Junot Diaz speaking at Word Up: Community Bookshop in 2012 (via ethiopienne)
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
During a convention interview, star Glenn Howerton was asked why his character was named Dennis, whereas Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney's characters are named after themselves. Howerton responded by saying that he wanted to distance himself from his character as much as fucking possible.
A 14 year-old boy was recently raped at knife-point by a 20 year-old woman. When the story broke, it was primarily men who claimed he should have enjoyed it. It was feminists who validated his pain and spoke in support of him.
This is why we need feminism.
"but men get raped too-"
AND LOOK HOW YOU HANDLED THAT
This is important
I know I reblogged this earlier, but I’m doing it again because I want to add something. I relate to all of these, as I’m sure most women do. But the phone number thing. That one is one that’s hard to pull off these days, because of how technology advances. Even ten years ago, it was difficult.
Back in the 90’s, I used to travel by bus a lot. I went all over the place. Greyhound and I were old pals. Being a young woman traveling alone is scary, especially on a bus. For the most part, though, I traveled mostly without any major incidents. Yeah, there were the occasional creeps in the bus stations, but walking away towards security usually took care of them. Most people that were traveling long distances kept to themselves and were at best, helpful and friendly and at worst were just obnoxious or in desperate need of a shower. But there was one time that I still get pissed about.
This was the last time I traveled on Greyhound, in 2003. I’d just spent some time with my fiance in New Orleans, and I was headed back up north to Lexington, KY. The trip down was uneventful and quiet. Heading back north, the bus was at full capacity. We were going to have a layover in Memphis, and there were a lot of people getting out there, so the bus should have more room to stretch out the rest of the way. I preferred to have the seat next to me empty if I could, but I wouldn’t put up a fuss about sharing if I needed to. When we were loading up, the driver informed us that we would have a full bus and to not guard seats. I had my book and my Discman, so I could tune out at least until we got to Memphis.
Then, as I’d just gotten myself situated, this guy had beelined from the door right to the seat next to me. I immediately said “If you could move, I’d prefer to sit with another woman. Nothing personal.”
"Oh, don’t worry, you won’t even know I’m here!" he smiled.
I didn’t like the way he smiled. All the alarms in my head were going off. I put my headphones on and stared out the window until the bus was in motion. I pulled my book out and started reading. He tapped my arm. I pulled it closer to me and turned myself in toward the window. He pulled my headphone off my ear and said “Hey, I’m talking to you. You could be nice enough to pay attention when you’re spoken to.”
"I think I made it pretty clear that I don’t want to talk to you. Let me read my book in peace." Another tap on my arm. This time I turned and stared him right in the eyes. "DO NOT touch me again." This time I had my hand reaching toward my pocket for the folding knife I kept with me.
He looked sorry and said he just wanted to apologize and that he was just lonely and thought I looked like someone he could talk to. I was still giving him a narrowed glare, but I thought Well, maybe I’m overreacting because I’m tired and travel stresses me out. So I asked him what was bothering him. Big mistake. Maybe if I’d just held my ground he’d have laid off. Who knows. He started telling me about how he was a long haul trucker and his truck had broken down on him and he was going through a bad breakup and he thought I was a kind person and he knew that I was special and that’s why he sat next to me.
It’s when he started turning the conversation to me that I started shutting down and redirecting the topic back to him. I didn’t want to talk about myself with him. I pulled out my book and started staring at it, not really reading, but not wanting to make eye contact again. He started asking me where I was going. He told me he was getting off at Memphis (thank god). I just said I was going further than that.
The bus made a couple of quick stops at rest areas and during the first one, Creeper got off and I went up to the driver and asked him if there was any way I could change seats with someone, and he said I could ask someone to trade with me, but he wasn’t about to make anyone. I told him that the man next to me was bothering me, and he told me that unless he did something “bad”, that he couldn’t force him to move. I stared asking people, and not a single person would switch with me. I got a few sympathetic “I’m sorries”, but that was it. The second time we stopped, I had to go to the restroom, so I high-tailed it to the ladies’. When I came out, he was right outside the door waiting for me. It was dark. And it was around the side of the building out of view of the bus. I screamed and ran around back to the bus and back to my seat. By the time he got back to the seat next to me, I had my jacket wrapped around me, and my knife in my hand (under the jacket) ready to go.
He explained he wasn’t trying to scare me, that he was just concerned for my safety. I’m pretty sure I visibly shuddered. He kept talking, and I kept doing my best to ignore. At no point did anyone ask this guy to leave me alone, but one guy asked him to keep it down. It was late at night, most people were trying to sleep. I tried to feign sleep at one point, and the helpful Creeper said “You can lean on me, I’ll be your pillow.” Well, there goes that clever plan. Then he started asking me if I wanted to accompany him in Memphis, that he would get us a room and “with two beds” to prove he was being gentlemanly. And that he’d buy me a plane ticket to anywhere I wanted after a good night’s sleep. After all, he just wanted someone to talk to.
I just told him, repeatedly, that I wasn’t about to go off alone with someone I just met. That’s when he said that he would give me his phone number and I could call whoever and give them the number and that way he could be held accountable. I told him I didn’t have a cell phone (which at the time, I didn’t). He said I could use his to call my house. I said no, because it was late and I didn’t want to wake up my family. That’s when he started badgering me for my phone number.
Now, this was one of the meaner things I’ve done, but I had to give him a legit number. I knew he was going to call the number once I’d given it to him. I’ve given out a fake number to guys on the bus before. It was the time and temperature number from a local bank in my hometown. I knew he needed a legit number because I’d just given him that number and he called it. So I rattled off the first number that came to my head, which was the number of my best friend, who I’d recently had a falling out with. So I was a little sore. Also, she and I sounded a lot alike on the phone. So he called and thankfully, her voicemail picked up, and he seemed satisfied with that and hung up.
After that, he still kept trying to get me to get off the bus with him once we reached Memphis, to the point that when we arrived, he reached up to the overhead bin and pulled down my bag. I informed him that I wasn’t going anywhere, and the people behind him were starting to get restless and he was holding up the line. Finally a rather large, grumpy guy told him to move it, and he did. He left the bus, and my bag in the aisle, which I scooped up and put on the now empty seat.
It wasn’t until after he was gone that 3 or 4 of the passengers around me made comments to me about how creepy he was and how sorry they were that I had to put up with that. I just said “Yeah, well, thanks for sticking up for me.” I put my bag back up in the bin and sat back down, finally tired enough to relax a bit. I didn’t sleep until I’d reached my destination, and then dozed in my mom’s car for about five minutes until we got home.
About a week later I got an angry phone call from my friend (whose number I gave to the Creeper). Once I explained what had happened, she wasn’t as angry, but she did ask what I’d done to get that guy so worked up. I was angry at her for assuming that. I was angry that people sat there and watched this guy aggressively strong-arm me into giving him a phone number and did nothing about it. I was angry that the bus driver wouldn’t (or perhaps couldn’t) do anything. And I was angry that this guy just knew that he could do that without consequence. At best, I would have gone along with him and whatever plans he had for me, or at worst, he’d at least get my phone number. “No” was apparently not an option.
That was the last time I took a bus anywhere (other than just local buses in the city). Once I got home and called my fiance and told him what had happened, he swore I’d fly from then on, and that’s what I did. I told my mom about it as soon as I got in her car at the bus station, and her reaction was just “Well, that’s how men are, you just have to keep your head down.” I was keeping my head down. I was giving off every non-verbal “do not approach” signal I could muster, and verbally told him to leave me alone several times. You can still do “everything right” and still be harassed or assaulted. And other people, as that little graphic above shows, are more likely to react to the call of “fire” rather than “rape”. No one on that bus was about to step in and tell that guy off because at least he was keeping his crazy contained to our seats.
People suck sometimes.