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Moroccan Culture: A Complexity of Ironies

Moroccan women in Fez medina
Inside the crowded alleyways of Chemmaine Neighborhood, Fez

By Ikrame Chibani

Rabat – Growing up as a female in Morocco, I, as any other person of my age, developed the habit to take some aspects of Moroccan culture for granted. Even worse, at some age I realized that I started adopting the very same practices of this culture, knowing that consciously I did not want to adhere to them. In a sense, that is how some Moroccans perceive of things; they would condemn a specific saying or an act, yet, in real-world situations they would ironically put forward some arguments they would not support had they been in other situations. This discrepancy, along with others, manifests itself as a strong basis of Moroccan popular culture.

Given the fact that family and women constitute the kernel of Moroccan society at large, women have long been the focus of every single family. Thus far, things seem quite neat; as a case in point, if a girl goes in the streets smoking, she will be looked down upon and chances are she will receive some very abusive comments in the streets simply because she is a female. However, the reaction would be very different for a male. No one would seem to care: those are the norms and they have not been breached, as long as it is a male. My point here is not that females should be allowed to smoke in the streets. Rather, if both genders do the same thing, why would they be looked upon differently?

The neighbours, or more generally, society, are a crucial component of Moroccan identity. As a matter of fact, the individual’s behaviours and attitudes are contingent upon what his or her surroundings think of him or her. We Moroccans are known to be very talkative. When two people (very likely to be women) suddenly meet in the neighbourhood, they greet each other and stay for a chat that may last for hours, saying nothing of importance but gossiping. Some people, unfortunately, attempt to live on the aspirations of others. However, it is impossible to have each member of society content with everyone’s beliefs, actions, or thoughts.

Another aspect that reflects patriarchal superiority is when a couple is about to marry. In such circumstances, the girl considers the opinion of her mother or relatives on the groom. Most of them, if not all, would agree upon the Moroccan aphorism that alleges that there is nothing to be disgraced about a man but his financial situation. Nevertheless, had it been the other way around, chances are that the groom’s family would question the bride’s past, background, family, and so forth. Being that, women symbolize honour, dignity, and, interestingly enough, they are the ones who incarnate the family reputation.

One of the very notorious concepts in the Moroccan society is “Hshouma”, or a parent’s ability to stop their child from doing something that should be avoided. Take, for instance, a mother joined by her child to a wedding party. It is obvious that children are very impulsive and full of energy, especially when they meet children of their age. At this moment, the mother would be yell at her child, asking him or her to behave better, lest the invitees think of the child as an unruly child. This suppresses the child’s inner psychological needs to discover, interact, and play.

Some of the social conventions of Moroccan popular culture are to be thoroughly revisited. What should be emphasized here is that we as the future generation should fervently attempt to amend or in some cases cease some of these practices that should have nothing to do with our culture, nor religious affiliation. As Antonio Gramsci rightly holds in A Glossary of Cultural Theory:  “Common sense penetrates deeply within the mental life of a society but it is not unchanging. It is the task of the intellectuals to criticise the chaotic aggregate of disparate conceptions comprising common sense and so instil new popular beliefs… a new common sense and with it a new culture and a new philosophy.”

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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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