It was my third year in University—around the time of final exams—when my friend and I were spending long nights at the library. We were sick of the songs that we had on our phones and computers; we were looking for something new to jam to while devouring cheap coffee and going through dozens of books on the internal workings of a computer. That is when Rophnan dropped his album Reflection giving us exactly what we were looking for. The lyrics were great, the beat was amazing, it was perfect for studying. Fast forward three years and the same artist disappoints me down to my core.
Following the current situation of our country, Rophnan released a three-song mini-album called ሦሥት (“Sost” meaning “three”). All the songs were talking about: the toxic nature of ethnic politics; the Abay river; the right of Ethiopia to use her own water; the victorious battle of Adwa; and as is his style, using traditional artistic elements. The first three times I listened to the songs, I was super excited and hyped up. But then, I LISTENED to the songs. I realized that women were largely represented in the songs as wives, daughters, mothers and basically someone who can/will be taken from a man should he fail to protect her. There were a few exceptions where Queens like Yodit Gudit and Queen Saba were mentioned, but their stories were not explored in a significant way. The representation of Queen Taytu, one of the strongest women in our story, as someone needing protection while failing to recognize the pivotal role she played in the war was the last straw for me. After that, it was clear this song, just like most other Ethiopian songs, was biased and full of misrepresentation.
Click Baits – Failure to Recognize Women for their Talent
If you go on YouTube and check the interviews conducted by Ethiopian talk show hosts, you will find that a majority of interviews with women as guests have titles related to marriage, children, dating, clothing, e.t.c. Obviously, the intention is to drive more people to open the videos by feeding off society’s misogynistic obsession with the way women dress, date and decide to live their lives. While this sounds like pure logic from a marketing perspective, it does so much damage by feeding into the misogyny that fuels it. Because of this tactic, women who go on talk shows spend more time explaining a personal choice like why they are not married than talking about their careers and accomplishments. This was evident when the CEO of the EthioTelecom company was on a famous talk show, and the host decided to ask her why she is “…still a Miss.” I am not naive enough to think men do not get asked these kinds of questions; they probably do even if it is not as often or as early in their lives as women. Society has declared itself the timekeeper of women’s fertility and while it is a fact that women cannot give birth after menopause, it is up to each individual to decide when or if she should start a family.
This was a relatively short blog than what I am used to writing. Honestly, there is a lot to be said about the Ethiopian media and how it portrays women. I would like to end this blog by giving recognition to artists who give women proper credit in their works, proving you can have a hit song with all the facts intact. Crediting women’s role in battle fields does not make the war any less victorious. And to all the talk show hosts who are so “concerned” with when the women on their shows will get married, I urge you to look past this one aspect of life and focus on the accomplishments that have brought the women to where they are. Or, you know, change your talk show into a dating show so your questions can be relevant.