Saturday, 23 June 2012

Is cyber-bullying the new Samoan way?



The recent cacophony of criticism surrounding a young lady who wrote a letter to the editor regarding the article ‘My Culture, My Malu’, titled “Pride and Pain in my malu’, caused me to stop and consider.  Not about how and when the malu should be shown (which is what the debate was supposed to be about), but rather about who we are as a society.

This woman wrote to the paper under a pseudonym, which is not at all unusual for writers to the Samoa Observer.  The vitriolic and vicious comments that ensued were explanation enough for why one may not wish to identify themselves. After all, who wants to engage in “tit-for-tat” slanging matches on the world wide web.

Leading the lynching was Sita Leota’s note “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.  Rather than discussing the issue at hand, Sita launched into a scathing and personal attack about the writer’s identity and their “Samoan-ness”.  The crowd cheered, and gleefully re-posted. Over half a thousand people pushed the like button to show their support. The comments were all pride and back-patting about how they LOVED how Sita had put that girl in her place.  It reminded me of nothing more than shameful school scenes of a bully beating up on some smaller kid, surrounded by a circle of children baying for blood.  It was all “High-five! Did you see that hit! It was hilaaaaariooous!”

Now when I say “it reminded me of”, I should be clear.  This is not something I ever saw growing up, or going to school in Samoa, where this type of behaviour was not in any way tolerated.  It’s something I’ve only ever seen on television.  So I have always believed that bullying was an anathema to Samoan society, something that was shunned, something that even children knew they should not stoop to. 

Apparently the advent of the internet and social media has changed that.  It’s so easy to rip apart and ridicule others online.  It’s a whole new world where hypocrisy, internal contradictions and lapses in logic are overlooked. Where it’s not about the strength of your argument, but about how scornful and sarcastic you can be when you make it.

Debates and differences of opinion are to be expected and encouraged, they make life interesting. Personally I love them enough to make my living out of them.  What we should not expect, what we should be completely intolerant of, is uncalled for cruelty in that commentary.  Whether or not you agreed with Sita, every single one of the points in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” could have been made without being malicious.  While I do not know who the writer of that letter is, I know that whoever they are, they have feelings, and they have a family.  Ask yourself if this is the way you would like someone you loved to be treated, even if they publicly expressed an opinion that you disagreed with.

I have no doubt that writing this will re-focus ire and indignation on me.  I don’t generally engage in this sort of discussion, preferring to be positive, but I believe in the courage of my convictions, and probably more importantly, I believe that I was raised in a culture where we don’t sit idly by and ignore, or worse applaud, an ignominious attack.  So I am saying something and, since from what I have seen we are acting like we are in our own personal version of the movie ‘Mean Girls’, let me use that type of language, anyone who wants to say anything to me or about me can-“Bring it!” Paradoxically, you will only be proving my point.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said :)

Anonymous said...

I couldn't even finish Sita's article it just became too immature and I couldn't believe an intelligent writer such as herself would go to such lengths to try and make someone feel small just for expressing their opinion. The plan backfired in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

oh get over it. sick of samoan people pulling each other down.especially you women.resorting to cyber bulling blah blah blah.maimau malu ae leiloa kausi kou mamalu.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous # 3 what exactly has this writer written to warrant you writing "ua ma'imau male ae leiloa kausi kou mamalu"? All I have read is a well written reply full of grace and wit. ea? Sita is quick to reply and cyber bully a woman who does not write well yet cannot reply to a highly educated woman wtih a malu and an LLB that has stood up to her?

Anonymous said...

Samoan culture is a proud culture and if men with pe`as can whip up there lavalavas to display the beauty of their tattoo at ceremonys~ why then can't proud samoan women in hot pants• These days where there's so much going on in the world we as a proud race should embrace our brothers and sisters who are proud & brave enough to bear the markings of our people to show the world we are indeed a living and growing culture of proud samoans ~ even if they are not fluent in samoa or lived in the village or whatever it is someone elses version of what a samoan should be ~ e kele mau samoa eseese ao le samoa a o le samoa

Anonymous said...

anonymous 3 is either sita herself, or one of her followers who knows zilch about who he or she is following. kalofa, get out of here with your off topic commentary. agree with anon 4, ABSOLUTELY agree, e le mafai ga kali mai ile sydneyfob aua e leai se substance e kali mai ai.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and well said, somen people are too scared to admit that they are full of shit about their actions..samoan sayin, ua pipi guku..malo lava

Anonymous said...

NOT a personal but a professional opinion..intelligent? i wonder if we are talking about the same person. This blog however IS intelligent in every facet of the word!

kiana said...

I first want to say that I enjoyed reading both yours and Sita's articles. You are both skilled writers and I hope you continue to blog as I enjoy your insight.

Now in my opinion, I thought Sita's response fiery yet fitting. I don't see it as bullying, I see it as a woman in defense of her knowledge of faasamoa. In the writer's response to her piece about the malu, they wrote "It’s different however coming from someone without a malu. You do not have the merits to critique how a malu is showcased and paraded" and continues to make comments that attempt to reduce Sita's credibility because she doesn't have a malu. Sole...now if those aren't fighting words, I don't know what is. When you discount someone of their merit for critiquing how we engage in our culture simply because they don't have a malu and overlook any other bearing they have for being proud and keenly insightful about faasamoa, you should expect the type of response that Sita came back with. Would the writer discredit their mom or grandma for critiquing how the malu is displayed if they don't have the laei? I highly doubt it. Why? Because it's not just those who wear the malu who participate in faasamoa therefore, it will never be limited to just those who wear a malu to be the critics of how it should be worn--and that's where the writer went wrong in her response.

It's easy to feel as though our malu is ours alone to decide on how to showcase it because it's on our legs and we went through the agonizing pain to complete it--but the truth of the matter is, is that it is not only ours alone. Without its significance to our culture and identity that we all share as proud Samoans, this discussion about how the malu is showcased wouldn't even be going on. It is a shared pride to see those who wear the laei, wear it well and so long as the malu is revered as a marking that says something about how a woman carries herself, it will always be a topic of critique and discussion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this thought-provoking article. I read sita's Malu articles and couldn't help commenting here. I agree with you 100 %. If anything sita has proved to be as Samoan as you get, yes she can do all the right stuff in a village setting, but by displaying that side of Samoans we all love to hate-- the obnoxious, egotistical, and offensive side? Yes, she is definitely Samoan. Congrats to her. 

I was born and raised in Samoa but can't speak a word of it past my kindergarten level, I don't have a Malu, but I got my Samoan nose to prove it lol thanks to my dad. What do I know about being Samoan? I can't be Samoan then right? Oh no, identity crisis, meltdown, who am I if I can't sprout the right Samoan words in the appropriate village settings? I guess I'll just have to resort to my American afaik ask side and say this: the human heart is the human whether it comes from a body covered in Malu/pea, an island nose, yellow hair, mono eyebrows, almond eyes, albino skin or thunder thighs. 

There isn't a gradient about which to measure how Samoan or HUMAN we are. We are all born the same way and will return to the earth the same way. How we choose to fill in the middle is our prerogative, and I just hope I can identify myself as someone all-embracing of that aspect of culture that makes me proud to have Samoan blood--the humble, selfless and respectful side. 

Anonymous said...

who's sita?

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Anonymous said...

Sita is some obnoxious biotch who thinks she's the only educated person in Samoa. Need to plant your feet back on the ground girl. You're showing what your mama gave you.