Friday, November 28, 2008

Repressive Society

As my last post mentioned, living in Morocco is different for a lot of reasons. But one of the biggest differences is the social restrictions placed upon people by societal expectations. Not to say that the USA is without such expectations, but it is nothing like Morocco. I should mention that the situation in my village is very different from that in a bigger city.

The biggest example of this is expectations about interaction with the opposite sex. For men, having a friendship with a female is not prohibited, but it would be considered very strange. There is no reason to be friends with a female. For women, on the other hand, its very difficult to be friends with a man. Mostly because people will assume that the relationship has a sexual aspect to it, which would be shameful.

As for romantic relationships, they prohibited. I do not know of any inter gender romantic relationships in my community. If they exist, Im pretty sure that Ill never find out about them. But I doubt that they exist. Women must be chaste before they marry. If a community found out that a girl was having a relationship with a boy, it would be totally damaging to her reputation.

For females, I have no idea what this sort of repression leads to, but for males, its not good. Most males, even married ones, are completely innappropriate with the jokes and comments that they make about women. American men arent perfect, but its nothing like they terrible things that Ive heard here. Mostly they act like 15 year old boys who have never had a real conversation with a woman. In Khenifra, this repression also leads to finding other sources of sexual activity. Men see prostitutes. Often. I am near one of the main hubs of prostitution in Morocco, so it is especially bad in our region. When I go to this particular town, men think that Im going there soley to visit prostitutes. I tell them Im not and they dont believe me. The sex industry here is pretty depressing, certainly a consequence of the unrealistic expectations placed upon unmarried people.

Another aspect of repression is the expectations surrounding alcohol. Moroccans of any age are not legally allowed to drink. But that doesnt mean that people dont drink. It just means that people drink much more irresponsibly. Young men get there hands on alcohol and drink all of it. People do not drink socially here; they drink to get drunk. Strangely, after they get drunk, boys in my village come to public settings and embarrass themselves in front of the community. They act like complete idiots and every talks badly about them.

Obviously, for me, this is one negative aspect of Moroccan society. This repressive attitude may have its roots in relgious rules, but I believe the reason for all the rules go well beyond the relgious. People who are not observant Muslims, who do not pray, still recognize the expectations placed upon them. And its my belief that these expectations lead to very unhealthy attitudes towards certain things (like the opposite sex and alcohol).

Had Thanksgiving in Tounfite with about 20 other volunteers. It was wonderful. We bought two turkeys, fed them for a month, then slaughtered, defeathered, and prepared them ourselves. It was a good experience. I cut a turkeys head off with an axe myself. The dinner and everything was wonderful. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and spending it with my friends was awesome. But I really did miss not being home and being with my family.

Everything else is going well. My main projects right now are following up to the midwife project, continuing toothbrushing lessons in schools, and figuring out this big water infrastructure project in my site. The water project involves a lot of political barriers that I have figure out. There have been some very frustrating aspects so far, but Im hopeful that in the end it will work out.

Take care.


maryellen said...

kesslers and silverfolk and boehm / blankinships all say hi...ironically enough, sarah palin had her own turkey slaughterhouse experience that didn't go as well as yours...see ya soon! love, ma

c.a.ben said...

It would be very helpful for you to read up on Islam to better understand its influence on Moroccan culture. Unfortunately Islam in some areas of Morocco has become diluted to the extent that that many Moroccans cannot differentiate between their own culture and religion. They have retained some aspects of an Islamic society while neglecting to practice the religion as a whole. A practicing Muslim would happily choose to avoid prostitution, alcohol, premarital sex (and relationships that lead to it).

The taboo against premarital relations is grounded in Islam, not in Moroccan culture. Islam discourages social relationships between the sexes to avoid the temptation of sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Such intimacy is held to be immoral by Islamic, Jewish and Christian standards, and the likelihood of it occurring is evident the world over.
Moroccan society in small villages like where you are is not "repressive" -- it's simply more moral and conservative. If double standards exist between men and women, they exist in all cultures and times. It's women who are more vulnerable to bearing the burden of immoral conduct. Not only might a broken hymen suggest that they've been unchaste, but if they get pregnant they and their families suffer the burden and shame, not the boy or man who impregnated her. It's a sad statistic that one in three births in America is to an unwed mother, and sadder still that shame is no longer attached to it.

Prostitution exists in both permissive and conservative societies. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, but plenty of Moroccan Muslims are not practicing and drink it, and Moroccan youth are tempted to try it and get drunk. No different than the embarrassing drunken behavior exhibited by many high school and college students world wide, where alcohol is not forbidden, by the way.

Colton Bangs said...

i dig that you ditched the passive complicity on thanksgiving and became the slaughterhouse, instead of trying to hide it with the graceful distance of miles.