Usually, I prefer to post about happier things or at the very least, the upside of the more negative things. However, I am feeling inspired to “be all up in my feelings” about something that has plagued me while living in Morocco.
I want to start off by saying that neither in my CBT site (Ifrane) nor in my final site has the harassment been terrible. The normal “hola” or “bonjour” can usually be heard along with “guapa” or “bonita”… but there are sometimes where I can go out and hear absolutely nothing when I walk by people. However, I will be honest and say that during my first couple of months in Larache – I felt a little paralyzed about the possibility of any harassment. Every time I would think about going out by myself… even down the street to our little hanoot, I would find myself talking myself out of it for some reason or another. I, like some volunteers, would not leave my apartment for days based on this fear. I was/am very ashamed of these feelings… telling myself that single female PCV’s have to travel and walk around by themselves all of the time, at least I could pretend to hide while walking with Tyler, but the self-talk left me feeling even more afraid. Especially when those on the street were a little bolder would whisper things in my ear as they walked by or say things when I was a small distance away from Tyler (I want to emphasize SOME- this is in no way ALL Moroccan men). Sometimes the frustration boils over and when a man says something to me, I feel like I have* to respond… no matter how futile the effort might be. But again, I feel for those others who deal with it more on a daily basis in fear of being touched, grabbed, or followed. For the most part my fear was/is unfounded, I was living in fear that these things MIGHT* happen… which is no way to live a life. Since getting back to site in October, I have been very proud of myself. I have been more independent and am starting to feel more like myself again… every now and then I will feel myself tense up and can definitely say my bike as provided a lot of my lovely, appreciated freedom.
But I want to talk about the power that harassment can have on a person. Obviously, this past summer… I let the power paralyze me in many ways. But it takes strength to stand up to this power… even if the power is only perceived. Men feel like they have a right to call-out to a woman as they walk down the street… as if they are nothing more than a dog or a cat, I have read several articles written about Morocco that say that even elderly women sometimes get harassed. Often the conversation here leads to…”well do you think if you were covered up more, that you would receive less harassment?”. My personal view is no, in my site I feel as though it does not matter if I wear 6 layers or just one. My lighter hair is apparently a billboard that says I want attention. Which leads me to another point… the difference between unwanted attention and harassment. My belief is that it is an individual’s right to decide. Obviously, people have their own opinions- often people might weigh in on whether someone “overreacted” to a situation or not- but as many people have said, how will they know unless they are in your position? And well, seeing as no two situations can be EXACTLY the same OR* if your gender provides you with little to no insight on the harassment issue… it is hard to say what you* would do… or what someone should or shouldn’t do. Yes, you are entitled to your opinions… but when attempting to provide advice to those that have found themselves in this vulnerable position… please attempt to follow the Golden Rule. We all know what one looks like when they make assumptions.