To the Editor:
We are deeply disappointed by your decision to publish “My #MeToo Moment” by Deborah Chasman (The Chronicle Review, April 17), a one-sided account of a complicated and ongoing story that masquerades as objective, rational critique.
Though we are named a total of 44 times in this essay, we were never contacted to verify or contextualize the various statements, events, emails and tweets attributed to us. Neither were we interviewed by Boston Review during its internal investigation into Junot Díaz, nor MIT’s investigation, which Chasman refers to several times. In fact, Chasman presents no evidence that she spoke with anyone whose experience of Díaz’s behavior conflicts with hers, nor does she cite publicly available accounts that contradict her narrative. She also does not acknowledge that her decision not to fire Díaz had a chilling effect on other women who were planning to come forward, as we have said repeatedly; nor that her clear, early bias in Díaz’s favor affected who was willing to speak to her — and still does, to this day.
Throughout the essay, Chasman alludes to a standard for sexual misconduct upon which Boston Review based its decision to retain Díaz. “I had no reason to doubt that Byrne and Rivera were harmed [...]” Chasman writes, “But I thought it was essential to draw a distinction between those experiences and something that required punishment, mass public shaming, or the termination of a professional relationship.” She never defines what behaviors do require punishment, and even if she did, her internal investigation was unlikely to have found them. The same is true of the Pulitzer Board, who failed to define their standard for sexual misconduct when they announced their decision to retain Díaz.
These are all familiar tactics used by institutions and individuals to cast doubt upon accusations of misconduct. Another tactic is to invert the dynamic of accuser and accused, casting the accused as victimized, and the accusers as powerful and deranged. This is exactly what Chasman does in her essay. In reality, Díaz remains a tenured professor at MIT, fulfilled his tenure on the Pulitzer Board and the Boston Review, and continues to write regularly for major outlets. He’s had several articles written in his support in the New York Times and other major publications. His publisher, Penguin Random House, has stated publicly that they “remain committed to publishing any future books when he is ready.”
In contrast, the majority of the accusations against Díaz appeared on Twitter — the only public arena where women felt they could share their experiences, unfiltered, as in many other #MeToo cases. But we have yet to be interviewed in good faith by a mainstream outlet with an understanding of the complexities inherent in #MeToo cases, which is essential to reporting them. Díaz’s fame, professional titles, connections, and resources continue to dwarf ours and those of his other accusers.
We regret that The Chronicle can now be added to the list of institutions complicit in the attempt to discredit and silence Díaz’s accusers.
Monica Byrne, Author
Zinzi Clemmons, Author, Assistant Professor of English, University of California at Davis
Carmen Maria Machado, Author
Alisa Rivera, Principal, Alisa Rivera Communications