By Mohamed Reddad
Rabat – First introduced in 2017, the #MeToo phenomenon has spread rapidly across social media with the goal of raising awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault—particularly in the workplace. The movement has swept through the United States, resulting in the fall of many powerful men from grace. The movement has progressed as far eastward as Japan and China—albeit with very faint resonance.
Morocco has not been immune to the effects of the movement. Recently, renowned journalist Taoufik Bouachrine and a staff member from Al-Bayane newspaper were both accused of sexual harassment. Social media has been pointing fingers, claiming there is a political vendetta against certain journalists. Regardless of a political agenda hidden in the government, the #MeToo Movement is not likely to take root in a patriarchal society like Morocco’s.
Sexual harassment is a crime that is not always easy to catch because proving it beyond a reasonable doubt is a difficult task. In fact, law enforcement may not even see it as a serious offence—nor may many prosecutors, the majority of whom are male. Therefore, many women do not see the point in coming forward for a lawsuit. They may only do so if they were severely harmed and had significant evidence. However, even if they have a strong case, other factors may also prevent them from speaking up.
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual advance or remark, but the term is largely excluded from our vocabulary as an offense, especially amongst those with minimal education. Action is taken only if an assault occurs, and very few cases make it to the courts because of social mediation or if not much merit is seen in the case (for example, in the assault of a sex worker). Society might choose to see the victim as the one who broke societal norms, and brought the assault upon herself.
As a collectivist society, shame rears its ugly head and prevents many women from defending both themselves and others. Many women who are sexually harassed or assaulted happen to be soft-spoken and reserved. They oftentimes come from low socio-economic backgrounds, or families that raised them to be traditional compliant, quiet vulnerable women. A boss, for example, would be less likely to harass an outspoken and highly educated female employee, or a female with relatives holding positions of power.
He would be more likely to know that she would not tolerate it, or fear that either she or her family would speak out against him. Sexual harassment is not only about sexual gratification…it is a low ploy for power, stemming from a need to satisfy ego. If a man feels he cannot do so without jeopardizing himself, he is less likely to sexually harass a woman.
Coming forward with a sexual assault case could also put a woman’s job in jeopardy; therefore, many women would not even seek support, let alone justice in a court. Enduring the pain of the memory or of the ongoing harassment is more bearable than losing the means of subsistence. Some women might even see harassment as a normal thing. It is something they think they simply have to deal with.
Although the women have come forward and brought a lawsuit against the journalist and staff member mentioned before, many women have qualms about joining the #MeToo movement. Even just using the phrase, “Me Too” sometimes draws more criticism than sympathy—even from other women. Women continue to be falsely demonized as sorcerers, seductresses, marriage breakers, and just plain evil.
Coming forward could victimize them twice even when their complaints are legitimate. Thus, fear of losing face or job opportunities, of incurring the wrath and criticism of society, and of being victimized twice deters many women from involving themselves with #MeToo Movement. So whether or not the journalists are convicted, the #MeToo phenomenon is very likely to fade away from collective memory in Moroccan society.
Statistically, women rarely ever harass men. It is also worth noting here that “flirting” is not analogous to sexually harassing. Sexual harassment is scary, and if gets physical, a woman would be at a disadvantage because her physical build-up (due to a relative lack of testosterone, women’s bodies are not as naturally muscular as that of most men).
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.
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