By Moundir Al Amrani
Rabat, April 2, 2012
It is not unusual to see people in Morocco express their disdain and resentment at teenagers’ and adolescents’ public display of affection, like holding hands and hugging. However, this has done little to put an end to this practice or limit it. The phenomenon of public display of affection did not exist in our culture and society, but the practice in private has always been there albeit wrapped in secrecy and concealment.
The first interpretation and justification of people’s attitudes towards teenagers’ and adolescents’ new vision of gender relations in Moroccan society is that religion prohibits such practices. From a religious point of view, this is true as these types of romantic relationships between boys and girls are not allowed in the first place, let alone going public with their affection. Nevertheless, it is hard to see people’s negative attitudes as being totally and exclusively based on religious considerations, though the presence of religion in Moroccan society is strongly felt.
When we get to the bottom of this issue, we find that people’s resentment is, in great part, based on beliefs that are culturally and socially conditioned and which foster emotional hypocrisy in gender relations. This entrenches relationships between men and women, in general, in culturally concocted conflicts and antagonism. This hypocrisy can be seen in our society’s view of the form and kind of relationship that should govern gender relations.
For the sake of legitimacy of my arguments and their validity, let us consider the politics that govern the relationship of a married couple. We need to ask ourselves, what is the typical form and kind of a marital relationship which our culture and society have constructed and perpetuated? When we take a look around, it is not unexpected to notice signs of discomfort and uneasiness on the faces and gestures of some couples on the street.
The degrees of this vary from region to region and between rural and urban areas, but it is always there. We can notice, for example, the walking distance some husbands maintain between themselves and their wives, with the latter lagging behind trying to keep pace. Similarly, it is a way of showing manliness and masculinity when a man displays some sign of rigidity and firmness with his wife before family members and relatives. A man thinks that such gestures and behaviors show him as a real man worthy of respect and admiration.
It seems that being a man depends on denying the existence of feelings of love and affection towards one’s wife. A man who gathers the courage to reveal his love of and appreciation of his wife is usually thought of as ‘bewitched’ and in need of help to regain his senses.
By the same token, it is very common to hear couples fight and shout behind closed doors as well as in front of other people. A man may not feel reluctant or hesitant to scold or shout at his wife, believing that such behavior is proof that he has things under his control.
Paradoxically, the other face of the coin could be the total opposite of what is seen, as what happens in public contradicts reality in many cases. While what is commonly observed is patriarchy at work, with men showing off and demonstrating their masculine power, there are cases when women are the ones in control inside the house.
Women are able to exercise their authority over their husbands, but in secret and within the walls of the house. There are cases when men relinquish control to their wives out of love and respect, and there are women who excel at taking power from the hands of their husbands peacefully and with the total consent of the husband. But, again, this happens in secret, as the manliness of the husband should remain intact in public. This is very noticeable in society but at the same time the same society, where this is common, denies the existence of female power.
Showing love and affection for one’s wife is a sign of weakness and society is merciless when it comes to judging men’s patriarchic role. Our culture and society encourage hypocrisy by stagnating men in the typical image of being in control, when only then do they deserve respect and appreciation. On the other hand, affection and love even for one’s wife must remain under the radar and confined to the household.