Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pedestrian Life

We haven't yet found a car, so my life is now that of a pedestrian. There are lots of great things about walking everywhere and taking in the sights and smells of it all and observing reality as it unfolds. I'm a voyeur watching the mundane, necessary details of other people's lives take their course as I wander through the city, sometimes with a purpose and sometimes without. What I sometimes forget is that walking makes you vunerable. And while I'm totally engrossed in my observations others are watching me. You become part of the scenery.

I like to think that I "blend" at least somewhat here. I'm a skinny brunette and unremarkable at first glance in a sea of Moroccan girls who look pretty much the same. I dress in western clothing, but so do alot of the women here. So what then makes me fodder for the 20 something machismo packs of men? I have been cat called, asked to take my sunglasses off to see my eyes, generously offered "some c*&k", oogled, followed and intimidated. Some speak english but I prefer when they speak arabic and I have no idea what they are actually saying although the message is loud and clear anyway. This is all during the middle of the day on busy streets and when I'm walking with my 5 year old daughter. I'm usually dressed in a t-shirt, baggy jeans, a hoodie and my very well worn, stinky converse sneakers (in other words my normal funky thrift store tomboy chic). It's times like these that I'm thankful I'm not a volumptuous blonde (nothing against volumptuous blondes of course).

So I have spent time pondering this. Am I a target because I'm a foreign woman? I haven't seen this happen to other local women, but then again I don't linger in public places. I walk fast with purpose (as if I know where I'm going) and if you have ever walked with me you know that. My poor children have trouble keeping up. I don't dress in a way that's provocative and I'm especially cautious about covering up a bit when I'm out and about and I'll only take a layer off if I have reached a comfortable, safe destination. Okay, so I don't think I'm giving off any signals that invite this attention.

Then the question is, what are they getting out of it? People behave in ways because it achieves some sort of desired outcome. What reaction are they hoping to get? I'm sure that this strategy has never actually been successful in getting them positive attention from a woman. So then what is the goal? Men who do this are always in packs of two or more (please see above photo). The lead wolf of the pack vocalizes and leads the encounter with said prey. The weaker, follower wolves clamor and howl in appreciation. Lead wolf then has proved his sexual prowess and dominance by getting attention of both the pack and the target, but little of anything else. The followers? Well, they aspire to one day be the lead wolf so they too so they can initiate their own sexually inappropriate comments and guide their own pack.

I assume that this behavior is equal opportunity and not just confined to foreign women but to Moroccan women as well. What is interesting is, young Moroccan women have more choice in the way they dress than ever before. There will be 3 generations of women walking together grandma in a djellaba, the mother dressed conservatively and the teen is dressed as any American teen would be. I've seen alot of women of the same social group some with head scarves and conservative and some with tight low riding jeans. Among women it seems quite accepted to dress how you like and it's very cool to see. Conversely, it's so fascinating that the men of this same generation seem to have reverted into a primative caveman like state in response to the growing freedoms of women here. I guess Moroccan men don't know the hard and fast rule that in fact, women dress for other women, not for men.

I don't mean to imply that all Moroccan men of this generation are inappropriate ingrates. I have met some very helpful, respectful young men on my journeys. I just hope that's who I cross paths with today when Ember and I walk to dance class. Cause there's only so long I can tame my independent, scrappy western ways...

1 comment:

The Loerzels said...

It's totally bugging me that the computer won't keep my last few paragraphs separate....uggggghhhh!!!


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