Midterm Essay Examples
Junot Diaz’s. ‘This is how you lose her’ is a collection of short stories that has Yunior as the narrator recounting his roller-coaster relationships with women. Diaz’s Yunior is a conflicted yet unapologetic heterosexual male. Through Yunior’s character the author brings out the rampant and very prevalent sexism that is deep rooted in our society. Although it pervades to all levels of our culture, it is a topic that is seldom addressed. Although the protagonist Yunior is a sexist, the book isn’t and is rather a work that addresses this issue head on. Yunior is a character who exudes ‘male privilege’ through his interactions with women. The way he describes them and treats them all point to this heterosexual male privilege and the gender imbalance in the society. Yunior really loves his women, but also cheats on them not really caring about what they go through after they come to know about the cheating. He genuinely feels remorse but that doesn’t stop him from cheating. It is only in the last chapter, ‘The Cheater’s Guide to Love’ that Yunior undergoes a change and although it kills him to admit it, he realizes that his ex was right too. All the women that he has loved and cheated leave behind an impression, a shadow that only grows larger.
“I’m not a bad guy,” he says in his defense: “I’m like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good”. Yunior does not really think he is a bad person because he has cheated, he thinks it is a normal thing for a man to do and that it is okay for a man to be weak and make mistakes. This is one of the male privileges; that a man could get away with something like infidelity because the society has accepted that men are like that. The bro code of superiority also comes out in the first story, ‘The Sun, the moon, the stars’ where Yunior’s friends and the two guys he meets in his Dominican holiday tell him to move on and get over his girlfriend. The advice that the two men give him when Yunior tells him about his problems with his girlfriend are typical examples of a sexist approach that men have had towards women for a long time. Their advice is to go out with other women and make his girlfriend jealous and how feeling insecure she would come back to him and try to please him. They are unapologetic about what Yunior had done, his cheating is taken for granted, but it is the woman who by being distant and hurt is the problem. Men according to them are superior and it is a woman who has to crawl and beg to be in his good books even if she was the one who was being cheated on. Although Yunior is remorseful and has come on the holiday to make amends and get back with his girlfriend, he cannot stop thinking about the woman he cheated with and the other woman who he sees on the island. By describing Cassandra as someone who asked for it, ‘the affair’, because she complained about her boyfriend Yunior rationalizes his part in the affair.
He further justifies his role by saying that he got into it because of a certain lack of enthusiasm shown by his girlfriend Magda in bed. It is because he tries to justify his behavior and because his other male friends and acquaintances are with him and think it is not an entirely bad behavior that he does not understand the gravity of the situation. It is also the reason why he goes on doing it. Later on in the book he even blames his Dominican father for giving him the infidelity gene. The way he describes the women also reeks of sexism. The bro code of secrecy is also brought out when he mentions that the letter that Cassandra sends has details that a brother would not reveal to other men even when he is drunk. The author means to say that although men boast about their conquests, the never go into details. For men like Yunior, women are mere objects who are conquered and then discarded. Yunior objectifies his women and this is evident by the way he describes their physical traits. When he talks about his brother Rafa’s girlfriend, he describes her breasts as a ‘chest you wouldn’t believe’ (Diaz 30). By addressing the reader Yunior assumes that the readers too have similar notions when they see a woman with large breasts and that it is the breasts or their physical characteristics that define the women. The same goes when he describes Miss Lora, the high school teacher, the ageing seductress. He says that "Miss Lora was too skinny. Had no hips whatsoever. No breasts, either, no ass, even her hair failed to make the grade." It is as if these are all what makes a woman and there’s nothing more. It is this lack of understanding of a woman that leads Yunior to jump from one relationship to another, cheating and leaving them or getting dumped.
There is an overarching machismo culture in the Latin American culture and the Dominican culture is no exception. Each and every man that Yunior talks about has a part of the machismo culture. His dad who has affairs not concerned about his wife knowing about it. Carrying on his dalliances even while putting down the woman, like when he says, Latin women housewives cannot learn to speak English. Yunior’s brother Rafa who ill-treats the women who forma an orbit around him and who even after diagnosed with cancer sleeps his way through a lot of women. In the case of his parents, Yunior take an ambivalent approach to the infidelity. He knows what is happening but does not really care and his attitude towards his mother sets the stage for his future treatment of women. Yunior says that we was aware of seeing his mother shedding tears after they walk out on his dad, but he chooses to ignore the tears and concentrates on playing and looking outside. Throughout his affairs and relationships, this is a recurring occurrence. He realizes his mistake, knows what he is doing is not right but goes on doing it because as a macho man he is not encouraged to think and sympathize with the ‘feelings’ of women. The macho culture somehow dictates that this behavior is acceptable and the bros gather together and around when it comes to defending one of their own.
“You try every trick in the book to keep her. You claim you’re a sex addict and start attending meetings. You blame your father. You blame your mother. You blame the patriarchy. You blame Santo Domingo. You find a therapist. You cancel your Facebook. You give her the passwords to all your e-mail accounts (Diaz 176).” He says that he would be willing quote Neruda, write an apologetic email that promises he would get rid of all his vices, block the emails from other women and in short do whatever that he could to get her back. Yunior says this in the last chapter about how he blames everything else except himself for his cheating behavior. Instead of really understanding what is fundamentally wrong with him or what the woman really needs, he tries every tactic in the book to get her back. He is in love with her but somehow is not able to keep her. There might be a partial truth in what he says about his country, his culture, his dad and his brother influencing him and about how the machismo of his culture has prepared him for what he is. But this is no justification for how he behaves for once someone knows what they are doing is bad they realize and this realization comes to Yunior only at the end of the book where he understands the woman’s point of view and reluctantly admits to his faults.
There is a suffocating amount of machismo in the Dominican/American culture as espoused by the male characters in the book, especially Yunior. Right from treating infidelity as a normal man things, to getting overtly jealous when describing their assets to talk about them, the bro code of superiority is visible throughout. The men support Yunior when he talks about his infidelity, their sympathies lie with him and not the woman, the show their fealty towards their male brotherhood. They keep his secrets and somehow the reader cant but help wonder if this overt machismo is an attempt to conceal latent homosexual tendencies.