Facebook brings together so many voices on a scrolling tabloid, all which serve to define the recipient as much as the sender. As a woman, mother, grandmother, friends send me their favourite articles about sexism and the insidiousness of youthful sexuality in the western world. These have more to do with my kids in Papua New Guinea, my granddaughter in Papua New Guinea, than I care to admit. At the same time, my news feed is mostly local, from other PNG activists, bloggers and news sites. Some have made comparisons between the spike in rape and sorcery accusations here with the horrible stories in India recently, and that comparison seems to strengthen every day.
I posted a comment a few days ago about how the way we characterize the rapists and murderers in these cases as ‘animals’ only fuels the way they think of themselves. These are individuals who give themselves license to ‘go wild’ because of sanguma, or home brew or cannibas, or a combination of all three. They attack women, rarely men, and they do so with a bloodlust that can only be explained by the cultural definitions of gender in PNG today.
Women are not from Venus. Nor are men from Mars. https://t.co/wcLa1Q32jc
The fact that we continue to see women’s bodies as inimical to men’s, as polluting to the social fabric as well as the masculine essence, renders the opposite sex as the enemy. And love or sexual attraction becomes a ‘charm’, a spell one gender places on another---disabling the target, undermining his or her free will. And so forth.
And today I find this posted by a friend in Madang:
Yesterday arvo my parents' house cleaner told my sister how her husband's niece was gang raped on sunday while walking back from church. She was raped by six men who were frm her own village and they had used a knife as a rape tool too. She was taken 2 modilon gen hosp and the house keeper sed she n her parents had no food at the hosp. So my sis n I wer planning on bringing food 2 them ths a.m only 2 be told tht the girl had died last night. She was only in grade 8. To make matters worse the only suspect was released because the father of the girl reckons 'sanguma bagarapim em pinis na bihain rape kamap so noken kalabusim man nating.' Housekeeper says they're now fighting bek at their block because the girls' uncles r furious with her father. Just another sorcery accusation 2 cover up rape.
This prompts me to contribute to a thread about the father’s culpability here. Why is he letting the rapist off the hook by saying ‘sanguma bagarapim em’ (sorcery drove him to do it) rather
than going after the man himself? Why does restorative justice always, always make the woman pay?
(Apologies for the following picture, but it makes my point).
Then I scrolled down to read something re-posted by another friend. Ironically, it is reposted by an Indian physicist who lives and works in the US, a woman with the kind of parents (I
can imagine) who fought for their daughter’s equality at every step of the game. Below is the story she, in turns, wants to highlight. But when you read it, ask yourself why this would never
have come from a PNG father.
your mother and I were searching for an answer on Google. Halfway through
entering the question, Google returned a list of the most popular searches in
the world. Perched at the top of the list was “How to keep him interested.”
It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy
and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make
him feel smart and superior.
I got angry.
Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to “keep
Little One, your only task is to know deeply in your soul—in that unshakeable place
that isn’t rattled by rejection and loss and ego—that you are worthy of interest. (If you
can remember that everyone else is worthy of interest also, the battle of your life will be mostly won. But that is a letter for another day.)
If you can trust your worth in this way, you will be attractive in the most
important sense of the word: you will attract a boy who is both capable of interest and who
wants to spend his one life investing all of his interest in you.
Little One, I want to tell you about the boy who doesn’t
need to be kept interested, because he knows you are interesting:
I don’t care if he puts his elbows on the dinner table—as long as he puts his
eyes on the way your nose scrunches when you smile. And then can’t stop
I don’t care if he can’t play a bit of golf with me—as long as he can play with
the children you give him and revel in all the glorious and frustrating ways
they are just like you.
I don’t care if he doesn’t follow his wallet—as long as he follows his heart and it always leads him
back to you.
I don’t care if he is strong—as long as he gives you the space to exercise the
strength that is in your heart.
I couldn’t care less how he votes—as long as he wakes up every morning and daily
elects you to a place of honor in your home and a place of reverence in his heart.
I don’t care about the color of his skin—as long as he paints the canvas of your
lives with brushstrokes of patience, and sacrifice, and vulnerability, and
I don’t care if he was raised in this
religion or that
religion or no
religion—as long as he was raised to value the sacred and to know every moment
of life, and every moment of life with you, is deeply sacred.
In the end, Little One, if you stumble across a man like that and he and I have
nothing else in common, we will have the most
important thing in common:
Because in the end, Little One, the only thing you should
have to do to “keep him interested” is to be you.
eternally interested guy,
This post is, of course, dedicated to my daughter, my
Cutie-Pie. But I also want to dedicate it beyond her.
I wrote it for my wife, who has courageously held on to her
sense of worth and has always held me accountable to being that kind of “boy.”
I wrote it for every grown woman I have met inside and
outside of my therapy office—the women who have never known this voice of a
And I wrote it for the generation of boys-becoming-men who
need to be reminded of what is really important—my little girl finding a
loving, lifelong companion is dependent upon at least one of you figuring this
out. I’m praying for you.