Following author Zinzi Clemmons’s revelation that Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz forcibly kissed her several years ago, others have accused him of sexual misconduct and misogynistic behavior. It’s led to Díaz withdrawing from the Sydney Writers’ Festival and stepping down as chairman of the Pulitzer Prize board, a position he held since April. Now, 26 women academics have signed an open letter on The Chronicle of Higher Education denouncing the media treatment of Junot – something that many online have spoken out against.
The letter states that since the news broke, he’s been described as “a bizarre person, a sexual predator, a virulent misogynist, and abuser, and an aggressor.” “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,” the letter reads. “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.”
Though the scholars say they don’t “intend to dismiss current or future accusations of misconduct by Díaz or any other person,” some feel the letter sides with Junot over the victims, especially when our society tends to forgive the transgressions of talented men. For some, the letter also seemingly criticizes more than just the media. “The tweets against Junot Díaz are being framed as part of the #MeToo movement,” the letter continued. “We are aware that the platform created by #MeToo is an essential resource for women as we seek to protect ourselves in a sexist society that promotes violent behaviors against women and girls. #MeToo has opened many doors in the United States for women to demand justice and expose predators and predatory behavior. It has been effective precisely because it is changing the culture of communication on which these behaviors thrive.”
There’s a mix of emotions, from those who believe that the letter is dismissive to the accusations made against Díaz to those that don’t understand why the letter needed to exist in the first place. Check out a few responses below:
Surprised me. Not understanding why they felt this was necessary. He's a big boy & I honestly think he'll be fine if he does the work. —> Open Letter Written by 26 Women Academics About Junot Díaz Says Media and Tweets Are to Blame https://t.co/Xl3y1EuSsW via @latinorebels
— Gina Vergel (@ginavergel7) May 14, 2018
Sigh. A few people I really admire signed that open letter in defense of Junot Diaz.
— Jon Cicoski (@joncicoski) May 15, 2018
It is so sickening that so many brilliant writers and scholars signed onto this letter about Junot Diaz being excoriated based on tweets. https://t.co/7zN4o87AY5
— Evette Dionne ♀️ (@freeblackgirl) May 15, 2018
This letter wants to be on the side of #MeToo and also to complain about how Junot Díaz has been treated, but the only way to do that is A. to collapse the difference between him and The Latino Author, and B. to gesture vaguely towards "media" as the problem.
— Aaron Bady (@zunguzungu) May 14, 2018
Check out the entire letter here.