Kenitra - It goes without saying that men and women are different in ways that make them complete each other.It is also logical to believe that men and women are assigned different roles and tasks that mean to attain the same objective in life. However, in Morocco gender seems to be a subject of countless misconceptions, some of which are socio-cultural in essence but the rest is just make-believe.
Kenitra – It goes without saying that men and women are different in ways that make them complete each other.It is also logical to believe that men and women are assigned different roles and tasks that mean to attain the same objective in life. However, in Morocco gender seems to be a subject of countless misconceptions, some of which are socio-cultural in essence but the rest is just make-believe.
Ever since I was a child, I have always witnessed the inconsistencies of society when dealing with gender issues. I probably was too young to point my finger at the exact deficiencies that plagued our social system when distributing roles among males and females, but I was almost sure that something wasn’t quite right. While I was growing up, I kept hearing the phrase “he’s a man” to justify my most despicable wrongdoings. It certainly felt comforting to use my gender identity as a reliable warrant for my misconduct so as to avoid a serious beating. However, I somehow could not live with the idea that my sister, who was a few years younger than me, did not benefit from such privilege.
As years passed by, I came to understand that our society has a long-held double standard when it comes to gender. Women and men are not viewed equally in Morocco and the distribution of their roles seems to leave plenty of room for questioning. These roles are a manifestation of stereotypes, fixed images and misconceptions that have been established through the most influential institutions in the country such as family, school, media to name just a few. Within the boundaries of the family, the girl is often considered less capable of forming an opinion of her own, more vulnerable to the exploitation of others. The boy on the other hand is often expected to be in control of everything and is instructed to impose his judgments even if that calls for some transgressions. The boy is allowed a few mistakes but the girl is expected to straighten up and fly right all the time.
During adolescence, this prejudiced treatment grows even more jarring as the critical period female and male teenagers go through exposes the irrationality of parents’ decisions on gender roles. It is almost always the case that a typical Moroccan family would keep tabs on their teenage daughter more than their teenage son for some bogus reasons. In fact, in many cases, the teenage boy is often expected to watch over his teenage sister. Furthermore, female teenagers are to abide by a set of rules such as not going out at night, keeping a low profile in the neighborhood, spending more time working or studying, being at home before dark. However, in most cases, these rules do not apply to teenage males even though the precautions intended from such measures are supposed to be the same for both genders.
The bogus reasons I mentioned earlier seem to be based on the long-held stereotypical idea that girls should be protected because they are more vulnerable and easy to manipulate on different levels; emotionally, socially and most importantly sexually. This idea is not entirely accurate because facts prove that both genders could easily be subject to all kinds of manipulation and abuse. It is really pointless to justify gender prejudice through some fallacies that reality proves wrong. Therefore, parents should be careful not to fall for these false beliefs and give their male teenagers more freedom than they ought to have. However, if the protection of women presents itself in such persistent manner, then the variable question that poses itself is: Who threatens their safety? And the answer is obviously ironic.
As an educator, I tend to engage in open discussions on this matter with my students. Unfortunately, I hardly stumble upon a case where the female teenager is treated the same way as her male siblings or peers. In fact, I get so many complaints from female students that their parents are drastically strict with them to the extent that they keep tabs on each of their little moves. Furthermore, I find that male students have access to a great margin of freedom compared to female students. For instance, boys can go out after school, they can come home late and they are not required to do household tasks even the simplest of these tasks such as making the bed or tidying the bedroom up. I must admit that such revelations provoke me because I believe that good habits begin at home and cultivating the sense of responsibility concerns both genders. In other words, as parents and educators, both genders are to assume the same amount of responsibilities regardless of the roles to be later assigned to each one of them.
Later on, this prejudice is exerted further by the whole society. It all starts with the inherent idea that a girl should find a spouse as soon as she turns into a “Woman” putting aside all her dreams, objectives and wishes in life. Even worse, when the girl reaches a certain age in some families, she turns into this curse that should soon be lifted by finding her a husband. I personally have encountered many cases where one of my female students is obliged to drop out of school in order to get married. Furthermore, girls themselves are sometimes predisposed and conditioned, by society and their parents, to scavenge for a husband instead of focusing on their studies, especially during adolescence and a little beyond. This may come as a surprise, but I have witnessed many cases where girls at the age of seventeen and eighteen are attending school while they are preoccupied with the task of finding a man who is serious enough to marry them. Most of these teenagers use school as a means to explore their options and find the perfect husband who is not only going to ward off all the question marks, but who will also give the young woman a name to justify her existence.
It is very disheartening for a woman to live in a society that views her as a complication that should quickly be dealt with. This idea becomes more apparent when we address the issue of sexuality in Morocco. The old belief that women get a lot of sexual attention that leads to disgrace and dishonor for the whole family is unfortunately still existent. It is obvious by now that our society exercises a very disturbing prejudice when it comes to who has the right to explore their sexuality and who does not. For instance, there is an unsettling and strong belief that men are expected to have multiple sexual relationships while women are not. The man is free to exercise his sexual fantasies and live them proudly while the woman takes all the blame in the world if she even dares to talk about having a sexual affair. Over the years, this belief has even convinced countless married women to pardon the frequent sexual adventures of their husbands. However, it never worked the other way around.
While I do not recommend the Western model of equality between both genders, I do not see the Moroccan model to be any fair. The social norms related to gender responsibilities and rights in Moroccan society are quite unfair and sometimes they do not make much sense. For instance, a man can make all the disgraceful mistakes in his life and still be granted forgiveness while a woman can be easily condemned for life because she took a wrong turn somewhere. This double standard is always related to the biased upbringing of the two genders as mentioned earlier. However, the very nature of this biased upbringing is unjustifiable because both genders should have the same privileges because at the end of the day, we are upbringing a human being. Still, those rights and responsibilities themselves should be determined by what we think is best for our whole society.
For instance, adultery is an act that should be condemned for both women and men. Having sexual affairs should be judged the same way for both genders. Here, I am not talking about the law as much as social perception and awareness. For example, a man should be viewed as guilty as a woman if he chooses to have sexual relationships out of wedlock. A man should be viewed as ill-mannered and dishonored as a woman who chooses to have multiple sexual partners at once. One might say that I took it a bit too far, but isn’t that what our religion commands us to do? Isn’t a man as blameworthy as a woman if he commits such sins? So where is the “taking it too far” part in all of this?
The day when we realize the value of establishing a fair and balanced social system, we will be able to eradicate most of our social quandaries. The day when we cease fueling all the gender stereotypes our society is plagued with, we will be able to see that the difference between men and women as an investment that could be harvested for the good of the whole society.
AFP Photo/Fadel Senna
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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