Train small talks to the Moroccan androcentricity
Him, looking at the purse and phone I had just put on the tiny table in between us while discharging my front and backpack, smiling: Is that all for me?
Me, smiling back, at ease: You can have it, there’s really not much inside at this point, ha! …
A few sighs and comments of him later, where I learnt a lot of crispy details such as that the 60-year old man sitting in front of me had been living in Strasbourg, France for a while, that he was disheartened by the plastic bag pollution we could see in landfills through the windows, that he believed the US attacks over the Arab countries was part of a larger Western plan to reduce the world population given the massive challenges over feeding a growing population in a world that’s facing the consequences of climate change. All the while, he was trying to turn on his old little phone with the wrong SIM card inside. He knew it was the wrong SIM card because he had written the PIN code in his notebook, and the authentication was not going through.
Then the conversation started again.
Him: But you know, I went to America and you see heavy poverty there.
Me: You mean North or South America? I mean either way, yes, there are growing inequalities, just like here.
Him: I meant North.
Then he started naming the US cities he had been to. I particularly liked the way he pronounced Los Angeles. A few other artsy Moroccan friends of mine are roaming around there these days, and LA does not sound the same in their mouth.
And then I had a chance to mention I was just back from South America.
Him: You went alone?! You’re very courageous.
Me, appreciating his choice of adjective — as it felt sincere and not a polite way to dress a judgmental “crazy”, like I had sometimes: Well, maybe. Anyway I think we should encourage young women to travel more on their own. It’s a great learning curve!
Him: But they use drug there!
Me: Yeah, we kind of have the same challenge over here, don’t you think? I felt safe, most of the time. Sometimes not. But it’s ok, found my way through it.
Him, spontaneously: Some guys are really crazy. They’re all about marrying their daughters and wouldn’t let them go out of the house to study. It’s all about “making babies, babies, babies”. But then to these guys I say when we meet at the mosque: “When your wife is sick, you take her to the hospital and you want her to see a female doctor, right? Well then, we need to have female doctors, just like we need female police officers, female lawyers, female nurses etc.”
Me, thinking about the bothersome and useless body control by a female officer I just had upon my arrival at Casablanca — Sao Paulo flights special treats –: Sure …
From time to time, I was looking over my right shoulder, staring at this hilarious cliché old couple, passively aggressively fighting over the unbearable heat none of them was responsible of. The lady kept on gazing at the heavy beet-red neck of her sweating husband, annoyed by the color, by the drops of sweat beading on his face, by his gestures in attempt to capture the cold on the train furniture around him, by everything he was and did at that moment really. This train had no A/C. No A/C for old men and women.
While leaving the train, the old man said a last thing to me: “And in the end, it’s thanks to my daughters that I went to Las Vegas. Because you know, the trip is really, really expensive. Bye, take care!”
It was no righteous feminist discourse inflated with human rights values and certainties. It was just the plain pragmatic and utilitarian acknowledgment of an average Muslim father over his thoughts on women’s emancipation. It did not make me uncomfortable, not to the slightest. It just made me wonder whether a “please start a conversation over women’s right with me, I’d love that” was written on my forefront. And wonder how long until we’ll have to stop “proving” to our male counterparts that we’re worth it. We’re worth our free lives. Period.
A wagon switch later, a lady, about my age, sat next to me in the train while the young boy she had under her watch sat in front of me. I noticed she was a bit bossy with him. She was also particularly talkative. A bit too much. Slowly, as my curious eyes were roaming around capturing bits of information around me, I understood that she was trying to divert attention from what she was actually doing online: she was reading a Doctissimo testimony by someone who was warning people on the risks associated with the hymen repair surgery she had just done. Good lord, I thought. I had almost forgotten about that — as my father was a doctor, I had often heard of the prenuptial certificate we most probably inherited from the French colonization, under which, by definition, conducting the most basic obstetrics and gynecology medical check, it is pretty straightforward whether a woman is a virgin or not.
Hymen repair is not illegal per se in Morocco — unlike abortion — and is obviously practiced with the highest secrecy around it. And although, a priori, it’s pretty much impossible to get compelling stats to understand the extent of the phenomenon, it’s very probable that it is a widespread dangerously unregulated practice, dangerous because if it’s poorly done by some mischievous incompetent, women have no way to get any sort of support as they wouldn’t talk about it. This just adds up to the countless other daily life repercussions of the massive hypocrite conservative system still in place, sustaining the unhealthy relationship to sex and women’s body we have in the Arab world. The so-called “more liberal” kingdom is no exception to that. And it is virtually impossible not to grow up impacted by the psychological effects of this absurd and illegitimate pressure over our very bodies.
As hard to admit as it is for me who wants to proudly wear the colours of my country when I’m abroad, I’d say that the more I travel, the more I get other points of references than Europe or North America … and the more I feel we have it particularly hard in the Arab world. The feminist struggle still has a lot more to accomplish than the advancements we made through the 2004 code on personal status, and A LOT of the penal code articles need to be reviewed or repealed.
Very simple question here: when did love become a condemnable practice?! Please enlighten me, as I have a very hard time understanding why we’re making our very best to fight our loving nature of human beings. Anecdotally, our official language Arabic, the language of the Quran, is — arguably maybe — one of the most poetic and sensual languages I can think of and yet serves to build the socio-cultural and legal foundations to our self-oppression.