A Philadelphia writer, Zinzi Clemmons, on May 4 alleged that Pulitzer prize-winning author Junot Díaz sexually harassed her during a workshop where she had invited him.

Clemmons wrote about the incident on Twitter, and it has gone viral on the internet with many women supporting her for speaking up. LA resident Clemmons’ experience adds up to the #Metoo and #TimesUp movement started in the West to raise a collective voice against sexual harassment in Hollywood.

While these two movements had only comprised Hollywood until now, Clemmons’ joins the many others around the world that have sprung up in academia. About the incident, she wrote, “As a grad student, I invited Junot Díaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature. I was an unknown wide-eyed 26-year-old, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I’m far from the only one he’s done this to, I refuse to be silent anymore.”

“I told several people this story at the time,” she wrote in a follow-up post. “I have emails he sent me afterward.”

Lastly, Clemmons wrote, “I’ve basically avoided literary functions and posted no photos of myself online in order to avoid people like Diaz and Stein (who I have my own set of terrible stories about as well). I’m sick of these talentless assholes dictating my life. No more.”

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Following the posts and how several women have resonated with Clemmons’ experience of harassment, Sydney Writers’ festival confirmed on May 5 that Diaz has withdrawn from his remaining sessions. Guardian Australia has reported that he left the country today morning. And the panel that he was going to speak at—The Politics of Empathy—on Saturday afternoon stands cancelled.

“Sydney Writers’ festival is a platform for the sharing of powerful stories: urgent, necessary and sometimes difficult,” the festival said in a statement. “Such conversations have never been timelier. We remain committed to ensuring they occur in a supportive and safe environment for our authors and audiences.”

“I told several people this story at the time,” she wrote in a follow-up post. “I have emails he sent me afterward.”

After Clemmons, more women came forward to report their experiences of misconduct with Diaz. 2017 National Book Award finalist, Carmen Maria Machado, also an attendee at Sydney Literature Festival, wrote, “During his tour for THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER, Junot Díaz did a Q&A at the grad program I’d just graduated from. When I made the mistake of asking him a question about his protagonist’s unhealthy, pathological relationship with women, he went off for me for twenty minutes.”

 

Recently, Diaz wrote an article in the New Yorker about how he hurt women and many women on social media are calling him out for being preemptive and not really radical and progressive. British Writer Laurie Penny wrote on Twitter, “In the New Yorker, Junot Díaz told us how he moved through phases of ‘hurting women’ as a result of his own considerable, awful trauma. But trauma is no excuse for misogyny. Women should not have to suffer so that you can heal. When do we get to heal?”

Closer home, in India too, we saw in the recent past cases of renowned professors and people from academia dumped with accusations of sexual misconduct. The latest one is that of JNU professor Atul Johri. These cases show how powerful and well-educated men with great intellect cannot guarantee women safety. But the fact that more women are standing up against such men despite the fear of getting ostracized is what gives us all hope.

Picture credit- Pagesix

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