Open Letter Written by 26 Women Academics About Junot Díaz Says Media and Tweets Are to Blame

May 14, 2018
4:32 PM

Junot Díaz at the Strand Bookstore Photo credit: workinpana on / CC BY-NC-ND

An open letter published Monday online by The Chronicle of Higher Education and signed by 26 women academics said it expressed “deep concern over the ways in which the press and those on social media have turned tweets made against Junot Díaz into trending topics and headlines in major newspapers both inside and outside the United States.”

The letter said that the allegations of sexual assault, misconduct and harassment against Díaz “have created what amounts to a full-blown media-harassment campaign. They have led to the characterization of the writer as a bizarre person, a sexual predator, a virulent misogynist, an abuser, and an aggressor.”

The letter continued:

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.

The entire letter is here.

The academics who signed the letter are as follow:

  • Aisha Beliso de Jesús, Professor of African American Religions, Harvard Divinity School
  • Cristina Beltrán, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
  • Laura Catelli, Professor of Latin American Art, Universidad Nacional de Rosario, CONICET, Argentina
  • Elena Creed, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College
  • Mabel Cuesta, Associate Professor of US Latino and Caribbean Literature, and Creative Writing, University of Houston
  • Arlene Dávila, Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, New York University
  • Zaire Dinzey, Associate Professor of Sociology and Latino/a and Caribbean Studies, Rutgers University
  • Coco Fusco, Professor and the Banks Preeminence Chair in Art, University of Florida
  • Lorgia García-Peña, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and History and Literature, Harvard University
  • Daily Guerrero-Brito, Fellow at The Door — A Center for Alternatives
  • Sharina Maillo-Pozo, Assistant Professor of Languages, Literatures & Cultures Latin American and Caribbean Studies, SUNY New Paltz
  • Sophie Maríñez, Associate Professor of French and Spanish, Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY)
  • Linda Martín Alcoff, Professor of Philosophy, Hunter college
  • Paula Moya, Professor of English, Stanford University
  • Vanessa Perez-Rosario, Associate Professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College
  • Gina Perez, Professor of Comparative American Studies, Oberlin College
  • Dixa Ramírez, Assistant Professor of Caribbean and Latinx Literature, American Studies and Ethnicity, Race and Migration, Yale University
  • Ana Ramos-Zayas, Professor of American Studies, Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and Gender and Sexuality, Yale University
  • Danzy Senna, Associate Professor of Creative Writing and English, University of Southern California
  • Milagros Ricourt, Professor of Latin American, Latino, and Puerto Rican Studies, Lehman College
  • Juana María Rodríguez, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California at Berkeley
  • Chandra Talpade Monhanty, Distinguished Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, Syracuse University
  • Jacqueline Villarrubia-Mendoza, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Colgate University
  • Helena Maria Viramontes, Professor of Creative Writing and English, Cornell University
  • Rebecca Walker, Author
  • Patricia Zavella, Professor Emerita, Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California at Santa Cruz