Trite Analysis, Bangalore Edition

Lavanya Sankaran is back on the Sunday opinion pages  of the NYT.  This time she is not opining about caste but about gender, in particular about Indian men, yes all of them, more than 500 million or so in number. Here are her profound insights, not all Indian men are rapists and some of them like babies. But beware of the rising tide of feral zombies,

Indian cities are awash with 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. This is the world of women under siege, the medieval world of the walking undead, the rise of the zombies, targeting females rich and poor. For women, at least, winter is coming.

Would it surprise you to know that the non-rapey, baby loving men come from her comfortably-off cohort while the feral ones come from the struggling millions?  In a column that is supposed to be a defense of Indian men, she condemns millions just because they are poor and make her uncomfortable and prick her bubble of privilege.

But when it is at its best, the results, in women’s lives, speak for themselves. If the image of the Indian female as victim is true, so, too, is its converse: the Indian woman who coexists as a strong survivor, as conqueror, as worshiped goddess made flesh. Indian women have served as prime minister and president. They head banks and large corporations. They are formidable politicians, religious heads, cultural icons, judges, athletes and even godmothers of crime.

Ms Sankaran’s anecdata about women not withstanding, this is a country where  a male child is preferred to the female. A  preference that knows no barriers of caste, class or region.   Check out the skewed gender ratios of Indian states, if you don’t believe me.  From birth to death it is a struggle to be a woman in India.  Female infanticide and sex selective abortion thrives in India.  As does chronic malnutrition, according to a recent UNICEF report, 36% of women are chronically  malnourished and 55% are anemic.

For his part, 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. Disconnection causes social disengagement and despair — and the behavior that is the product of alienation and despair.

The close knit family and social structure is not an undisguised blessing either,  it  keeps women tethered so that they don’t stray too far from the accepted norms, an example from last week’s NYT.    The inferior status of women in Indian society is nothing new and cannot be conveniently blamed on technological change or modernity. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t even acknowledge it.  Deep seated misogyny is a part of India’s DNA. The recent spate of reported sexual assaults is but one violent manifestation of this phenomena.  Ms Sankar analysis is superficial and vacuous and shies away from delving into uncomfortable truths.

I don’t know why I bother listening to you

Trite Analysis

LoL by: two_kittehs

Posted on October 21, 2013, in India, Punditubbies say Hello and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. So, basically, India is in crisis because many couples choose to have male babies over female ones, which has led to a serious imbalance in the population, and yet it’s still women’s fault for, what, not being born? Gah.

    • I don’t think Sankar is blaming women, she seems to be blaming rapid technological change for the recent spate of sexual assaults and violence against women.

    • Officially it is illegal, in India, for a couple to know the gender of a baby from an ultrasound prior to birth.

      Like many laws in India some places do a better job of enforcing this than others, which shows in state to state gender statistics for new births.

  2. India has a socially stratified society. If you are not part of a certain class, you are not going to rub shoulders with people outside your class.

    The college kid waiting tables and rubbing shoulders with the rest of society does not happen there.

    I doubt Ms. Shankar knows the villagers, who have been moving to cities looking for work. It sounds a lot like David Brooks’ analysis of Americana by his observations at the Applebee’s salad bar.

    • I have to agree. Word salad in the first block quote reminds me of Tom Friedman. MoU + Bobo characteristics in one column, today must be my lucky day!

    • Even though its true that classes and castes are stratified that isn’t the reason you aren’t going to rub shoulders with people outside your caste. You are, all the time, because its a society in which a ton of work is done by people outside your caste. But those relationships tend to be intimate and familial and hierarchical rather than among equals. School can break that down and thats what makes it scary for families who want to preserve control over young family members.

  3. I agree with the cat about the article, but the post itself is great, very insightful. And thanks for the link to the article about the students in Haryana. I am so very not surprised. The extreme anxiety of the village family about what is happening to the young students exists everywhere in places like India and Nepal–I remember my Nepali family being outraged when they found out that their young son, who was in Pakistan studying, was eating goat meat like *all the time*–it was much cheaper in Pakistan than it was in the hills of Nepal and so he and his student friends would club together and buy enough to cook for dinner. No biggie. But man, they acted like he was gambling in a casino they were so shocked.

  4. Wow, what an utterly awful article. Blaming the victims, on both sides of the gender divide. “Glistening” jobs? Ick. What is wrong with this woman.

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