A Few Good Men: India’s hidden male feminists
In The Good Men of India, New York Times contributor, Lavanya Sankaran, appears to have discovered a whole new way to generalize across class and gender:
the Common Indian Male, a category that deserves taxonomic recognition: committed, concerned, cautious; intellectually curious, linguistically witty; socially gregarious, endearingly awkward; quick to laugh, slow to anger
This Common Indian Male (CAM) is quite different from other Indian males you may have encountered, who are:
feral men, untethered from their distant villages, divorced from family and social structure, fighting poverty, exhausted, denied access to regular female companionship, adrift on powerful tides of alcohol and violent pornography, newly exposed to the smart young women of the cities, with their glistening jobs and clothes and casual independence — and not able to respond to any of it in a safe, civilized manner.
Fortunately, Ms Sankaran, spends little time with such impoverished men who wash up on the shores of her city from their “distant villages”. Ms Sankaran tends to hang out on planes “typical of budget air travel”. The men here are far more tolerable:
every other row seemed larded with these women and their babies. But those stuffy Indian businessmen — men of middle management, dodging bottles and diaper bags and carelessly flung toys — they didn’t grumble. Instead, up and down the plane, I saw them helping. Holding babies so that mothers could eat. Burping infants and entertaining toddlers. Not because they knew these women, but because being concerned and engaged was their normal mode of social behavior
Let’s pause for a music break that shows the many faces of the Common Indian Male:
At one point, our ethnographer appears concerned that she might appear a tad classist:
Strong familial commitment is not a phenomenon restricted to the urban middle classes. Migrant laborers care for wives and children, and still send money home to their parents.
Thank god for friendships and family values. Oh but wait, if only this sterling research had considered some data: from The Hindu
The NCRB figures also show one important reason why victims have an incentive to remain silent: the rapists are mainly friends, even kin. Even though the media overwhelmingly reports on dramatic cases involving attacks by strangers, all but four States reported that nine out of 10 alleged perpetrators or more were known to the victim. In Delhi, that figure was 96.6%.
and some insight from Tehelka:
When Krishnan spoke of a “certain kind” of rape that is reported, she referred to the privileging of rape by strangers over rape by family or institutions. The insinuation is — New Delhi will take to the streets over the gangrape on the bus, or for the five-year-old raped by her neighbour, but never for the countless boys and girls violated as a matter of routine in their own homes, or the girls violated by officers of the state. Even the new anti-rape Bill, generally considered a step in the right direction, stays coy on the issue of marital rape, or rape by the armed forces.
To return to Ms. Sankaran’s text in the NYT, women in India should stop fighting patriarchy, and instead consider its many blessings:
female success, in a place like India with complicated social structures and a tradition of the Old Uncle Network, doesn’t happen in isolation. A successful woman is very likely to have had a supportive male in her life: a father, a spouse, a friend, a mentor.
Obviously then, what India’s pesky feminists fail to understand, is the problem isn’t too much patriarchy, but too little:
the Indian male, when nested in family and community, is part of a domestic tapestry that is intricately woven and vital, it seems, to his own sense of well-being. Take that away from him, hurl him away — and a possible result is a man unmoored, lost, adrift and, potentially, a danger to himself and to his world.
Given the blinding clarity of her text, one only hopes Ms. Sankaran will also enlighten us on “The Good Upper Castes of India” who must surely be using their intricate tapestries to further Dalit causes, and hold on to their “own sense of well-being” to ensure they aren’t unmoored and move to commit acts of grotesque violence.
I urge our readers to come up with similar themes to further our understanding of this complex world.