Ruth Iyob

Exploring gender and racial bias and stereotypes, the focus on the role of women in Eritrea post WWII and their relationship to the Italian padroni ultimately determines that the identity and independence of these women was/is essentially dismissed or rejected. This article focused on the transition from precolonial roles of women to post WWII roles of women, which experienced little change. Precolonial roles of Eritrean women, especially wives and mothers, were predetermined through conjugal arrangements. Madamismo was colonial adaptation of this system to fit the colonial ideology of long-term marriage. Madama then became a term for this period which signified a native woman’s relationship with a colonial man. The difference between pre-madamismo and madamismo is seemingly the voice of a native woman and a say in the “relationship,” as exemplified by the fact that women could now participate in regular household decisions that regarded a man’s action. That is not to say, however, women suddenly had either their own identity or independence- because they did not. Clearly, expectations of women were contradictory in this new system that ultimately complicated the “civilizing” of Africans, in particular African women, for colonizers.
What I found to be most interesting was how female engagement in society was regarded as a threat to the patriarchal society. These ideologies, which focus specifically on the experiences of colonized women, reflects the same mentalities and ideologies regarding gender roles in a nationalist society expressed in Spackman’s article. The difference, however, is sexual servitude. Although there were still underlying expectations of such in the nationalist society in Italy, these expectations were clearly made significantly more explicit towards colonized women. I found the argument of relationship between the role of government in sexual relations to be especially interesting. In particular, the definition of post-colonial societal constructions as “re-socialized,” rather than women’s participation being mobilized. Clearly, this article efficiently articulates the reason for such an inability for mobilization. This reason being, the government’s role in a woman’s ability to escape the expected gender role-as the expected gender role was supported and enforced by the government itself in postcolonial Eritrea.

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