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13 July 2018


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Vanessa Gordon

Phil Fitzpatrick writes - "It's also another reason why I think a spirited debate like the one spiked by Michael and Ward's poems is very worthwhile. It would be good to keep this set of comments going for a while. Maybe there are others out there who want to have a say."

Phil, I have so much to say. I don't know where to begin. I'll start with I do not think all men are savages. I am not a misandrist in any way, shape or form. I appreciate that PNG men play a pivotal role in PNG society. I get it. Mi save tu lo pasin lo ples ,na kastom. Iau nunure .Mi save!

Secondly I will always support a PNG writer male or female I will read, share and buy your work. I will wave my PNG flag beaming with pride around the world. Your words come from a place from deep within.

Ward, you have this thing called freedom of speech and right of assembly. You are able to express your thoughts. You can express your thoughts and creative gifts through poetry. And others that read your work can respond with the same rights.

I have enjoyed your poetry in the past. Did I enjoy this particular poem? I am indifferent. I feel nothing. My indifference is not against you personally. My problem is not with your poem my problem is the way you have responded to the many women who have had valid and clear points regarding your poem.

Your perspective has been heard and read multiple times. Your message is loud and clear you have proven a point. You are great guy we get it. You love women. You love PNG women.

Thank you for not raping us, thank you so much for not molesting our daughters, thank you for not man-handling and groping us on PMVs, in the markets and on dance floors in the clubs. Thank you for not burning us at the stake.

You are commended. Did you want a medal? Or a certificate of appreciation?

Jordan Dean you too are commended for defending your brother. I presume you don't understand what all the fuss is about? Why are so many women up in arms? What's the big deal?

Let me flip the scenario for you. A white guy writes a poem. Yes, I'll use white guy as an example because Ward I've seen your comments against the white man.

Apparently us PNG women folk need to "rausim galas blo waitman".

So maybe you will relate to this analogy.

White guy thinks to himself, "Hmm I'm a decent guy. I have never owned a slave. I have never used the N word. These 'people' have had so many atrocities and horrendous stories of mistreatment, brutality and death because of the colour of their skin."

Then he thinks, "I'll write a poem depicting how great I am and how kind and loving I am to my black brothers and sisters."

Sounds absurd right? This is how you have made women feel this week.

Now I am only one woman and this is only my perspective. I appreciate yours. I don't expect you to appreciate mine.

Violence Against Women (VAW) and Gender Based Violence (GBV) are raw and sensitive subjects in PNG.

Women and men have been fighting for change. I won't fight battles that aren't mine to fight. However the fight against GBV and VAW in PNG is a personal battle.

You don't know me personally, you don't know my story just as you don't know the stories of the many women your comments have hurt and caused discord.

Before you dismiss my perspective or judge me, possibly berate or ridicule me for speaking out. You see my words come from a place within.

My words come from real pain. They are not irrelevant just as your words have relevance so do mine.

The scar between my inner thighs caused by a stab wound that has relevance. Stabbed by a PNG man.

My permanent drooping eye caused by a man's fist that has relevance. Punched by a PNG man.

My permanent injury caused by a kick in the head that has relevance. Kicked by a PNG man.

And still not one part of me feels or thinks that all PNG men are abusive.

That's just my story. There are hundreds of women with similar stories. All relevant.

Lets just leave it. You have spoken. The women have spoken. Your friends have spoken. And now I have added my opinion, thoughts and lik lik two toea.

Enough now. Nur vue.

Michael Dom

Truth, Phil, often PNG women will not speak up on gender related issues in public fora for fear of upsetting their spouses ego (even male friends and relatives and every Tom, Dick and Harry in the room!), especially when it's a conversation directed against male behaviour in general.

And its not all about physical abuse.

More often it's just a fear of her bloke throwing a tantrum because "she made all us guys look bad". (I'm looking at you married folks.)

In the absence of 'in your face' women's voices on this fora, Kassandra spoke up.

Wardley's subsequent poem probably reminded us of the same situation of 'not putting the men down'.

I suppose those of us who have 'seen it all before' found some lines in Wardley's poem distasteful, though not as a personal dispute, more of a disconnection with our own experience.

In that sense Wardley's poem is serving an important dual function: defending good men and providing us all with a reality check.

Philip Fitzpatrick

"Noken mekim ol bikpla tok taim yu no save
Lon kastom na pasin blo ples."

Julie's words ring very true and echo what was a mantra carried in every kiap's kit bag.

No kiap worth their salt ever went into a new village without first finding out the cultural context and the social taboos.

The blundering kiap with the big stick and big mouth is largely a figment of imagination. We were there to learn and then act on what we found out.

Strangely enough and possibly because we were outsiders we were also able to talk to the women. And they were generally not shy in making their views known to us. I imagine some men had stern words with their women after we left.

That all might sound irrelevant now but when I was helping Rashmii to edit 'My Walk to Equality' I picked up on the same vibe. That's one reason I think it's an important book.

It's also another reason why I think a spirited debate like the one spiked by Michael and Ward's poems is very worthwhile.

It would be good to keep this set of comments going for a while.

Maybe there are others out there who want to have a say.

Ward Barry

Great poems from Julie and Jordan. Unfortunately, men like that don't exist, at least in PNG. Nuff said.

Thanks a lot everyone who responded to my poem. There's so much we can learn not only about confronting issues but also about appreciating ourselves as men and women of Papua New Guinea.

When Michael's poem was published, everyone loved it. Me too!

When mine showed up, some if not all couldn't digest it. It's a matter of perspective: one sees what one chooses to see. And I respect that. We all want to help our women, we all want to make PNG a better place for them.

But we have different ideas as to how to accomplish that. We need to respect that. And if the opportunity arises, we discuss and the best options gets implemented. We may not always reach a unanimous consensus but we can all put our best feet forward and make it work.

Again thanks all. Sincere apologies if i did get under your skin in some way. Cheers!

Michael Dom

That's good stuff to add dimension to our conversation. Thanks, Jordan, for sharing it.

While conducting agricultural surveys in many isolated communities across PNG my team regularly comes face to face with gender and equity issues.

Gender and equity are mainstreamed into development policy and are often crosscutting within our extension, research and development programs.

[We don't have a choice! You smart ones are lucky.]

As you know I'm not an expert on gender and gender equity, but what I do understand about approaching these 'issues' is that it's always a social, and therefore, a cultural negotiation.

[Most folks have no idea the trouble we have to go to, except maybe Phil and the kiaps. Tasol em ol waitman, eh laka.]

There are many elements involved and, to each community, there is always a sense of uniqueness, a feeling and expression of difference in their own way of living.

It's a challenge talking about social similarities in those situations.

Also it's less useful, as Julie Mota expresses, to try to impose a 'foreign' paradigm in a local context, especially a rural one.

Good outcomes are often achieved when programs are inclusive of the local context of core societal elements including gender and gender equity, as defined in their own terms.

Nevertheless, for specific needs of identified groups an active bias, or more aptly (gender) favouring, is required and therefore promoted in order to achieve a critical output/outcome, which may be entirely dependent on doing so.

We've found that a straightforward approach and an open attitude to organising gender favouring activities is a positive way to negotiate an otherwise tricky situation.

One starting point is discussing the roles of men and women and the services and value which they each offer to their households and the community.

Your poem, Jordan, is a good expression of changing status and value placed on women.

There's always a balance to be struck and for critical development needs the women's role and their interests is often one that needs championing.

There's lots more involved in our agricultural program/project planning process and thank goodness I don't do it all myself.

Personally I find it much simpler to feed my pigs so I'll leave off here.

Most likely, to my wiser colleagues, all my gibberish probably has nothing at all to do with VAW anyhow.

Jordan Dean

A poem I scribbled a while ago.....


My father
Grew up during the colonial era
Sold coffee for his tuition fees
He wanted a better future
For his sons and daughters.

My father
Worked tirelessly, day and night
To provide a roof and food for us
He paid for our tuition fees
Now, we’re all educated
Eight of us have degrees.

My father
Is proud of his daughters
Two are legal eagles
One is a political scientist
And the other is a chemist
They’re his money.

I am my father’s son
I provide for my family
I give the best I can
For my daughter
She’s my future lawyer
Or accountant
Just like her father.

Jordan Dean

A poem written by Julie Mota in her book 'Cultural Refugees'.....


Pasin rispek em stap lo ples
‘Gender Equity’ em tok ples blo narapla
Yumi asples kastom em stap
Kam na lukim
Ples waswas blo ol man em stap
Haus boi em stap
Ol ples blo ol meri em stap em yet tu
Nau yumi harim tok inglis lon gender
Na yumi stailim tok olsem em niupla samtin
Aiyo sori stret kam lon ples na luk save
Lon sindaun blo stretpla pasin
Blo kamapim gutpla sindaun
Waswas lon tanget, kilim pik
Mekim kastom blo ol pikinini
Na luksave gut lon ol tok blo bik man meri
Bihain yu stretim tok pisin blo yu
Save supia isave sut bek sapos yu no lukaut gut
Noken mekim ol bikpla tok taim yu no save
Lon kastom na pasin blo ples.

Michael Dom

Wardley, although I consistently agreed with your core idea for the poem, and provided my own perspectives in argument, you have not appreciated the discourse.

Perhaps my prose was unclear.

However, when I provided an alternative and clearly disagreeing perspective, without mention of the persons gender, you suggested my friend may be a clown.

Indeed, her comment was so striking an alternative interpretation to myself that, being an honest critic, I simply had to share it (with permission).

Most importantly, the perspective on your poem for this agenda was that of a woman, and certainly no clown.

If we can't accept the perspective of a woman on VAW writing then our entire effort is in vain.

I'm sure you are in your rights to defend good PNG men.

It seems that in my attempted discourse I've dug a trench rather than spanned a breach.

Clearly you are pissed off with my 'blindness' to your point of view.

I thank you for educating me here and elsewhere.

However, in the process of my education I'm afraid we have trampled on the agenda.

So, in keeping with my attempts to be a good man, I apologize to the women who may have read of my squabbling schooling.

In that light, I revert to you your key points: you are right, your perspective is valid.


Ward Barry

Hahahaaaa.... we still want PNG men to be savages, ay? Fine with me.

Michael Dom


That's perfect Phil. I like your version better.

Looks like a third valid observation.

To help guide the third eye blind.

Everyone's a winner.

Lucy Palmer

I suppose if he'd kept his ego out of might be ok

I love women
Here is my sister, there is my aunt, she is my niece
I call her mama or mum, and that one is my friend

I love women
I say they’re all wonderful, I say they’re all worthy
And I love it when we’re together in the kitchen

I love women
Some are good nurses, and some are inspirational
Instructors, most of them are miles ahead of the men

I love women
Some go to church, some go to clubs, some weave their bilums
Whatever it is, brown, black or bronze, she is the queen

I love women
I see them in offices, at home, or marketplace
They’re my purpur, their beauty’s everyplace, not hidden

I love women
When she falls I help her, help fix her broken things,

I love women
They are respected, they’re valued, they are encouraged
Most don’t see that until men are gone and all is done

I love women
When they’re born the hauslain rejoices, husbands are blessed

I love women
It is special to be a woman.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
Here is my brother, there is my uncle, he is my nephew,
I call him papa or pa, and that one is my friend

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
I say they’re all wonderful, I say they’re all worthy
And I love it when we’re together in the kitchen

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
Some are good carers, and some are inspirational
Instructors, most of them are miles ahead of the women

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
Some go to church, some go to clubs, some weave their magic
Whatever it is, brown, black or bronze, he is my king

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
I see them in offices, at home, or marketplace
They’re my rock, their beauty’s everyplace, not hidden

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
When he falls I raise him with my hands, I use my hands
To fix his broken things, I let him know I am a woman

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
They are respected, they’re valued, they are encouraged
Most don’t see that until women are gone and all is done

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
He’s my son, he’s my boyfriend and when he marries
A daughter of PNG, he marries a gentlewoman

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
When they’re born the hauslain rejoices, wives are blessed
Most are better off because of good PNG men

I am a PNG woman, and I love my men
In PNG, it is special to be a man.

Ward Barry

Two valid observations. I rest my case. Cheers Michael.

Martyn Awayang Namorong

I love this poem because it brings to the forefront the hypocrisy of relations between both men and women in PNG.

One could easily open with "I am a PNG men, I fight for land, pigs and women."

PNG men don't have a "loving" relationship with women, it is a transactional relationship based on property rights, like land and pigs.

One thing this poem does highlight is what most PNG men think about their relationship with women as opposed to their actions towards women.

The last stanza is quite difficult to justify but explains the thinking of majority of males in PNG.

"I am a PNG man, and I love my women / In PNG, it is special to be a woman."

Like really?

Michael Dom

I'm very glad that my poem, 'We are Dying', was so upsetting to draw this reaction, and now debate, on Wardley's non-response.

Call it dirty laundry if you wish. At least we know it needs another wash.

Violence against women appears in every society's dirty laundry, so I'm not convinced of any Western bigotry, unless the argument is that 'their way of doing things is not the same as ours'.

We have different values in PNG society and/or different ways of upholding and living by those values.

In our society VAW was and is an accepted norm.

The underlying value was obedience to the male head of household. Today this position is upheld by Christian teachings.

It's fitting that Wardley has reflected on the good men in PNG society. (And its a pity Christ did not marry, or did he?)

PNG men live in fear of losing ground in their position as head of household.

They're prone to throwing tantrums about it. That's why everyone is treading softly around VAW issues.

Although some of Wardley's references need a good dose of open mindedness to be palatable in PNG context, good men exist. I don't see anyone disputing that fact.

"Should we let the actions of the many tarnish the few? I don't think that's fair."

Unfortunately, this is the way things work in how we perceive each other.

And really Wardley, it's not as simple as 'good or bad' or, as you correctly surmise 'goodness'.

Lots of bad actions = a bad social outcome.

Its not subjective once the overall outcome paints a clear picture that VAW in PNG is rampant, our personal feelings, tastes, or opinions don't change a damn thing.

How long do we wash their dirty laundry to clean it up for display?

I believe the good men are strong enough in character and conviction to not feel as vulnerable and under attack as Wardley suggests. Or they should be.

As for defending 'good men', well, that's not in my interest, and would be self aggrandising since, where VAW is concerned, I'm with the good guys.

Undoubtedly not all is bad in PNG, and I didn't think that was the argument.

As for marketing and promotion, I'm not much into commercial activities, but you and I, Wardley, both good men, and poets, play an important role of reflecting our society truthfully, good and bad, without forcefully moralising our intentions.

Our readers discern the subjective 'goodness' in our reflections by our unflinching honesty and from what they know of themselves and their own society too.

"In PNG, its a death-row sentence being a woman."

"In Oz, it's dirt poor and homelessness for fifty year old women."

Regarding your clown insult to my funny friend, she is a waka voyager, a poet and a speaking Chief, with the right to address formal Samoan customary court of chiefs.

Compared to her, you and I are the court jesters. But I'm sure she excuses your slight.

Ward Barry

Sitori, a PNG man doesn't need to dp all you said to be good. Goodness is subjective.

Michael, dare i say your funny friend is a clown?

It's typical western bigotry that everything non-western is not good -- here still has to be a problem. The good from PNG is not always represented as well as the bad. I'm not saying we don't have a problem treating our women. What I'm saying, and obviously you chose not to notice, is that despite that there are good men in PNG who respect women. Should we let the actions of the many tarnish the few? I don't think that's fair. People need to know our women are suffering; people also need to know men are putting their best feet forward in helping them. Not everything about PNG is horrible just as not everything about Australia is fine. We need to say something good about ourselves for a change, instead of hanging out our dirty laundry for the world to see all the time. There are good things about PNG we need to market/promote. Perhaps we need to step out of the colonial shadow and appreciate the good in Melanesia as we work to improve the bad. There are good men in PNG. We're not all savages.

Ward Barry

So all PNG men are harass women? Do i need to get you glasses?

A G Sitori

I find this piece very troubling. It is regurgitation of the old thoughts in a new verse. Mipela ol PNG man ino ting olsem.

I think it is another account of grandstanding the male in the PNG society.

Even the maternal societies have been sold out to the paternal norms where a man reigns.

Like Dominica says, a good 'man' is hard to find. A good man will without blushing, wash his wife's panties and seen in public to be hanging them up to dry.

What about washing the babies soiled nappies and to be able to shoulder their baby and take them to the clinic for their baby shots while the mama goes to work.

A good man will carry that bilum kaukau off the back of the woman when they walk through the village.

Em mahn tru bai lusim pasin bilong sem long taim bilong wok bung wantaim meri.

A good man will be happy to see smoke coming from the kunai roof in the afternoon. Em mahn tru sapos mama i kuk long sospen ol ino 'panel beaten' long ol.

Em nau mama bai save olsem em silip gut insait long leva bilong mahn na despela inglis toktok 'practical love' bai igap spes and ples long gro moa yet an karim kaikai wantaim long ‘intruisitic agape love’.

Michael Dom

Here's a comment from my funny friend which has some serious value.

"He does not offer balance. Because a woman's life does not receive balanced treatment in PNG. The numbers show the reality of it.

"The number of women suffering abuse, lack of personal security of women, lack of women's voices in government, governance. Men are part of the solution, but not by championing themselves as heroes but by championing a better life, rights to justice, no harm, for women.

"His poetry echoes those old poems you showed me of PNG, where women are seen as property. He presents a case where he is good at keeping his woman happy. What will he do when a man beats his daughter? His son beats his wife? Sigh."

Ward Barry

It's not a new thing. But we do tend to forget. I'm glad the "My Walk to Equality" authors mentioned it, Phil.

So is a good woman, Dominica.

It sure does, Michael. Cheers.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Rashmii Bell's book 'My Walk to Equality' makes exactly the same point in many of its essays and poems, Ward.

Dominica Are

A good man is hard to find.

Ward Barry

Come on, Phil. It's too late for a good morning but... Goood morning, sir.

Michael Dom

Two, three, the more the meri agenda is elevated.

I'm sure there are good blokes out there. We wouldn't be writing otherwise.

I'm not diminishing the truth of it. I'm plumbing the depth of the matter.

Dorothy Wo'otong said that there are PNG gentlemen here

I asked for more such say so.

But it pays to be a little more challenging - confronting, eh laka.

Ward Barry

Two eyes are better than one, and so are two poets, Michael.

I am offering another perspective. What I'm saying is that not all men are violent towards women. There are men out there who work very hard to feed, clothe and provide for their wives and children. This poem is for them.

I don't see it as a response, but another equally valid perspective. I am not questioning your observation. It is true.

Women have suffered a lot from stupid men (and vice versa). That's an issue that needs to be addressed. While we're doing that we must not neglect the men who actually care for women. They need to be applauded.

We need to present a balanced perspective when it comes to such issues. Again, it's a complementary perspective -- it's meant to run parallel to your poem, not perpendicular.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Duelling poets - love it!

Michael Dom

That's a very responsive non-response, Wardley, and it's valuable to have another side of the story.

Really, the issue is not about 'love' or 'hate', it's about the underlying behaviour and attitude of/towards violence against women, particularly sexual violence.

A man who beats his woman will still say that he loves her.

Some men (and women too!) even say that they beat their partners out of the frustration and anger aroused by jealous or wronged love.

Women have been beaten to death by men who might seem like or are usually gentlemen in public.

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