Help me find a Junot Diaz quotation about writing and politics.
September 15, 2013 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a Junot Diaz quotation about writing and politics, and google is failing me. I saw it in the last year or two in the form of a tumblr-type image, though it was not this one about Elvish. It went something like this:
Interview question: How do you make sure your writing has good politics?
Diaz: When you grow up in a society that is as repressive as ours, that bad politics is going to come out in your writing no matter what. I have to struggle constantly to examine my writing and make sure I agree with the politics and get misogynistic or otherwise reactionary political content scrubbed out of it.
The interview question may or may not have been present. I of course can't phrase Diaz's response as eloquently as he did.
posted by HeroZero to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think it might be from this interview:
It sounds like you're saying that literary "talent" doesn't inoculate a write—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.

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.

So how do get away from that? Especially in a collection that delves so deeply into misogyny, and yet also tries to give the female characters dignity?

Each story is always such a particular little animal and it requires its own strategy. I think that much is gained in a self-conscious approach. Much is gained by admitting one's limitations, by seeking help around those limitations. As a writer, I believe that if I have had any success, it's because I always turn to my female friends and say, "What do you think about these women characters? What do you think? What could we do with them? What's going on with this stuff?"

There's an enormous resource for any male writer—and they're called women. This is not fucking rocket science. There's so many feminists out there who have created simple little rules, like Alison Bechdel. She has this hilarious movie test about women in movies. It's a simple three rules. A movie has to have at least 1) two named women in it, 2) who talk to each other, about 3) something besides a man. Do you want to know how many fucking movies don't pass that test?

This is how limited we're talking. We're talking about the average movie does not have two named women characters in it who talk to each other about something other than a man. We're not talking about trying to go up from a B- to a B. We're trying to bring people up from a 2 to like a 50.
posted by Jeanne at 9:01 AM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, it was the first response that you quote. Thanks!
posted by HeroZero at 9:08 AM on September 15, 2013

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