'The Baseline Is, You Suck': Junot Diaz on Men Who Write About Women
- The Atlantic: It sounds like you're saying that literary "talent" doesn't inoculate a writer—especially a male writer—from making gross, false misjudgments about gender. You'd think being a great writer would give you empathy and the ability to understand people who are unlike you—whether we're talking about gender or another category. But that doesn't seem to be the case.
- Junot Diaz: I think that unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations. Without fail. The only way not to do them is to admit to yourself [that] you're fucked up, admit to yourself that you're not good at this shit, and to be conscious in the way that you create these characters. It's so funny what people call inspiration. I have so many young writers who're like, "Well I was inspired. This was my story." And I'm like, "OK. Sir, your inspiration for your stories is like every other male's inspiration for their stories: that the female is only in there to provide sexual service." There comes a time when this mythical inspiration is exposed for doing exactly what it's truthfully doing: to underscore and reinforce cultural structures, or I'd say, cultural asymmetry.
I pictured Oct. 31: my handsome, sturdy brown-skinned son in a flowing wig and poofy dress, tiara sparkling atop his head. I saw us trick-or-treating in our New Jersey suburb, going from one colonial to the next, our neighbors asking “And what are you, uh, little girl?” as they dropped candy in his bag after a curious glance at me.
I could handle that. Like Bug, I didn’t mind going against the grain. Also, the simple fact that one of my sons could express himself was a blessing. If he wanted to be a princess, then darn it, he’d be a royal She.
But when I browsed for costumes, I felt uneasy. In the princess section, long wigs were the color of spun gold. Even Snow White’s silky tresses glistened through the cellophane, the opposite texture of my son’s coarse hair. Whether it was Cinderella or her fairy godmother, each package showed a picture of a smiling white woman who glowed. “You, too, can be me,” she beckoned, “for this one special day.”
I left the store in a panic. I didn’t care if my son wanted to be a princess. I just didn’t want him to want to be a white princess.”
Basically the shortest, yet most accurate, commentary on the differences between ads geared towards men and women I’ve ever seen.
AND YOUR CHILDREN’S CLOTHES ARE FILTHY
god, so accurate.
i love them so much
While discussing the overarching theme of family - specifically parenthood - in a novel, my professor said this of a character who had adopted a child: “X is a father, too. Well, not a real father, but kind of one.” None of my classmates took issue.
I am an 18 year old man who is sterile. Distraught by others’ perceptions of adoption and parenthood. I guess that I can only ever be “kind of” a dad.