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Millennium Post

Where are these ‘few good men’?

A New York Times article has recently put the spotlight on the ‘good men of India’, saying that in a country that has been mostly in the news for sexual violence and unfathomable brutality against women for the last few years, there exist the ‘good men’, who happen to be our fathers, brothers, husbands, partners, sons and friends, who do not fall in the ambit of the ‘stereotypical’ predatory Asian men. The article, by noted Indian author Lavanya Shankaran, pits the ‘frothy, sentimentalised’  family television programmes against the rising graph of rapes and sexual violence, with outmoded beliefs cohabiting dangerously close with an ill-digested liberated sensibility manifested as ‘anarchy of sexual violence.’ Shankaran pleads that in the mayhem over rushing to brand everyone as a potential rapist, India must not forget its good men, who often turn out to be the ‘mentors, spouses, fathers, friends’ of the successful women. In fact, the author goes on to posit an unenviable dichotomy of ‘feral men, untethered from their distant villages, divorced from family and social structure’ and the well-established, caring, nurturing family guys, who would take care of the restaurant bill, throw open the car door, and let you the pick the destination of choice.

It is appalling that the Indian media is going gaga over an article that is so misplaced in its priorities and so entrenched in its prejudices. Clearly, in one clean sweep, the article distinguishes the good family men from the bad, nomadic immigrants, who walk around like ‘zombies’, ‘targeting females rich and poor.’ The assumption behind this allegation is so blindly driven by a class bias that it’s not even worth mentioning. Apparently, none of the immigrants, who all can become rapists and sexual predators, can ‘respond in a safe, civilised manner’ to the ‘glistening jobs and clothes and casual independence of smart young women in the cities,’ in other words, women from a distinctly different class background. Evidently, this article, instead of rescuing the Indian male from cultural denigration and save it from its own face in mirror, actually ends up reiterating the done and dusted binaries between the working class devil, in pretty much the same vein as crime is racialised in the West, mapped along the axes of skin colour, religious affiliation or language spoken. Clearly, the alternate male reality that Shankaran tries to put forward falls flat on its face because by divorcing it from the cacophonous realities on the Indian streets, the author is actually reinforcing the old tropes. What the NYT piece needs is a strong rebuttal, preferably on the same platform.
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