| First published in PNG Attitude, March 2011
PORT MORESBY - Apart from the ‘f’ word, what is the most common explicit used by Papua New Guineans? It is the Pidgin ‘k’ word that refers to the vagina.
Heterosexual intercourse is described in Pidgin as kilim pik [kill a pig] or pasim sua [dress a wound].
It is an everyday experience to hear these descriptive terms on the streets of this nation.
This is totally contrary to the cliché that most folks are familiar with, that is “it is a taboo to talk about sex”.
Why then is it that both men and women degrade the female form? Is it a conscious or subconscious declaration that the female half of homo sapiens is inferior, or perhaps as good as trash?
Someone once told me he was glad he wasn’t female because he didn’t want to bleed once every month.
Perhaps the Pidgin word for menstruation (munsik = monthly sickness) had impressed upon him that women were sick people.
The male form on the other hand is less frequently used as derogatory and in some cultures celebrated in the phallic symbol of the bullroar. In fact, today many villages in South Fly in the Western Province still practice the cult of the bullroar (known locally as wagla or wagra).
Let’s take it as a given that women are universally regarded as inferior regardless of space and time. But why is it that Papua New Guinean women are so downtrodden in the 21st century?
It all goes back to how PNG men perceive themselves and how they relate to each other. It isn’t actually about how men view women in society. It’s all about the male ego.
The problem with men in PNG is summarised in this Pidgin expression “yu no man” [you’re not man enough]. You see, ladies, PNG men have bigman egos but they also have very low self-esteem.
Our inferiority complex is the source of insecurity regarding our concept of self. It’s all about psychologically weak people trying to exert power and supremacy: people with no control over their own lives trying to control other people’s lives.
PNG men are not as mentally tough as they may be physically. This weakness is expressed in explicit language whereby a person attacks someone who is psychologically weak with words that refer to women (physical weakness).
The rage and venom that ensue is disproportional. That is the nature of all disproportional violence in PNG, from wife beating to large ethnic conflagrations triggered by small incidents of bag snatching.
It has to be disproportional in order to show the other party that ‘mi em man tru na yu no man’ [I’m an ace; you’re just a waste of space].
These ego conflicts of amongst men mean that women and children end up being collateral damage.
Working fathers who cannot handle work pressure or deal with issues at the workplace come home and vent their frustrations.
When their wives question decisions made about managing the household, the men get violent and abusive.
Most marriages in PNG happen for the wrong reasons. Men just want someone they can dominate while women are looking for security.
Nobody really gets married out of love; people get driven to each other by biological instinct. That is why many women get a raw deal out of marriage.
Men cannot handle their authority being challenged by wives or children.
Indeed, some of the most abused married women are doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, professionals.
It is very common to see successful professional women who are estranged or divorced because the male ego couldn’t handle the career success of the lady.
Perhaps Dame Carol Kidu can now understand why affirmative action to enable female representation is still a dream.
Clearly, a Bill she wanted to introduce to the floor of Parliament did not get the backing of the rest of Cabinet because it was a bill that challenges male domination.
If Dame Carol is to have the Bill for women’s seats passed before the next election, she needs the support of all women leaders whose job is to run a campaign of discrediting all male MPs about their credentials on equal participation of women not just in politics but elsewhere.
These MPs, and guys who think like them, need to be made to realise that, unless they support the Bill, they are [in the eyes of the nation, electorate and international community], cowards who cannot bear the thought of being challenged by women on the floor of Parliament. The Bill must then be introduced by a male MP to make it more palatable.
I sell betel nut with street boys. Watching cars passing by, the guys don’t mind if a woman drives by in a sedan but they get challenged if a woman drives a Toyota land cruiser or Fifth-element.
According to the law of male ego, it is fine for women to be in the driving seat for the small league but not in the National Parliament.
A male leader’s ego won’t allow him to be dominated by a female.
The Testosterone Law states that women are not supposed to question the authority and decisions of men. Women are expected to take care of the children while the men take care of their egos.
This weakness of men has been exploited mostly in fuelling ‘payback’ killings and tribal warfare. Mother’s use it to antagonise kinsmen of a murdered son to avenge the blood spilled.
Many PNG languages have figurative expressions for blood feuds as being a manly duty. Herein lies the awful truth - a man’s ego must be challenged in order to make him do anything.
This is most pronounced in the weirdest thing about PNG marriages: a man abandons his obligations to his own relatives and concentrates on impressing his in-laws [which also explains why in-laws turn a blind eye to his violent behaviour towards the wife].
I believe that any successful marketing campaign, may it be for social good or commercial purpose, must challenge the male ego in order to be successful.
I know this sounds contradictory because I just said guys don’t like their ego challenged. But just imagine an Ela Motors advertisement of a woman driving a Toyota Hilux Fifth-element and telling all guys driving sedans “honest…yu no man yah!”
At school, work parades get done well and quickly when girls are pitted against boys. Most PNG men are no different to Pavlov’s dog and Skinner’s rats. Women who understand this principle have become successful at home, at school and at work.
Knowledge is power but absolute power does corrupt absolutely. The emancipation of women begins with the liberation of men from their psychological weaknesses.