The being-a-woman thing

A week or two ago, as I was walking home from school on the same path I always take, I got not-overwhelmingly harassed by a young man walking in the same direction. Had we not both been walking along the long stretch of tram tracks, giving him plenty of time to whisper invitations from behind me, it wouldn’t have been worth mentioning.

As it was, though, we walked the full 500 meters in that fashion, with me finally detouring to the refuge of a gas station shop, glaring at the man as he walked by and flicked his tongue at me.

When we lived in Italy, I felt like a pretty sorry feminist for wondering why I wasn’t having more issues keeping the notoriously womanizing Italian men away. I have since heard that those were the fathers of the giovani I was walking around, that young Italian men are tired of that reputation, and so I was left utterly alone except when I was walking around Sorrento with my cute blonde friend.

In Morocco it’s another story. I consider myself pretty lucky that I haven’t (knock on wood) been touched, unlike my coworker who was poked in the butt by a teenager, or a schoolmate of Colin’s who was beat up for refusing an invitation for sex, or the wife of a teacher at his school was slapped for telling off the man who was being vulgar to her. Being Moroccan herself, and walking with her Moroccan husband, would you’d think keep the creeps away.

But when the Moroccan fiancé of an American friend beat up the man who groped her, then gave him money so the creep wouldn’t come back with his friends, there’s a serious accountability problem, not just with authorities but with our countless decent neighbors. To have a young Korean woman raped in the medina, and then to hear that the Moroccan roommate of a friend denied it could have happened because “Moroccan men don’t like Orientals,” makes seem as though change won’t be coming anytime soon.

The Moroccan women I know best can’t wait to get out of the country. And for all the young men here flick their tongue and suck their lip, word on the street is there aren’t too many satisfied Moroccan women out there, which I feel at least isn’t a problem Italian men were rumored to have.

Day to day, I make the best of our life here and I am happy, but that life is very much confined to our living room. For over two weeks I wasn’t able to get to the medina to get Colin a Valentine gift because my daytime schedule doesn’t match that of my girlfriends’, and Colin reasonably insists I don’t go alone.

A big, burly American friend here described his hyper-awareness after being jumped one night in Oregon–how for several months he couldn’t look at groups of young men without being filled with anger and apprehension. He explained that he didn’t expect us to understand the feeling, but the other woman and I said almost in sync, “Yeah, of course, every day.” I know that women all over the world know that feeling of anger and apprehension (except Italy I guess maybe but probably not?), adding in fear, helplessness, maybe resignation. I’ve gotten thoroughly sick of the attention: every time a strange man so much as smiles at me, I want to tell him off. But I keep my mouth shut; I frown and glare. I have a well-practiced bitch face.

This distaste for Moroccan men is so rooted in my psyche now that I loathe my Moroccan classmate, who yes, is obnoxious as a classmate for reasons unrelated to his nationality. And I think daily about how I can inoculate my male Moroccan students against this kind of behavior, and more important and difficult, the mentality behind it. My boys are not the boys who grow up to harass women on the street, though. I have access to such a small, privileged slice of Moroccan society that anything I can teach these boys about respecting women feels like one nubby crayon in the box, redundant and insignificant.

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5 responses

  1. Wow. I guess I really take being born a woman in the US for granted. While I’ve been in some semi-hairy situations, I’ve never felt unsafe going out on my own to do some shopping, or just being out on my own in general. The “Moroccan men don’t like orientals and that’s why she couldn’t have been raped” attitude is sickening. I had no idea. Stay safe hon! I’m sure you and Colin are going on some amazing adventures and I hope Morocco isn’t all creepy dudes and bad juju. 🙂

    P.S. I can’t imagine you with a bitch-face. I think I may need photographic evidence 🙂

  2. Pingback: Temperatures rising | Somewhere, Beyond the Sea

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