Editor’s Note: The following is a satirical response to “The Good Men of India” by Lavanya Sankaran published in the October 20th edition of the New York Times.
ANYTOWN, United States — In America today, the rape of women, from teenagers to grandmothers, is daily news. You can’t even browse the Internet for more than a few minutes before getting hit by pop-up ads for safety devices such as this summer’s latest fashionable product, the Little Viper pepper spray self-defense bracelet.
The tide of concern about women’s safety in the United States continues to grow. A few days ago, advice columnist Emily Yoffe even interrupted her regular cycle of gossipy columns to warn college women that they need to stop drinking and stop getting themselves raped. Meanwhile American universities and colleges are at a loss to stop the tide of sexual assaults on campus. Georgia Tech recently suspended a fraternity because a member sent out a “Luring Your Rapebait” email, as though the suspension of one frat will hold at bay the anarchy of sexual violence. And in Montana, a schoolteacher who served a 30-day sentence for the rape of his 14-year old student was released on September 26, even though the judge in the case told the victim that she was “older than her chronological age”. The victim later committed suicide. Her mother says the rape was a factor in her death.
American cities are awash with packs of fetid, feral men, loosened from all good morals, estranged from all family and social structure, fighting a growing recession, deflated, confounded by the pre-screening demands of eHarmony.com, afloat surging tides of Molly and illegally-downloaded celeb sex videos, frightened by the twerking young Miley Cyruses of the cities, with their glistening pink tongues and cut-up 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, a real-life Walking Dead if you will, where salivating, zombie-like American males target all women, everywhere. For women, at least, winter has come and gone.
In this context, it might appear odd to examine any other variant than that of the rapey American male. But it is vital to do so and to do so now. To bear witness to an alternate male reality that also pervades America on a daily basis. So, I will say this — American men can also be among the best in the world.
Women know this. When I asked my friends and acquaintances — both American and non-American alike— about their perceptions of American men, they mentioned drop-dead good looks, a rare intelligence, a certain Michael Cera-esque stutter and a fondness for browsing the Internet for progressive articles like those found on this very site. Others described charming partners akin to the awkward but endearing “Tom” from (500) Days of Summer who know how to relax, cuddle and enjoy themselves at happy hour. All of them talked about commitment and caring. One said, “I love that he is deeply concerned about his pit-bull mix rescue and vegan cooking.”
A non-American woman said of her long-term American partner, “When he DVRs my favorite Tuesday night sitcoms, he makes me feel cherished and taken care of in a manner I never experienced anywhere in the world.” Another said of her father, “He supported my mother through her stint as a lifestyle blogger, multiple viewings of The Voice and her predilection for Republican presidential candidates with bouffants. Only an American man would do that.” A 16-year-old schoolgirl echoed this: “You feel safe with those American guys. No matter what, they will see you home safely. Unless they are planning to rape you. In that case, make sure you bring along your pepper spray bracelet everywhere.”
Let me introduce the Common American Male, a category that deserves international recognition: committed, obsessive-compulsive, cautious; intellectually curious, linguistically witty; socially gregarious, endearingly awkward; quick to laugh, slow to anger. Frequently spotted in domestic circles, traveling in a family herd. He has been sighted in Dress Barns and Coach stores, engaged in debating his spouse’s selection with the sons and daughters who trail behind. There is, apparently, no domestic decision that is not worthy of his over-involvement.
There is a telling phrase that best captures the American man in a relationship — whether as lover, parent or friend: not “I love you” but “I gotchu.” It translates to “I’m here for you” but is better explained as a hug of commitment — “Never fear, I’m here.” These are men for whom commitment is a joy, a duty and a deep moral anchor.
At its excessive worst, this sensibility can produce annoyances: a sentimentalized addiction to football; concern that becomes judgmental and stifling; and a proud or oversensitive emotional landscape. But behind every great American woman stands an even better American man.
Modern America has a muscular democracy and a growing economy, both of which have significantly transformed the lives of women. But female success, in a place like America with complicated social structures and a tradition of the Ol’ Boys 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.
For his part, the American male, can best be described by a very American phenomenon known as the “Wave.” Safely nested in the stadium that is his family and society, he is woven into the cheering section that is vital for America’s success as a whole. Take the American man out of the “Wave” and he is unmoored — a lost, confused individual who cannot find his way through the parking lot back to his SUV.