I have struggled the last 6 months to write this post – as I promised I would in the last post. It’s not an easy subject. And harassment is not something exclusive to Morocco. I am also cautious to not cast an unpleasant light on a country I have come to love and call home.
But harassment in Morocco is a very real thing. There are many different levels of harassment and I’ve been fortunate to be victim of only the mildest kind. Because of that I will only speak to my experiences during my time here. I define harassment as any unwanted attention that makes you uncomfortable.
On a day to day basis, I mostly deal with things like kids/boys throwing rocks at my building (yes I’m sure they are looking for attention – but it’s irritating); unwanted comments from teenagers/young adults (including some pretty lewd & graphic things said); bicycles, motorcycles, cars and trucks flashing their lights at me, honking and swerving in to the space where I’m walking.
In some ways I understand the comments from the young men. Morocco is a society where the genders are separated: women are confined to the home (or private space) and men are allowed to dominate all public spaces. Once you reach puberty, there is very little interaction between the sexes (except among family members) so in order to let someone know you like them and want to get to know them, men catcall. With technology and the availability of Facebook and WhatsApp some of this is changing. But technology also opens up whole new ways for men to harass women (I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve had to block on FB Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram). Also because public spaces are considered men’s spaces some men feel women deserve the attention/catcalling/harassment simply for being outside/sitting in a cafe. *Please note that I do not agree with these methods nor do I believe that every male feels this way – it is a huge generalization and an attempt to understand the society in which in I live.
On a more physical level, I have had men purposefully sidestep into me at souk or on the sidewalk in order to brush up against my breasts; sit way too close in a taxi or on the train; and slide their hand under my butt as they are getting out of a taxi. I have been with a volunteer and a friend visiting from the States who’ve had their asses grabbed.
Many volunteers experience harassment on a much higher level (to the point of assault). Many women in Morocco experience this on a regular basis as well – it is not just aimed at foreigners. I cannot speak to their experiences because they are not mine. What I’ve come to realize living in Morocco and with the recent Me Too explosion is that women all over the world are targets for men who feel they should be allowed to do and say whatever they want. Again, I know that not all men think or act this way – but we can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore the facts.
As I stated earlier, the harassment I’ve received is very mild – but it’s still harassment. My coping mechanisms include meditation, ignoring as much as possible, and attempting to understand the root of where it comes from. This is the only way I can survive day to day.
Harassment is real. And it needs to stop.