Moroccan women in Vincent Crapanzano’s book Tuhami
By Mustapha Akhoullou
Morocco World News
Agadir, Morocco, July 15, 2012
It is self-evident that the issue of women is one of the dominant issues in V. C’s book Tuhami. Crapanzano, throughout his book, tends to associate Tuhami’s psychological traumas with a historical crisis between Tuhami and women. Women, according to Moroccan mindset, were/are highly perceived and conceived, at least by men, as inferior, dependent, and cannot control their sexual impulses. Crapanzano backs up his orientalist discourse towards Moroccan women’s inferiority with Moroccan folk wisdom by quoting the sixteenth century poet Sidi Abderrahman El Mejdoub who says:
Women’s intrigues are mighty.
To protect myself I never stop running.
Women are belted with serpents
And bejeweled with scorpions. (p.30)
This “phallic-aggressive” imagery, according to Crapanzano, is what gave birth to the so-called demonic image “Aicha Quandisha” and other “Jinniyya.” Tuhami is merely a replica of other Tuhamis in Morocco. Having said that, analyzing Tuhami is, by and large, analyzing Moroccan society as a whole, and by doing so, Crapanzano joins the orientalist discourse and positions himself in the historical dichotomy of self and the other. Crapanzano states:
“Women are presumed to require the strictest vigilance. The Moroccan world, like other North African and Middle Eastern worlds, is split dramatically into the women’s world of hearth and home and the man’s world of mosque and marketplace. Although a Moroccan man may enter or leave his home as he pleases, a Moroccan woman has no such freedom. (p.31)”
This orientalist representation of women transcends the practical experience in Moroccan society. Having said this, so far, Crapanzano, along with other orientalists, circles his analysis in an over-generalized framework. Crapanzano’s over-generalization extended itself into marriage and women in Morocco. Women, as Crapanzano understand, are double-oppressed, before marriage on the one hand when they (women) are under the surveillance of their parents and brothers. In other words, preserving and controlling their sexual impulses is in a way or another preserving family honor. On the other hand, women’s oppression seems to continue in their husbands’ houses. This oppression, according to Crapanzano, is practiced by their husbands, but it is often practiced by their mother-in-law. Yet, this is done out of maintaining the continuity of honor-preserving. In this case, a wife must ask permission so as to do any activity outside her husband’s home, such as paying visits to her family, going to Hammam, and so on and so forth.
Within the prevailing image of women in Morocco –an image of the women themselves often accept as reality– is a changing evaluation from positive to negative, which is reflected in the common belief that women are born with a hundred angels and men with a hundred devils and that over lifetime the angels move to the men and devils to the women. (p.32)
Crapanzano uses Tuhami as a tube through which the flow of orientalist (re)presentations would be fluid. The idea Crapanzano wants to highlight throughout his book is that Tuhami, from a psychoanalytic standpoint, has a phobia towards women which has re-shaped the crisis in his relationships with women and eventually leads to be enslaved by the so-called demonic image “Aisha Quandisha.”
Mustapha Akhoullou is a student in a master’s program entitled “Cross-cultural and Literary Studies” at the Faculty of Arts, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdollah Sais, Fes.