Intersectionality within Ethiopian Feminism


Setaweet Circle – May 8, 2018
Intersectionality within Ethiopian Feminism

In discussing ‘what enraged or inspired you’, a few members shared instances of sexual harassment in taxis, while waiting in line, ‘mansplaining’ and being ignored at professional meetings when there is only one woman present.

Quotes of the Circle

‘If we worried as much about the quality of education as we do about women’s outfits while they are at school, we would have had a functioning education system.’
‘As I am an Ethiopian woman. If I am doing it, it is my culture.’

Our own Martha Tadesse spoke to us on Intersectionality which she defined as the non-ranking of oppressions.

It is important to start with the acknowledgement of our privileges, particularly those of us who live in Addis Ababa with access to amenities and in particular, to formal education.

In terms of representation, Martha asked us to draw in our minds the ‘typical’ Ethiopian woman. Over time, the ideal Ethiopian woman has come to be the light brown-skinned, sim-waisted woman with a straight nose, and long, straight hair. When we think of ‘the Ethiopian woman’, do we mean the Hamer woman? The Turmi woman? Or do we mean a woman with features that are obviously northern Ethiopia? In addition, are we drawing in our minds the urbane woman who evidently lives in a city or do we mean ‘Ye Geterewa Set?’

Martha quoted Chimamanda Ngozi Aditchie: ‘Don’t wake up in the morning and assume that everyone is white and straight’, and paraphrased it to state that as Ethiopian feminists, we Setaweets should not assume that every Ethiopian woman is from the same ethnic group, from the same religious group as us, able-bodied, in our age group – the median age group leaving out the Elderly and the very young, straight, and women from similar cultural backgrounds to us.

Particularly as Ethiopian feminists, it is important to know when we are in the privileged position of being an agent or a medium of other women’s voice. With this privilege, we have to be careful with the narrative of ‘other women’ whom we sometimes assume are voiceless. However, who is a voiceless woman? As Ethiopian feminists who work to bring about a shift in gender equality, we have to be careful to not generalize the ‘problems’ we see in other women we assume to be oppressed, for example to assume that all rural women are poor and without agency. In our discussion, we reflected on the question of ‘as a feminist, who am I not listening to?’ How do we entertain the issue of other women without ‘bothering’ them? The identity of sexual minorities was particularly debated with the question, ‘is it our priority as a feminist issue in Ethiopia?’ leading back to the discussion of non-ranking of oppressions, and to the question of ‘who am I not listening to?’

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