the myth of manhood

March 21, 2017 | Fikh Ben Salah, Morocco

*Photos will come on Saturday. My images are taking too long to upload given the weak internet connection at the hotel.

Today was mostly a travel day full of flat land, sheep, almost built houses and apartment buildings that remind me of areas in DC where eager builders stake their fortune on the pockets of those who are coming to DC, not the ones who are already there.

In Morocco one cannot help but notice the importance of family and relationships with others. Nowhere have I been where there is a person just sitting alone eating; or if they are, they’re waiting for someone who eventually comes.

In this study of joy and liberation, I wonder what this means for males.

Men here openly love each other in ways that in the West (i.e. United States) are typically called feminine. They hold hands, hug each other, kiss each other on the hand and cheek, and wrap their hands around each other. Whereas this is read in a more sexual way in the United States, here it is simply a form of affection and love. I love that.

So many of the public spaces here — even the women’s association — are filled with males. Much of that is dope. To see women and girls uplifted by men is simply beautiful, so this is not a complaint; it’s a curiosity.

To be clear, it’s not that women are totally absent, it’s just that they absent from spaces where I am accustomed to seeing women and men. I’ve spoken with some Moroccan friends I’ve made and they have different perspectives about my observations.

Café Culture Ride, walk or bike by any cafés in Morocco and it’s majority men or even men-only. Cafés are basically tea houses. So, men of any age can be found sitting together sharing several kettles of tea. I’ve talked to different people and some say this is only prevalent in the country-side, that in the cities, the cafés are more integrated with women.

One father of two told me that it’s because the women are at home taking care of the house and children. Since the home is her place, the place where she “rules” so to speak, men want to be together in a place where they can relax away from some of the obligations of home.

Another told me:

“In [small towns], most families are conservative and it is considered shameful to see a woman in a cafe because this means she is a woman who smokes, get into sexual relations and this may have negative effects on her life later, especially in so far as marriage is concerned.”
A woman agreed with this perspective saying in larger cities like Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech, that the café scene is different. She is frequently in Casa and noted that the separation is largely in smaller towns. I am unsure. When Travis and I were walking through Rabat, we both commented on the thé houses or cafés and predominance of men.
When we were returning from Marrakech, I had to use the bathroom. It was after sundown and not even evening anymore. Night was in full bloom. We stopped near a café and he went inside to see if I could use the bathroom. I don’t know what exactly was said, but “no” was a part of the answer because we ended up walking across the street to the mosque for me to use the bathroom there. I was hesitant at first because it was a mosque and I am not Muslim, so I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But, when I saw the sister outside of the mosque, I knew it would be OK. Just the fact that at the café
What’s my take? I’m cool with it being a male-only space. But the stigma of a woman being loose shouldn’t be attached to her being present in these spaces.

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