Gender Criticism of Junot Diaz's 'The Cheater's Guide to Love'
It is not sexist.
In today's society, gender plays an important role in almost every aspect of our lives. Much like racism, and religious intolerance, sexism is a learned behavior. It is prevalent in many cultures, including our own. For example, in our last presidential election, the objectification of women became a key narrative. At that time, candidate Donald Trump was secretly recorded speaking vulgarly about touching women’s body parts with Entertainment Tonight's correspondent Billy Bush. He later justified it, by saying it was only “locker room” talk. Despite this, Donald Trump still became president. What does that say about our culture? It says that, when it comes to gender roles, we have not made much progress. Generally speaking, so called "locker room" talk is common among most men in our country. It is obvious that there are still many elements of sexism left in our culture. Dominican author Junot Diaz's touches on this, in his short story, "The Cheater's Guide to Love," which is the culmination of a collection of short stories called "This Is How You Lose Her." In the story, there is no question that the narrator, Yunior, is a womanizing sexist. However, some gender based critics contend that even though Yunior is a sexist, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the story is sexist.
In his article, “How Junot Diaz Wrote a Sexist Character, but Not a Sexist Book,” author Joe Fassler explains, “The problem and paradox is that Diaz must allow for accusations of sexism in order for his work to read like art. If it’s too clear what his feelings are, if an agenda or platform asserts itself, then the story’s worth as literature is diminished.” (Fassler 6) In other words, contrary to how it reads on the surface, Diaz makes his character overtly sexist to expose sexism. Diaz himself said that “he wrote the book, in part, to acknowledge the deep sexism that pervades our culture but frequently remains unaddressed.” (Fassler 5)
Flasser points out another reason why “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” is not a sexist story, by highlighting the fact that, in the end, Yunior loses the girl. Flasser shows the reader that Yunior’s chauvinistic ways do not work out for him. After going through much heartache and depression, he finally comes to terms with the idea that he is not worthy of a good woman. Flasser sums it up nicely when he writes, “The women he has loved and lost are in him eternally, like radiation; their cast shadows will only grow, like cancer. And he is sorry.” (Flasser 11)
Finally, even feminist critics have jumped to Diaz’s defense. In her article, “What Women Can Learn from Reading Sexist Male Writers”, Author Sigal Samuel says,
When his collection This Is How You Lose Her came out in 2012, many accused him of sexism because his young Dominican narrator, Yunior, spewed it on nearly every page. But others leapt to Díaz’s defense, arguing that the author is trusting us, the readers, to deconstruct the sexism of the text as we read. And that may just be profoundly feminist of him. (Samuel 5)
In conclusion, Junot Diaz’s love story/ commentary on sexism achieves its goal of raising more awareness to a cultural problem that won’t go away. Talking or writing about it is a start. The more clear and honest we are about the complexities of gender, the more progress we will make.
Flasser, Joe. The Atlantic. 11 9 2012. Web. 2 5 2017.
Samuel, Sigal. Electric Lit. 24 11 2015. Web. 2 5 2017.