AVDOH D MEKI
PORT MORESBY - Lucy Maino is best known as a Papua New Guinean footballer and recently Miss Pacific and PNG 2019-20.
Because of Covid, her tenure was extended into 2021 but she was released from duties by the MPIP governing body earlier this month after a video she posted on TikTok triggered a social media storm.
The official explanation for her standing down was that the committee said it had reached an “amicable decision” with Ms Maino to end her duties.
Ms Maino denied the Miss PNG title was taken from her. “In agreement with the pageant committee, I completed my service as Miss PNG,” she stated.
Ms Maino, 25, is an outstanding Papua New Guinean woman. She is a footballer who in addition to playing college football in the USA since 2014 has represented PNG in the Pacific Games since women's football was introduced in 2016.
The TikTok video that Ms Maino released on her private TikTok account was not her first or only TikTok dance video. The dance moves displayed in this video were amusing and different from the usual TikTok twerk videos.
The video was shared and reshared on various social media platforms, and Ms Maino was subject to unjust harassment and cyberbullying.
It is important that we acknowledge why this particular video gained traction on social media.
It was an awkward and funny dance video and not as attractive as her other dance videos.
The critics and comics took advantage of this and the result was a myriad of video memes and edits. These attracted ridicule and laughter on social media.
I don't think this negative attention would have scathed Ms Maino as a celebrity in the public eye for some time.
Although the MPIP governing body did not admit it, however, in my mind they could not ignore the voices of dissent aired on social media.
PNG is a Christian country and modesty of dress and conduct, especially for women, is something society at large expects women to comply with.
Hence there is a strong notion that a female role model should not behave in this way.
Governor Alan Bird of East Sepik denounced the online harassment and said, "What kind of society condemns the torture and killing of women yet gets upset when a young woman does a dance video?"
The Guardian of 7 April reported that the events that culminated in Ms Maino's release from her duties "reveal a deep-seated misogyny in the country".
I believe these statements were unjustified, sweeping generalisations and perhaps lacked in-depth contemplation of the cultural dynamics and the ideologies at play.
The cultural fabric of PNG is rapidly evolving. The collective psyche is a battleground on which the traditional cultural norms and expectations, the Judeo-Christian values, and post-modern liberalist mindset, are at war.
Despite the noise of comics and haters, this battle was evident on many of the discussion threads linked to the Lucy Maino video.
All of these voices are important. Papua New Guineans must keep the traditional and cultural norms that are beneficial because these trained great leaders like the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, Iambake Okuk, Buri Kidu, and others.
Judeo-Christian values are also important and have played a major role in developing the culture of Papua New Guinea, moving the native people away from spiritualism, ancestor worship, and sorcery.
The post-modern liberal mindset too has its place and is pushing back boundaries and limitations that tradition sets upon PNG men and women.
The case of Lucy Maino provides an interesting look into the public psyche of Papua New Guinea.
The events that transpired cannot be summarised as misogyny, nor can this incident be rightfully juxtaposed and compared with murder and witchcraft-related killings.
It is a unique story and offers us insights and lessons that we should ponder.