Gender

by

I couldn’t read the Arabic signs that protesters held outside the old-town market in Marrakech, but the protest still said something powerful to me. About 9 people gathered around a sign outside the market, standing up or standing against something. The leader was clear: a woman wearing a traditional outfit with a headscarf, passionately pleading with the people passing by through her megaphone.

Two images intersected that I don’t usually associate with each other: the veil and the megaphone. It’s easy to assume that the two are contradictory, that to wear a headscarf is a sign of female repression. It becomes the symbol that a woman has relinquished all her rights to stand up and be heard.

From what we’ve learned in Morocco, however, it seems that this sometimes the opposite. When worn by choice, the head scarf becomes a symbol of faith, of the choice to attach oneself to something greater. It’s choosing to have more regard for the eyes of God than the eyes of people. It’s choosing to stand up for something.

This is by no means always how the head scarf is worn. But it is a way that it can be worn. This woman clearly had strongly held values tied to her faith and upbringing. Rather than abandoning those in favor of freedom, she finds freedom through attaching herself to her culture so she can critique it. For her, the head scarf is empowering.

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