No one likes a female critic

Or rather, there are too few female critics to dislike. By ‘no one’ I mean the people who find strongly opinionated women intimidating, those who fall to their feet in worship at the altar of an equally opinionated male critic – the same idolised figure with whom a few would love to share a teh tarik, beer or other beverages of choice. The world of critique is often a boy’s club, and the critic is often male. But what kind of critic am I referring to? you will ask.

By critic I mean someone who doesn’t simply criticise something, but a person who speaks and writes critically with value judgment on issues related to popular public discourses – namely the arts, culture, and politics. The popular, often male critic is someone whose opinions are like gold dust, however little or much they say their words are of great, *uncontested* value. Critics are found in many places – television, magazines, newspapers, and blogs – but the extent of which they are disliked can be easily measured in online forums where there is interaction with the reading and equally critical public.

Women’s critical pieces on discrimination and gender-based violence are quickly shot down in flames by an angry online mob or by a single, disgruntled and often persistent ‘fan’. Female commenters are often either put off or subdued into frustrated silence by trolling behaviour. The trolls, while not always gender-specific, are recognisably masculine in attributes – macho, patronising, and zealously intent on dominating conversations in their favour, however misguided, offensive, confused, and ill-informed they are. To say that men’s critical pieces are never rubbished in this way is not true either, but the scarcity of influential women’s critical writing and reviews coupled with the disproportionate sexism and belittling of the female writer makes a case worth interrogating.

But beyond the ostensibly boundless and illusory equal playing field of the internet, the greatness of literature and film are dictated by male arbiters who would often dismiss the many films and books either made by women or are targeted at women. Of course a few ‘women’s’ films and books remain worthy of mention and tokenistic significance, but even fewer can topple the towering edifice of great *Master*pieces.

We have a big problem in our hands when the most influential (and perhaps only) intellectual and cultural movers and shakers of the country are male (and insert other privileges here). It means that a male style of discourse – dominating, macho, and dismissive of femininity – will always be the order of the day if one wants to be heard, be respected, and attain authority.

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