marriage, religion, and gender

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on January 8, 2011

Welcome back to life in the bled, the place where neither water nor electricity are guaranteed to be on upon my return. Aah yes…this is my Home Sweet Home.

My year in Morocco wouldn’t be starting off on the right foot unless I was offered a marriage proposal within the first week. Done.

Once people discover I speak Tashleheit or Arabic, one of the first questions I’m asked is whether I’m married. The next question is whether I’d marry a Moroccan man. The question after that is whether I’m Muslim.

Depending on my mood and the audience, I’ll respond with some combination of wit, humor, and honesty. With women, I always tell them I want to marry someone who will contribute equally to the marriage – domestic duties, raising the children, education level, and working outside the home. With men, I tell them I want to marry an American because I like to work outside of the house and Moroccan men like their women to stay inside the home. I also tell them I want someone who attended university.

As a foreign woman, I maintain a unique role among Moroccans: I can walk through souk and sit at cafés in large cities, I command some level of respect more than Moroccan women receive, and I definitely come and go as I please without having to get the consent or be accompanied by a male.

Here’s why I wouldn’t marry a Moroccan: the less educated Muslim culture – which I am exposed, encounter, interact with to most of the time – perpetuates gender inequality. Young boys are treated like little princes when many act like rude, spoiled boys. When they grow up, they don’t act any better, particularly towards the women in their family. They treat their sisters like domestic servants. They talk back to their mothers. They are unfaithful to their wife/wives (Muslims are allowed up to 4 wives). They disrespect women. They act like they’re the better gender when in reality they were born with one X chromosome instead of two. When it comes down to it, they can’t even give birth – who’s the stronger gender now? But I digress on that. 🙂

Why would I want to marry into a culture that tells women to cover themselves – be it only the zief covering a woman’s hair to a black cloth wrapped entirely around a woman so that it covers her from head to toe and leaves open a small slit for her to see through – because men lack any and all self-control when it comes to restraining their hormones and sexual impulses? Why would I subject myself to a culture that pressures a female into officially pardoning a male aggressor so that his family can avoid being publicly shamed by the community? Why would I consciously choose to do that to myself?

While in Marrakech, one of Morocco’s bigger, more “progressive” cities, I noticed an invisible line dividing the two genders at a restaurant I had lunch at. Who knows if I actually played a role, but there weren’t any female patrons eating in the restaurant before I arrived. When I walked in, there were three men sitting on one side of the restaurant. When I came in, I sat on the other side. Soon after, two women came in to eat. One sat next to me, the other took her food to go. When a couple came in, they sat on my side of the restaurant.

So…Moroccan men, the next time you ask me whether I’m married, if I want to marry a Moroccan man, and if I pray like a Muslim, here’s what I’d like to ask you:

How do you treat females? How do you treat your sisters, mother, grandmother, aunts, and cousins? How do you treat Moroccan women as a whole? How do you treat people in general?

Better yet, don’t tell me. Show me.

Show me how you treat women. Show me how you respect the female gender. Show me where your religion plays a role in your life. Show me how spirituality plays a role in your life.

At the end of the day, I’m open to spirituality and keeping faith. Actually, I love the idea of visiting different places of worship and learning what each religion has to offer. I’ve found that most religions teach one common lesson: treat others the way you want to be treated. I’m really not opposed to religion or following a religion, particularly if it makes you a better and more focused person.


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