Junot Diaz and #MeToo

Junot Diaz and #MeToo

A few weeks ago, celebrated author Junot Diaz penned an essay in the New Yorker in which he detailed the physical and sexual abuse he endured as a child.

When it came out, it was lauded as one of the bravest pieces of writing by a public intellectual of the past few years. Pundits and other writers raised it up as a needed, cathartic experience.

Then, today:

Then there's this thread, where the writer describes the blast of public misogyny she endured from Diaz for asking a question.

This fall from grace hits close to home for me, as a Latino. Diaz is the most prominent Latino mainstream author in the US. His books have been lauded as lucid evocations of time and place, and of the Latinx experience in America. While he hasn't assumed the status of a spokesperson for a group, it was always a thrill when someone with the name of "Diaz" was on the New York Times bestseller list.

But what #MeToo has shown is that those we uphold are often the ones who will let us down.

I well know the machismo and misogyny which is rampant in Latinx culture. I was lucky enough to be surrounded and raised by strong women who inculcated respect in me. Other Latinx men aren't as fortunate.

But I'm still disheartened when someone who I would think would know better based on his own past falls into the same traps. The abused becomes the abuser. The victim victimizes.

And no, past trauma is no excuse to turn around and inflict trauma on someone else. It is no excuse to use your power and celebrity to dominate and abuse another person. Your pain does not give you license to inflict pain on others.

What this episode shows is that even those who we think should know better, think should have learned lessons from their own pasts, can fall prey to a toxic culture in which still favors a  masculinity of power and dominance. Junot Diaz, who fell victim to that toxic masculinity, then inflicted it on women. I would say it's a tragedy, but it is also an all too human trait.



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