It feels like the right time to share how the rest of us are doing
May 13, 2018 7:06 PM   Subscribe

"As the Great Writer tours the country for his children’s book, he comes to my city. We meet. We speak about our past and say what we have already said hundreds of times to one another—my hurt, his apology, his trauma, his everything. He had already shared a rough draft of his confessional piece with me. He spoke to his editors as I drove him around town, on whether his piece should directly invoke the #MeToo movement or not. What I had not seen was the short paragraph he added referencing our specific past. To be a pit stop in a city he considered an isolated maw and follow the deep sigh of the phrase, in the meantime, perhaps says it all. To be named, and yet not named. Something broke in me when I read his synopsis of us, as if I had been summarily dismissed after twenty long years. Absolute erasure is a place without speech; a partial disclosure is like a door or window cracked open ever so slightly."

Junot Diaz's essay was discussed previously.
posted by ChuraChura (27 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 


Yet, on regular intervals, he resurfaced, communicated, and signaled how I was making a mistake in leaving him, and that I should give him another chance. What I never could make clear to him is that this chance was never palatable. He always spoke about me moving back to the city and setting me up with a place where he could visit when he pleased.

Brah, Julia Roberts left Richard goddamn Gere over this idiotic offer thirty fucking years ago.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:40 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


“I am arguing for a radical feminist positionality that emerges out of the liminal zones, women perched forever on various borderlines, fronteras, who can reorient the imperial gaze, the colonial gaze, the hierarchical gaze of even their lovers who participate in the old economy of rating women’s bodies and ontologies against one another, so that women are named authorial subjects, able to control their stories, and no longer remain in the shadow of the Great Writers, Thinkers, and Philosophers.”

Ok, I’m in.
posted by seemoorglass at 8:54 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


Why is it that traumatized men who damage others are sympathetic lost souls and the "others" are acceptable losses, but traumatized people of any other gender who hurt others are bitter, broken harpies whose crimes cannot be forgiven?
My accepting his narrative of trauma as the linear narrative that propels the carnage of love in his fifty odd years on the planet, he further legitimizes the networks of historical systems of erasures and structural violence in which the lives of black and brown women are always already mired. By accepting what he brings to the table, once again, many of us who struggled to grab our seats are disappeared from our narratives. Many of us go back to the shadows where we have always resided, as props and footnotes in the stories of powerful men. The Great Writer offers the argumentative lever for much more menacing phallic figures to excuse their iniquities because of the sufferings reaped upon them in earlier chapters of their lives.
I am no longer able to read most "Great" Male Writers because of the traumatized, one-dimensional female characters littered through their books who are so clearly simply there as surfaces on which to project The Man's pain and greatness. One grows tired of again and again delving in beautiful prose only to see oneself denigrated and treated as a tool. I cannot imagine what it is like for a WOC--and I cannot imagine what it is like when one is literally the subject in question and that story literally concerns one's life and one not only had to live with actual pain but now has to live with seeing that pain reduced to a mere reflection of one's abuser's.
posted by schroedinger at 9:21 PM on May 13 [32 favorites]


Not enough can be said about sexual relationships that start in a coercive silence: the damage can be indefinite and lifelong.

This is one of the more profound things I’ve read about the subject. And I agree, from personal experience. The things that are done we cannot talk about, cannot evaluate: they are able to sink into our selves without questions or counteraction.

This is a beautiful and important essay. And also, I feel it.
posted by corb at 9:47 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


The one good thing about these Junot Diaz allegations is that through these women speaking out, I've gotten to learn about their work, and they all look amazing. I'm particularly excited to read The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes and What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. Also, it gave me a chance to recommend Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado to a bunch of people, so that's a win too.
posted by lunasol at 10:26 PM on May 13 [19 favorites]


Junot Diaz can go to hell. I've been waiting for this kind of thing to come out since he took a job teaching undergraduates about 10 years ago, and I'm sure the worst allegations have yet to come and are probably going to come from his former students. His open contempt for women that he keeps palming off as ~deconstructing misogyny~ has been a game of chicken that he's been playing with the public for twenty years. He took the worst kind of advantage of the New Yorker's genteel racism, which saw him basically publishing lines like "I fucked 50 sluts" in Spanglish as exotic and urbane rather than spitting in the faces of their female readership. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he started putting pen to paper for that trauma essay the second someone said to him, "Oh, have you heard about Sherman Alexie?" trying to make his audience conflate being sexually compulsive with being a sexual predator, throwing non-rapist CSA victims everywhere under the bus. In that essay about his childhood trauma, he's also still trying to take ownership of the narrative of the breakup of his last major relationship, still trying to get revenge on his ex; it's as much an act of stalking her as it is anything else. In one of his tearful reminisces about their good times together, he talks about being so in love, being so happy, smoking weed together every night... his ex is a New York State Senator and a black woman. Marijuana is still illegal in NYC and it's inconceivable to me that someone as outspoken about racial injustice as Diaz wouldn't understand the implications of ratting out his ex for weed. I know who the woman in "This is How You Lose Her" is; everyone in New York knows who she is, the financial details of their split made it onto the front page of the New York Post. Did he put that detail in his essay deliberately, maliciously, to hurt her? I don't know, but I suspect if her political opponents or the NYPD were to seize upon it, Diaz wouldn't care too much, because she hurt him, because she printed out that book of his cheating and he hasn't been able to write another book since, because she left him, so fuck her. I recognized that vague, born-again bullshit "I'm stepping into the light~~~" language from the end of that essay from H*go Schw*zer's body of work and thought, here we fucking go. So, so, so sick of these rapist men and the excuses society tries to make for them.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 12:13 AM on May 14 [56 favorites]


A girlfriend of mine, a fellow graduate student in another program, shared that he told her how he is deeply attracted to strong women of color, and inevitably, he finds the crack in them and breaks them before taking off. It is his way of teaching them a lesson, a gift he leaves behind for them in resilience. It is sort of like a continual experiment for him—she tells me this in the hope that I will wake up and get out.

Wow. So just your basic malignant narcissism, it's very easy to keep winning at a game that most people aren't trying to beat you at because they couldn't even begin to comprehend playing it.

I don't mean to blow up the comments on this post but I've spent about 10 years feeling paranoid and crazy for having that weird gut rage reaction reading this guy's interviews, feeling like Junot Diaz was playing some kind of sick social game, scoring points off everyone he could with the excuse that most of the people he did it to publicly were white, and occasionally he would be incapable of not letting the mask slip, not letting people know just how much he was winning, incapable of not gloating about how successful a manipulator he was. I remember so much about him got my back up, like this article right when he won the Pulitzer, I wanted to stand on a rooftop and scream STAY AWAY FROM HIM, HE'S FUCKING WITH YOU to all my friends who loved and were deferential to Oscar Wao and its criticism of sf/f:

In his defense, all the misogynists in This is How You Lose Her are pretty miserable for it. But for safety purposes, Díaz has a panel of women he consults to make sure he’s getting it right.
“As a writer, I believe that if I have had any success, it’s because I always turn to my female friends and say, ‘What do you think about these women characters? What do you think? What could we do with them? What’s going on with this stuff?’…There’s an enormous resource for any male writer—and they’re called women.
They even have “little gatherings” to discuss the flatness of female characters in his colleagues’ work! (He refuses to name names.)


From an article in The Cut in 2015. Presumably those colleagues whose flat characters he bragged about collecting other women to mock were female writers. Unimaginable rage.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:42 AM on May 14 [11 favorites]


A girlfriend of mine, a fellow graduate student in another program, shared that he told her how he is deeply attracted to strong women of color, and inevitably, he finds the crack in them and breaks them before taking off. It is his way of teaching them a lesson, a gift he leaves behind for them in resilience. It is sort of like a continual experiment for him—she tells me this in the hope that I will wake up and get out.

I met Junot a few times long ago through people who knew him well, and he was both intensely charismatic, and totally focused on precisely those women described in the sentences above. It was kind of weird to watch up close, and I was not very surprised when the first allegations started to come out, though I don't think people back then had a sense of how thoroughly he was crossing those lines.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:48 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


David Foster Wallace and the Dangerous Romance of Male Genius - A recent spate of #MeToo stories serves as yet another reminder of the centrifugal forces of talented men.

Christ what an asshole. I never should have accepted that damn bro-danna as an ignorable quirk.
posted by thelonius at 6:20 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I wanted to stand on a rooftop and scream STAY AWAY FROM HIM, HE'S FUCKING WITH YOU to all my friends who loved and were deferential to Oscar Wao and its criticism of sf/f

A few years ago I decided to read a bunch of recent Pulitzer prize winning novels and one of them was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and it struck me as extremely, intensely, and upsettingly misogynistic, but I also thought well, it won a major prize, and it was critically acclaimed, and I'm white so who am I to judge? I didn't want to be that white lady who read a work by an important and respected writer of color and made the response all about her discomfort, and I didn't really hear much other criticism of the book (it literally won the Pulitzer!) so I just kind of didn't say anything to anyone about it.

I think this is a dilemma women of color face even more intensely, where they don't want to feel like they are betraying important members of their community by speaking about their own needs (I saw a lot of this tension in articles written by Black women about Dr. Dre around the time Straight Outta Compton was in theaters), and it seems like Junot Diaz has weaponized women's desire to be supportive and conciliatory to attack them pretty openly. Really I think the view of women in that book was extremely gross and it's kind of a relief to be able to say it? But it is painful to think about all the women, especially women of color, trying to do the right thing by keeping quiet about suffering they've endured to support a man who is perfectly willing to hurt them.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:31 AM on May 14 [21 favorites]


Junot Diaz can go to hell. I've been waiting for this kind of thing to come out since he took a job teaching undergraduates about 10 years ago, and I'm sure the worst allegations have yet to come and are probably going to come from his former students. His open contempt for women that he keeps palming off as ~deconstructing misogyny~ has been a game of chicken that he's been playing with the public for twenty years. He took the worst kind of advantage of the New Yorker's genteel racism

He took that job more than fifteen years ago, and back then he blamed his treatment of women on colonialism. Explicitly. And his misogyny was not limited to the women he was trying to fuck. I didn’t post about it when everyone fawned over his essay about his own abuse, because how do you do that? How do you explain, no, I’ve known this asshole, and I know what he’s getting ahead of? And I didn’t even know most of it.

He can go to every hell there is on offer, and a few that are currently closed to new applicants, as far as I’m concerned.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:05 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]




God, I’d forgotten how angry I was about this piece of shit.

For anyone following along — it’s not just the harassment, or the misogyny, or the abuse. It’s the deliberate, gleeful gaslighting, the delight he took in manipulating women into believing they were less than. It’s the way he weaponized racism and used it as a defense to enable his misogyny. It’s the way he was socially adept enough to know he needed to get in front of things, that he was emotionally intelligent enough to make him a truly dangerous manipulator. He made people sympathize with him. He made sure everyone was on his side.

And he knew what he was doing the whole time.

He is truly a piece of shit.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:30 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I think this is a dilemma women of color face even more intensely, where they don't want to feel like they are betraying important members of their community by speaking about their own needs

I've been trying to respond to your comment for literally hours, because it's...really hitting a lot of deep chords with me. Bear with me if this sounds a little incoherent, it's..a lot of feelings.

There are these things, where there is a lot of trauma, caused by the world's shittiness, that hits men and women of color. And honestly and truly, it causes complex PTSD. And this is absolutely, one thousand percent true, and it is not their fault of receiving it, and PTSD makes you act differently, and yet. And yet.

Therapists had to recognize there is a 'female presentation' of C-PTSD and 'male presentation' and what it mostly boils down to is that when men are hurting they are angry and take it out on the world and when women are hurting they lick their wounds and work it out with and are angry at themselves. And - I no longer believe that's just something we don't need to examine, that it's just an unrelenting law of the universe that men are just going to lash out - usually at women - when they are hurting even if the thing that hurt them was unjust.

And so there comes this thing where the biggest danger to women is men often in the moment of their feeling vulnerable and scared, and how do you talk about that? How do you talk about a thing that is hitting communities of color more? How do you talk about when men of color who are legitimately being hit by the world are taking it out on women of color, especially in a world where everyone is ready to believe the worst of men of color, and you don't want to talk about it at all when it's true?

I reread that essay from the other side after seeing this, and so much of it just made me feel like....damn you Junot Diaz and damn you all the men who enforce this and believe it's a betrayal to call you on your shit. I was reading the part where he is talking about how the community is so happy to see two people from the same community who got out and made good and what he's not fucking talking about is about the immense amount of pressure that is placed on women of color who make good to date men of color who make good even if they are behaving terribly.

I was raped by someone in a similar position - someone who wanted to date me, we were going to be the Community Power Couple everyone was so excited to see and to my shame when I went to people to talk about it people tried to encourage me to date him anyway, to see his rape as just evidence of his intensity and desire for me because he's one of our own and he couldn't have meant anything bad.
And then I didn't report it and didn't talk about it again except to my closest closest friends even while I freely talked about the sexual assaults of white men because it didn't feel right.

tl;dr I regret I have but one favorite to give to that comment and now I need to go flail somewhere
posted by corb at 10:44 AM on May 14 [21 favorites]


There are these things, where there is a lot of trauma, caused by the world's shittiness, that hits men and women of color. And honestly and truly, it causes complex PTSD. And this is absolutely, one thousand percent true, and it is not their fault of receiving it, and PTSD makes you act differently, and yet. And yet.

I went looking the other day, because I was sure that by NOW, surely, there would be more research on racism and trauma. But it is still just a fucking howling void of no one doing the work, on that. There's some stuff on misogyny and trauma (though not enough), but barely anything on racism and trauma, at least that I could easily find. Which is just fucking jaw dropping.

So there's not a lot of research! My gut, my experience, is that shit rolls downhill. That traumatized people enact their trauma according to their social conditioning, and in line with how they perceive social power. So, yeah. Men externalize it, and women of color get the worst of it, always. The weight of all of that is crushing.

And it's a fucking travesty that we don't have research on this, right now. In twenty years, this will be one of the things the next generation finds absolutely horrifying about us. And they'll be right.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:06 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


"We do not intend to dismiss current or future accusations of misconduct by Díaz or any other person. We also acknowledge the negative and disturbing effects of verbally or psychologically aggressive acts or toxic relations on the women who experience them. Rather, our concern is with the sensationalist register in which the media and some social-media users have portrayed the accusations of misconduct leveled against the Latino author. We are further concerned that very different forms of gender violence have been presented as having equal impact, as devoid of nuance, and as unrelated to other sites of violence such as race, class, migration status, and ethnicity. The resulting characterization of Díaz as a dangerous and aggressive sexual predator from whom all women must be protected reinforces racist stereotypes that cast Blacks and Latinxs as having an animalistic sexual “nature.” These are the same stereotypes that lead to the sexual objectification of Black and Latinx women, and to the stigmatization and physical punishment of Black and Latino men."
posted by ChuraChura at 12:07 PM on May 14


ChuraChura, to my knowledge, Junot is the only one of these men who knowingly tried to get ahead of his #metoo moment by publishing a deeply personal essay about his own rape. That is both deeply manipulative and deeply sensationalist. I have typed out a much longer response, but honestly, I'm not willing to out myself more than I already have in this thread, and I don't need the fucking anger today. So I'll say that I know a lot of the reaction to Junot's #metoo moment has been super racist. But we are not talking about someone who is unaware of that. We are talking about someone who is both aware of how racism works, and has been willing to weaponize it for his own purposes, including using it as a justification for his treatment of women.

Any discussion of either Junot or the media reaction to him that doesn't contend with that is itself lacking nuance.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:42 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


What ChuraChura posted is an open letter by concerned academics. Resorting to appeals on the basis of the accused's "race, class, migration status and ethnicity" is exactly the kind of thing that brings white conservatives come down on liberal folk (like, I would imagine, most of us) like a ton of bricks. What are they even thinking with this? Do they have no idea what it reads like?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:52 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


That 'open letter' is literally the most enraging thing I've read in months.
The issue at hand is not whether or not one believes Díaz, or his accusers, but whether one approves the use of media to violently make a spectacle out of a single person
Junot Diaz is not my high school boyfriend or some guy who doesn't deserve to have his name written across the news, he is a major literary figure who has won international acclaim.

My standard for "should it be splashed across the news" is that if the person in question was willing to take media exposure about how great they were, how smart they were, how revolutionary they were, then they should be willing to take the bad along with the good and suffer the consequences of their actions also being publicly exposed.
posted by corb at 12:56 PM on May 14 [13 favorites]


I was raped by someone in a similar position - someone who wanted to date me, we were going to be the Community Power Couple everyone was so excited to see and to my shame when I went to people to talk about it people tried to encourage me to date him anyway, to see his rape as just evidence of his intensity and desire for me because he's one of our own and he couldn't have meant anything bad.
And then I didn't report it and didn't talk about it again except to my closest closest friends even while I freely talked about the sexual assaults of white men because it didn't feel right.


Similar experience here. Even though I knew speaking up about it would result in the usual But him?? I just can't see him ever doing something like that! comments, I was shocked at the ways in which his (what turned out to be, of course) serial abuse of women in the community became a conversation about how oh no he must just be processing his own trauma poorly. And by shocked I mean devastated to the point of moving full across the country because it was so disorienting to have a community of people who define themselves by their commitment to social justice and equality so fundamentally unwilling to grapple with the hard work of living those values. If I had to hear "I just want to make sure I'm supporting both of you" about a known serial rapist and pathological liar from one more person, I was going to fully shatter from rage (quite literally: I started having hospitalizing panic attacks for the first time).

It has always been clear from Junot's work that he inscribes his own pain knowingly--with all-too-cyclical (and ultimately cynical) gestures toward regret--upon women. I even admit that part of the allure of his work for me was exploring the shame that I have had about being attracted to men like him for a long time: men who weaponize their often legitimate trauma against women, first gently, then violently, eternally using it as a explanation to victimize and victimize and victimize and never take responsibility to the point of actually changing their behavior and accepting associated consequences. Men always seem to know better but never seem to do better, at the cost of so many who encounter them.
posted by youarenothere at 4:28 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


(yeah, I should have been clearer that those are not my own thoughts, but an open letter from mostly Latinx academics)
posted by ChuraChura at 5:02 PM on May 14


I'm in academia and that open letter has me seeing red. It really reads as: Junot Diaz got his famous female friends to stand up for him by casting doubt on the women who accused him and intimidating any woman who might still come forward by holding institutional prestige and accusations of being race traitors against them. And given that some of the signatories are at institutions that are already weathering revelations of long harboring known sexual harrassers (Jorge Dominguez at Harvard, for example) it's a really terrible look.
posted by TwoStride at 7:20 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]


One of the signers of the letter ChuraChura linked above has an op-ed in the NYTimes: This Is Not Just About Junot Díaz, by Linda Martín Alcoff.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on May 17


That NYT letter pretty much repeats all of the problems of the CHE letter.
posted by TwoStride at 8:12 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


But sexist behavior is sometimes enacted by individuals who are making otherwise important contributions to the movement,
No one could ever have predicted this defense would arise.
posted by corb at 4:21 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


And isn't it interesting whose offenses and bad behavior get excused as "making otherwise important contributions to the movement" and whose don't?
posted by Lexica at 7:33 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


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