Gender Roles in Ethiopian Sports

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From the messages received in the news and other media outlets, it is no secret that there are many countries and cultures that have differing viewpoints on gender and gender roles than most Americans. In fact, there are many countries where women have no rights or freedoms other than what men allow them to have. In others, women are considered to be inherently inferior to men and must act accordingly or face severe disciplinary actions. Ethiopia is a clear example of the latter. Although the country has strict laws that divide appropriate actions according to gender, there are aspects of Ethiopian culture that have proven to be more contemporary, such as the world of physical education, where both men and women are active and allowed to participate.

The Amhara culture, the dominant culture of Ethiopian people and politics, “is patriarchal and authoritarian, emphasizing the perceived superiority of the male of the female” (Amhara, 2011). Much of the gender roles in Ethiopia are centered around the cultural importance of bloodshed. Much of Ethiopian folklore and cultural tradition centers on the idea of the Ethiopian man as a “warrior who vanquishes the enemy through the shedding of the enemies’ blood. In the same way that a warrior sheds the blood of his enemy…[women shed] their blood each month to remind here that she is the vanquished, the servant of her father and husband” (Amhara, 2011).

The masculinity of the Ethiopian male is emphasized greatly in many physical education activities. As a result of the militant and patriarchal culture, many of the sports are designed to emphasize the masculinity of male participants and allow them to demonstrate their athletic prowess and abilities. The traditional sport of ganna, which is similar to hockey, is thought of by many Ethiopian men as taking place on a battlefield, with side attempting to vanquish their enemy (Amhara, 2011).

Given that the idea of the warrior is often to hunt alone, individual sports...
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