This past weekend we went to Fez, and it was extremely different from all the experiences that I have had in Rabat. First, it was smoldering. I can say with relative confidence that it was approximately 200 degrees in Fez this weekend. I kid you not. Everyone was soaked in sweat, we looked pretty darn attractive as a group.
The second difference between Fez and Rabat was the intensity of street harassment. Men hiss and make comments in Rabat but the men in Fez seemed to be taking it to a whole new level. The majority of our time in Fez was spent exploring the medina and it seemed like every two seconds that we were receiving tons of unwanted comments. I never imagined a time when hearing the words “flower” or “fantastic” would make me cringe but it happened.
As a woman who has been socialized to justify the actions of men and not hold them accountable for their actions, I found myself trying to rationalized the cat calling.
Maybe it was because we’re in a huge group?
Maybe it was because we weren’t dressed conservatively enough (we were)?
Maybe it was because we’re American tourists invading and exploiting private, personal, cultural spaces? <— This seemed the most rational to me.
That’s it! These men are harassing us to communicate to us that we are unwanted in their space.
While that seemed to satisfy me at the time because it made these men revolutionaries and not just the unpleasant product of our patriarchal global community, I knew that wasn’t what was really going on. The harassment on the street we receive daily coupled with what we’ve learned in the past weeks about the limited legal rights and protections granted to Moroccan women, suggested that patriarchy not distain for cultural voyeurism could best explained our experiences.
On Monday we met with Stephanie Bordat,, Regional Director of Global Rights for the Maghreb. When answering a question about claims by Moroccans that some women’s rights NGOs are pushing the agenda of Western Feminism, that they were essentially full of it and being dishonest about why they opposed women’s rights in Morocco. At the end of the day, if a country like Morocco can adopt a plethora of western (French) practices, it should be just as easy to grant Moroccan women the same rights as French women.
Men cat calling on the streets, refusing to allow women to file freely for divorce or report claims of domestic violence,and rationalizing that an underage girls marry their rapists have nothing to do with hating western feminism and its ideals. It reflects attempts of those in power (men) to remain that way.