe that certain men who Live the Life of the Mind can and should get away with demeaning women. Tom Wolfe can call young college women “sluts,” Derek Walcott can be the sort of man whom female undergraduates are explicitly warned against and not be the worse for wear, and so on. Not harassing or demeaning women is already seen as a tough business for your average man, but a man whose “brain is the size of a planet” cannot be held responsible as they are too distracted by their own brilliance to act as responsible residents of this sinful firmament – hell, poor guy was only thinking deep thoughts on Daniel Defoe when he accidentally stumbled into your pants, lady.
Odd how these excuses are only extended to men wherein their conduct with women is concerned. If Walcott was prone to picking fellow academics’ pockets or abusing his cat, would we be even having this discussion?