I’ve already made a few posts regarding my observations on the experiences of women in rural Morocco, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it might serve me to take a break from writing second-hand analyses of their situation. Instead, I want to let their own words take center stage. Here is my first interview, hopefully there will be more to come.
Introducing Sara*, 23, College Educated, Currently Looking for Work
This conversation took place in English as we sat munching on peanuts and dates in her living room.
Lea: In the home, what is the work of the women and what is the work of the men?
Sara: In home life, you find that the women sweep the house and clean things, but the men do not. They do not try to help their wives. The house work, it’s on women, just women.
Lea: Is there anything that men always help with, such as fixing problems with the car or technology?
S: Yes, sometimes they take care of their kids. Not all of men, but you find that most fathers take care of their kids while their wives sweep the house and do things, just so that the children will not bother their mother while she is working. That’s it.
Lea: What would people say, now, in Zouia*, if they saw a man doing laundry?
S: It’s impossible. It’s impossible. This is the only case: if a man is not married yet and he is far away from his mother. This is the only case when a man would do laundry.
L: So it’s okay for a man to do breakfast and take care of the children somewhat, but it’s not okay for him to do laundry?
S: Yes, he can take care of his kids, but to do laundry? No. at all.
L: Is there anything else like that that is forbidden for men to do?
S: Cooking, for some, also harvesting in the fields. Mostly women harvest.
L: When you raise children, if you choose to, do you plan on teaching both genders how to do everything?
S: Yes, because I am not with this idea, of course. The work should be equal for both sexes. What I was speaking of, is the old generation. But now there is an attempt for the husband and wife to do things together. I don’t know if you notice, but new couples, they do help each-other. The husband might make the breakfast for his wife but back in the day, it was impossible for the husband to do so. It was impossible for a man to make breakfast or lunch or dinner.
L: So when you look for a husband, is that something that you think about? Like, will they help around the house, or will they help with the children?
S: For me? As a personal experience? Of course. I communicate with my generation, my old classmates, my friends, not just about marriage, but I ask them questions. “Can you do this? Do you know how to do this?” And I find that the new generation wants to help their wives. I find that there is a new mentality. It’s good.
Lea: Do you see a lot of difference between a mentality in a place like Zouia, which is smaller, versus a place like Marrakesh?
S: In Marrakesh you can find families that are Zouians and it’s the same rhythm of life as in Zouia. Even if it’s in Marrakesh or in other cities of Morocco, the mentality from Zouia controls them and their lifestyle.
This mentality, it needs to be finished, it’s not good. It not good at all. Families will say, “No! The wife has to do this and she has to do that.” But then you find her weak. The family might even want a divorce if they think she’s too weak and doesn’t work hard enough. But no, men and women have to help each-other in order for the wife to be happy, cheerful, and strong. That’s what I want to say.
L: What are the qualities that people in Zouia believe make a good wife?
S: Okay, the first quality is work ethic, but she should never make any comments, like “I made this, this I made that.”
L: So she shouldn’t boast?
S: Yes, no boasting. Okay, the second thing is that the man, when he wants to propose to a girl, he has to ask other people, such as boys from her high school whether she ever dated someone or something. And he has to ask about her dignity, if she’s a good girl, if she has timidity.
Okay and also beauty. She has to be “taromit” (word for European women, referring to someone who has lighter features). Meaning, good eyes, good skin, tall. They want her to be an angel. They look more at the face and the physical things rather than her morals.
L: Do they want her to be smart or educated?
S: No. No, educated? (Laughs) They reject being educated because if she’s educated she’ll say, “No, I cannot do this, we have to do things equally.”
L: How should she act around her husband and his parents?
S: Respect them, prepare dinner, prepare breakfast, prepare everything. She should do housework, sweep, do laundry, wash dishes. A lot of things.
L: What do people typically think is the best age for a bride.
S: Under 18. Between 14 and 18.
L: But that’s the more traditional people right? I’m sure there’s others.
S: Of course, there are others too who want the girl to be educated, even if they are from here. You’ll find girls who have enrolled in their studies and they can get married, even if they’re old.
L: What about working, are there many families that let the wives work at the pharmacy or at the school?
S: You can find it. I cannot say it depends on the generation because my mother’s cousin works and she is older than mama. It’s okay for her because she has an agreement with her husband. There are a lot of women who work, especially in the new generation.
L. Thank you so much Sara for your insight.
S. Of course! Marhaba.
*Names changed for the sake of privacy