Fez - Dear Moroccan men who stand on the street corner, who sit in cafés, who drive by in cars and shout things about my physical appearance to me, stop.
Fez – Dear Moroccan men who stand on the street corner, who sit in cafés, who drive by in cars and shout things about my physical appearance to me, stop.
What you probably think you’re doing is helping to validate me and to boost my self-confidence. Well, I have news for you: you’re not. What you’re doing is creating an unbalanced power dynamic. You are marking my body as pleasing to the male gaze, which is somehow supposed to make me feel confident about myself. But it does not. Or it is supposed to be a signal for me to talk with you so that you can get me in bed. Keep dreaming.
Instead, street harassment makes me feel violated and unwelcome in public spaces. A friend accurately noted that it is not so much the individual comments themselves that are hard to deal with, but it is rather the way in which we females have to shift and plan our behavior in public that is the most frustrating.
Do I walk home alone or is it late enough that I need to call a friend to come walk with me? Do I put my lip balm on because my lips are really dry, or will that be interpreted as flirtation to men I pass? Do I wear a slightly more revealing shirt because it’s just too darn hot, or do I not want to risk an increase in unwanted comments or someone following me?
Let me be clear: in no way shape or form is street harassment unique to Morocco. It happens everywhere. Yes, it can happen in some places more than others, but by no means do I mean to imply that street harassment is a uniquely Moroccan phenomenon. It just happens quite frequently here (though some cities more or less than others. Fès where I’ve been living the past month has been particularly bothersome). The majority of street harassment is strictly verbal. Men say something (whether a simple hello!, welcome!, or something inappropriate), you ignore them, and the encounter is over.
Personally, I have never been touched inappropriately or followed, alhamdoulileh, but I have friends who have dealt with both. I have friends who have been fondled on the bus or on the street, and friends who have been followed until they’ve yelled something threatening at their follower. These cases tend to be relatively rare, as far as I can tell (though statistics don’t appear to be available), but they do happen and are unacceptable.
Why do men harass women on the streets? I certainly can’t give a complete answer to this question because 1) I am not a man who harasses women, and 2) No one can; there are a multitude of individual reasons, though trends can be extracted. But as far as I can tell, most men don’t see street harassment as “harassment.” They see it as “complimenting.” They think they are being nice by telling a woman that she’s beautiful and that that remark will make her feel good about herself. For some women, it can be a confidence booster. For others, not so much. Instead, it is a symbol of male dominance of public space. It underlines the obsession––across societies––of male dominance over female bodies. It objectifies and marginalizes.
In Morocco, women are generally harassed regardless of what they’re wearing, though perhaps women wearing more revealing clothing may be harassed more (there is an absence of data on that). Foreign women are not the only ones to be harassed; Moroccan women are as well (see article by Moroccan Nidal Chebbak). However, foreign––and particularly white––women are perceived to be sexually liberated, and therefore sexually loose. For this reason, white women may be harassed more.
I’m not saying: men, don’t flirt with women! It’s a matter of the situation. If a woman is walking along the street, clearly going somewhere, she’s probably not looking for a date or a boyfriend at that point in time. If she’s clearly going somewhere, leave her alone! Leave public space public for both genders. I shouldn’t have to say that.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed