By Erin Geneva
Morocco World News
Rabat, June 18, 2013
Dear Smiling man. I had been here in Morocco for a few weeks when I briefly encountered you. By the time I met you, I am sorry to say that I was more hostile than I would have been if I had met you just after arriving.
Smiling man, I have only good things to say about most people I have met in Morocco. But, I do have one complaint, and this is that I have been relentlessly harassed on the street here by young men. At first, I thought maybe this was because I am not a Muslim, and therefore I do not wear hijab. But I noticed, that many women here in Rabat do not wear hijab either, and many of them are dressed far less conservatively than me.
Some Moroccan girls I have spoken with have also reported similar experiences. Even women I have spoken with who wear hijab, loose fitting clothes and no makeup tell me that they are sometimes subjected to this harassment.
I am new to this society, and I can only speculate why this type of harassment is so prevalent here. I have had several men follow me for blocks, and even when I pay them no attention, I have basically had to run away, or hide in a shop to avoid their unwanted attention. Despite what they may think, I want them to know that I have found this type of behavior intimidating, irritating and definitely not in any way flattering.
Although I know that Moroccan women experience this type of harassment as I do, from what I hear from them, it seems that I am experiencing this with a much greater frequency. Now there is one thing that singles me out among the other young women of Morocco, and this is the fact that I am white, and obviously a foreigner.
Unfortunately, the media has painted us fair skinned Western girls in a pretty objectifying light. If the only reference I had for Western women was Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, or MTV I may think that all women from the West are just as ignorant, promiscuous and shallow as those depicted on TV.
As I feel saddened when some North Americans base their perceptions of Moroccans or Muslims based on the stereotypes propagated by the media, I am equally saddened to see some Moroccan men doing the same thing towards Western women.
Smiling man, coming from Canada to here, I can say that North Americans are generally much more sexually liberal than Moroccans. But this does not mean that we are all ready to jump out of our clothes at the first man who approaches us, or that we do not have boyfriends or husbands to whom we are faithful. And although I’d say that North Americans are generally more sexually liberal than Moroccans, this is not an absolute statement.
When I met you smiling man, it was night, and I was lost. I was annoyed by the men who had harassed me as I was trying to get home, and so when you approached me, I was not as polite as I should have been. You could obviously tell that I was lost, and you were probably feeling concerned. You walked up to me and said “hello, do you speak English?” I rolled my eyes at you, because this question has often preceded some rude remark, but you repeated yourself and there was a smile of pure honesty and kindness on your face, so I replied “yes.”
You then walked me to the landmark I had told you about, and made sure that I arrived home safely, without anybody else bothering me. You acted the way I am sure you would want someone to act if your sister, daughter or mother was in the same situation.
Smiling man, I am very ashamed that I was standoffish with you. But I want to tell you that I am grateful for your kindness. You have reminded me to be open to people. And you have also reminded me that the rude men I encounter walking on the street are just bad apples, who are ruining the reputation of the vast majority of Moroccan people, who are kind and conscientious like you.
Erin MacDonald, is a Canadian MA candidate. She grew up in Halifax Nova Scotia where she earned an Honours degree in Religious Studies from St. Mary’s University. She is now earning an MA in Dispute Resolution from the University of Victoria, British Columbia. She is currently fulfilling the internship requirement of her MA degree, working at La Voix de la Femme Amazighe in Rabat Morocco.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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