By Omar Bihmidine
By Omar Bihmidine
Morocco World News
Sidi Ifni, Morocco, July 12, 2012
In one of her compelling poems entitled “Phenomenal Woman,” Maya Angelou defined what makes a phenomenal woman and what differentiates her from other women all over the world. To me, it doesn’t matter what the author of the poem is talking about, because Morocco also has its own brand of phenomenal women.
Angelou and I might be speaking about similar types of women. The woman she likely described in her poem is herself, while the women I am thinking of are my own grandmother, my mother and your mothers. I personally deem them as phenomenal only in terms of their greatness.
However, it saddens me that not all women are phenomenal in their lives. A phenomenal woman to me, is a great woman. Back in the days I spent in Zagora in 2009, I often came across a number of women while they were always busy doing something. I never saw them while they were sitting and doing nothing. Most of the time, they were carrying bundles of sticks on their backs and walking in the scorching Zagora sun.
When I cast a few curious glances at these women, I instantly remembered my mother who also worked hard to raise me, to send me to school and to wash my dirty clothes. It is true all women tend to behave similarly towards their beloved children. Yet, not all of them experienced extreme hardships in the process. These hardships can be in the form of illiteracy, marginalization and resistance that can help make a woman phenomenal.
What does not kill a woman makes her phenomenal. Women who hire babysitters to take care of their children are far from being phenomenal. Phenomenal women are the ones who run miles to reach a hospital when they are in labor. These are the women who hold two babies and breastfeed them at the same time. A woman cannot be phenomenal overnight. She needs excruciating experiences to become phenomenal.
Not being phenomenal does not necessarily belittle women. Rather, it makes them special and more admirable. A widow bringing up her children can never be compared with a married woman doing the same thing. A woman living in Zagora or Ait Oumzil–where my grandmother is from–can never be compared to a woman living in Casablanca or Rabat. There is a big difference between them. My late grandmother was mistreated by her husband but was patient and compassionate in raising her children, including my mother. My grandmother can never be compared to a grandmother whose villa is located by the seaside. Only a few women are phenomenal, unfortunately.
History is proof that many Amazigh women did not speak a word of Arabic. Yet, there were times when they had to speak it at court, for instance, and found themselves unable to express themselves in Arabic. Their inability to speak Arabic led them to be exploited. While this is strange to me, they resisted exploitation and illiteracy for the sake of their children, some of whom went abroad in search of a good future and some others traveled to Casablanca to earn their livelihood. It is thanks to such excellent mothers that their children have become who they are today. If given a voice and taught well, these women would tell stories of grief and misery that they have borne for decades in mountainous areas. Simply, they are phenomenal women.
I am a child of a phenomenal woman. Many of us long to have a phenomenal mother, and many others say that they have phenomenal mothers. Are we all right? Of course not. Still, we need to closely look back on their life experiences and the stages they went through in order to give birth to you and lead you to become who you are. Most women have succeeded in doing so.
But, is that enough? Yes, it is. But, is that what makes a woman phenomenal? Probably not! Are we the children of women whose permission in getting married was never asked? Are we the children of women whose husband left her and us in search of another wife? Are we the children of a widow who had her life destroyed by one burden after another for the sake of ours? If yes, then our mothers stand higher chances of being phenomenal. If these mothers could also put pen to paper and tell us about their experiences of sexual abuse, mistreatment, early marriage, and color discrimination, they would be as phenomenal as Maya Angelou.