Journal Entry from September 11, 2012

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After our Arabic lesson today, we met up with Moroccan students to talk with them for an hour about anything and everything. Kim, Caitlin, Chelsea, and I talked to two girls: Meryam (18 years old) and Meryeme (16 years old).  I was shocked by how different these two girls were and how they tied into our topic about the West’s misconceptions about the oppressed female in the Muslim world. Meryam, the older one, dressed in heals and fashionable leggings and a sweater that looked like something that any girl in the States would wear. Meryeme, the 16 year old, on the other hand, wore a head scarf and, though her other clothes looked somewhat Western, would have stood out in the crowd in the West. After hearing them talk, it was clear to see that opportunity for women in Morocco was the same as it is in the United States. The younger one was 16 years old and already starting her studies at the university whereas the older one was still in high school and seemed to care less that she failed two years. She was more interested in partying and hanging with her friends. These two personalities show two very different types of women, neither of which seems to fit the stereotype of the woman in an Islamic nation. A final thought was a connection with Mernissi’s idea of the Western Harem. She claims in the end of Scheherazade Goes West that Western women are trapped in a harem of beauty and they will never be truly free until they care more about their intelligence and talents rather than worrying about their physical beauty. The younger one, though she wore a scarf on her head, seemed to be more free from this “harem” because she cared more about her future than her appearance. The older one, who obviously spent a lot of time focusing on her appearance, both physically and socially, is trapped in this harem. The only way she could truly be free is to not care what others think of her.

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