Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 6 - A Man´s World

I have never been intimidated by a culture, but somehow I feel defeated. I had to leave Morocco, (temporarily,) to gather my thoughts and find my independence again. So I find myself at a really cool hostel in the center of Barcelona, listening to Spanish instead of Arabic. Here´s the story:

I have heard many local Moroccans say they believe that men and women are equal in their country. I´ve heard this from both men and women. Men say that women can get jobs, can go to school, can do everything that men can do, therefore they are equal. Unfortunately, I just don´t see this.

In Morocco, men line the streets, standing with their arms crossed, typically one leg bent up against the wall, staring at the women who pass by. They understand that the local women are off limits but believe the foreigners are fresh off the boat and very available. I had to muster up the courage just to leave my hotel room and walk down the street. I couldn´t enter a cafe or a restaurant because they were filled with men drinking tea, searching for their visual dessert. Usually I can ignore the comments and the whistles, but the number of men to women was like 20 to 1, and I was the absolutely only white tourist on the street. I don´t want to paint a horrible picture of Moroccans because I met many who were very nice and willing to help me in anyway possible. The only problem is any way possible.

Men give off a vibe that they are superior to women and that women are objects for them to possess. I couldn´t look anybody in the eye because it was perceived as an invitation. Because of this I was forced to keep my gaze to the sidewalk and was unable to converse with the locals. Me, not able to talk? A travesty!

I was told from a local who spoke very good English, that the Qaran says men are responsible for women. ´Responsible´ in the sense that they must take care of them financially, spiritually, physically, etc. He told me that if a man has a wife and they both make money, the woman is able to put money into savings but the man must pay for everything, including everything for the woman. At the end of their careers, the woman may have thousands in her savings but the man may have none. "It´s more of a burden than a responsibility if you look at it like that," he said. I was starting to understand his reasoning but then he explained what I believed to be true. "But, throughout history, some men began to believe this responsibility was a privelage, or a right." This is exactly what I felt as I walked down the street or met a man who wanted to help me. He was responsible for me in the sense that I was inferior.

When I travel I am not a very good sightseer. I can´t just check things off the list and browse through a museum; I need to totally immerse myself in the culture, meet the people, feel the history. But in Morocco I couldn´t do that. I couldn´t go anywhere without feeling objectified, without feeling uneasy or unsafe. So, as much as I hate it, I had to leave. But just temporarily.

I´ll be in Barcelona for seven days, through Christmas, and then I will be meeting my wonderful friend Marissa in Marrakesh, Morocco. Until then, you will have to follow me around Barcelona and then we will all travel safely back to Morocco together. Thank you for following - you give me energy!

Adíos amigos! Créo hay un adventura esperando en ésta ciudad, Barcelona...

P.S. Feel free to sign up as a follower to post a comment. It helps me continue writing!


  1. Jenny - this is great, thanks for keeping a blog while in Morocco! Morocco is definitely a man's world. Traditionally in most Islamic countries women are believed to belong in the private sphere, i.e. the house, and men have control over the public sphere, everything else. A method of enforcing this separation of spheres was/is to police it through negative comments, unwanted stares, inappropriate gestures, etc....
    It's not fun, it really even kinda sucks, you just have to let it roll off your skin or it will overcome you. Not an easy task, I know.

    Morocco is not an easy country to get to know on a short trip, but I'm sure your time in Barca will allow for some always needed reflection and make you fresh to tackle it again. It's easier with a friend!

    Can't wait to see photos and hear your stories!

    Oh and hear is a friend's number in Barca - her name is Jennifer and she works at a pub, Irish girl, very nice! (0034) 672 533 384 Give her a ring.

    Cheers and bisalaama

  2. I had very similar experiences in small towns in Spain. The bars were filled with men, smoking and drinking, while the women were all but absent, presumably at home. One night I wanted to get a bite to eat and my feet were so sore from walking about 35km that day, so I walked into the closest bar I could find, which happened to be filled with only men. You know that trick in the movies where someone walks into a room and the music stops and everyone stops talking to stare? That was basically what happened. Later that evening was a service of blessing at the church. At around 6:45 all the women of the town piled into the church for this blessing. All the men stayed behind, so I wondered what was going on. Then at 7:15, all the men left the bar to walk about half a block to the church in a big hoard for a separate blessing. It seemed so odd, so I asked one of the locals who told me that men's and women's blessings were different and they were not allowed to be in the church together at the same time in the evenings. I had never really seen this before. Pretty interesting stuff.

    Love the blog Jenny. Keep up the good writing!