Holier than thou.


I recently heard about Betty, the contestant on Big Brother Africa. I have never watched the show and I didn’t know we even had an Ethiopian contestant on it. I’m not even sure what the show is about, but what I do know is that Betty, our Ethiopian gal had sex with a fellow contestant while the camera was rolling. I watched the clip, but most importantly I read the comments made by my fellow Habeshas.

Asedabi,” “asafari,” “ehe ye’ethiopiawi sera aydelem,” “bahelachenen gedel ketetechew,” the impassioned  comments went on and on. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the whole situation. Of course my initial reaction, given I’m what you might call a typical Habesha with a bit of a conservative inclination on some matters, was that of embarrassment. Why would anyone do this knowing they were on camera? But then, I couldn’t help but think about how we, Habeshas, have become such hypocrites. Were we so outraged about her actions or that her actions were caught on camera? Because if it is her actions that is enraging us, then i call bullshit.

I don’t know how the people of the previous generation acted or conducted themselves. They might have been the chewa, sew akbari, egzihabeheren feri individuals that we were told to emulate growing up. But let me tell you, the men and women of my generation, may fantasize to be these things, but we are far from it. I’m only speaking here from personal experience, so feel free to correct me if you feel I’m mistaken, or if your experience has led you to a different conclusion.

Sex in our community has become nothing more than a simple source of physical pleasure. The things that are normally and traditionally attached to it – love, intimacy, commitment are rarely found within it. For instance, if you’re a guy living in Addis with some cash to spare, and you’re looking for a “good time,” that’s exactly what you’ll get. In fact you probably don’t have to do much to look for it. The  ladies in our modern age, it seems, put out easy. Today’s city dwelling women are not the women of your granny’s generation – meshkormem doesn’t work today. You don’t even have to see the nightlife in Addis to witness this, walking down Bole road shall suffice.

This is not only in regards to the single men and women out there. Some marriages have become a way to simply conform with “our tradition” because after the wedding, life sure enough, goes on. I’ll sadly say, I know more marriages that are dealing with the issue of infidelity, then those that are dealing with “communication issues” or whatever other issue we tell others we’re having.  The idea of weshema, a term I viewed to be ‘old,’ used only in writing, is so common now,even newly built condominiums are making some profit from the practice. The interesting part is no one seems to be shocked by this. In some circles it’s almost a source of laughter and amusement.

So why all the outrage? Do we really believe that this girl is not a true reflection of her community? Does she not represent the modern urban dweller of Ethiopia? Or are we pissed that she dared to do it in the open, going against the natural Ethiopian love of keeping everything a secret, behind closed doors?

Please keep in mind I’m not making any moral judgement here on people who view sex to be a casual form of entertainment, it definitely can be that – to each his own. But let’s not mefogager, let’s get rid of  this holier than thou mentality. Let us not be so quick to condemn, when we know in our heart of hearts we’re not as chewa, as egziabeheren feri as emaye wanted us to be. Whether it’s all The Sex and the City episodes us modern ladies watched, or the new-found money that seems to be in the pockets of the upper/middle-class or the liberal diaspora with their “liberated” selves, whatever the reason – let us at least acknowledge, we ain’t all that holy.

Tena Yistelegn.

3 thoughts on “Holier than thou.

  1. hmmm…..I wholeheartedly agree with you on the holier than thou attitude while being as sexually immoral as we condemn others to be behind closed doors. Similar to you, i have also been saddened by the amount of infidelity i saw in the Habesha circles. Nevertheless, i think it is quite a different point to argue for “sexual openness” with the desire to eliminate the “holier than thou” attitude vs to refrain from condemning having sex on live TV. As a matter of fact, i think it is my “liberal &feminist” view of how women are portrayed in the media (much more for physical/sexual values than intellectual) that disagrees with Betty’s actions than my conservative views (Which i admit I do have).
    In short, though I do agree with you on all the weshema debaki of us condemning the non-Habesha nature of Betty being such hipocrites, i think there is a big difference between the sexual people “emaye” didn’t want us to be and having sex on live TV.

  2. Hi Selam,

    I’m not sure if i was arguing for “sexual openness.” Condemning having sex on TV might be necessary, but i wonder if that’s more like trying to deal with the symptoms instead of the cause. My main issue here is instead of us being so quick to condemn, we should use this incident to reflect on what we’ve become as a society as a whole. This girl was on the show representing Ethiopia, and the way I see it, she is simply the reflection of the place she has been raised in. And that place, it seems, hasn’t managed to instill enough decency in her to stop her from doing what she did.

    From the feminist point of view – the media in this case simply presented the platform( I do agree on the abhorrent way women are portrayed in the media). But i’m sure if she was in our discussion now, she’d probably say it was within her rights to be who she was, regardless who that person is. and choosing to do it on TV should also be included in that right (It would be interesting to find out the rules and regulations of the Big Brother House – It does seem anything goes).

    Sadly what she did is not a “non-habesha nature,” It has become very much a habesha one. I think we’ve gotten lost somewhere while we were attempting to be so “modern,” while still holding on to the culture we hold so dear.


    P.S Hope you’re enjoying the blog. Discussions such as this is one of the main reasons this blog was started. Hope you keep coming back =)

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