HIDDEN between the many accolades and comments coming in the wake of the publication of Rasmii Bell’s anthology of women’s writing, My Walk to Equality, there has been a low level murmur about the possibilities for a men’s anthology.
On the face of it this seems like a good idea. One of the surprising things about the women’s anthology is the extension of the hand of friendship and cooperation by many of the writers to their men folk.
A men’s anthology picking up on this theme would make a great complementary volume.
What I’m not sure about is whether Papua New Guinean men would be up to it.
The women’s anthology was an entirely voluntary enterprise. None of the organisers, editors or writers expected or received any form of payment except for the satisfaction of having their say and seeing their names in print.
This approach is consistent with the view of women as ‘giving’ creatures. Men, on the other hand, are generally ‘takers’.
Would Papua New Guinean men, with their head-of-family, main-provider and bread-winner attitudes do something like contribute to an anthology free of charge or any expectation of recognition and status?
I know that many such men exist; we see many of them writing for PNG Attitude but what about beyond that? Many of the writers contributing to the women’s anthology were new to us. Would new men come out of the woodwork in the same way?
One of the largest groups of women we didn’t really hear from were the traditionalists who still believe in the innate superiority of men. The reason for this is that those women are typically located in the villages without access to the internet.
Not so with the men. Many of the male traditionalists are active in public life and on social media. A significant cabal of them occupy the Haus Tambaran, for instance.
Would their views echo too loudly in a men’s anthology and nullify its intent?
And what about a suitable theme for a men’s anthology. Would a conciliatory theme attract derision from male writers?
There are certainly men who could handle such a theme. One who springs to mind is Emmanuel Peni, who is currently piloting the Crocodile Prize. His novel, Sibona, is one of the best feminist expositions in Papua New Guinea I have read in a long time.
Would you get writers like Manu contributing or would you get a whole bunch of platitudinous stuff? You know, my mother was wonderful, she could carry two hundred tons of kaukau and firewood in one bilum load, don’t tell me I don’t appreciate women!
I thought a great theme for a men’s anthology would be ‘My walk to equality’, but that’s already been taken. What else is there? ‘How I stopped beating my wife and found happiness’, ‘I just realised that my daughter is a lot smarter than me’.
Seriously though, there must be a theme worth exploring. ‘What being a man in modern PNG means’. ‘The male identity crisis in PNG’. Perhaps the readers could suggest something.
Then all that’s needed is an editor committed to doing the hard work. I’m sure Rashmii would offer all the advice and encouragement required.