Sensing An Unknown Freedom

            As I followed a Moroccan boy who I had just met through the foreign alleys of Meknes, I realized something big was happening.  We had met him just five minutes earlier when we were introduced by a friend. We shook hands and instantly I became softened by trust.  I didn’t realize I had felt this way until I was fearlessly following him into a taxi, through crowds, and down narrow alleyways of the medina (old town) as he helped us get to our final destination.  He spoke little English, and I barely any Darija, but something magical was there.  Something that defies the stereotypes of the “easy, dumb” American and the “oppressing” Eastern male. A friendship was built instantly, with mutual respect for the other.  Misconceptions and stereotypes were immediately crushed until all that was left was an effortless, fluid trust.
           I have noticed this trust and respect with all the males I have truly met here in Morocco.  Not just met as passed them in the street, but the ones I actually had conversations with.  I have noticed it in the way the Moroccan women relate to those around them, such as the mothers we have met.  Many people (besides the occasional cat call- which is also prominent in the U.S.)  show great respect for us, making our group of girls feel welcome. This can be seen especially in the younger generation such as the college students who we hangout with and the kind people we talk to in the marketplace.   It seems as though globalization, and forms of social media have helped diminish a lot of stereotypes that people have of American women. Now I am not saying that people are not curious, because they are but it is mostly just a soft “hello” or “welcome”.
             Another instance in which this respect was shown to us happened a few days ago. We were in one of our new friend’s homes surrounded by his beautiful family and I found myself observing the gender relationships . As they were cooking the four of us lunch, we were immersed in conversation with our new friend. We were able to have conversations freely and he wanted to know what we thought about all kinds of topics. He respectfully listened as we opened our minds, sharing our dreams, passions and ideas.  He shared the same with us and the mutual respect/love for one another continued, regardless of the short time that we had known each other.  In America, it may take months to feel the level of comfort that we did in just a day or two with these kind people of the opposite gender here in Morocco.  There were no expectations like a lot most times back home, it was just an easy, blossoming friendship.
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              At the homes of our new friends, we meet the mothers, sisters, brothers and fathers. We meet beautiful women who are free to express their minds and be overwhelmingly, all at once, beautiful inside and out .  On this day, in their home, this was very apparent. As the boy’s mother came out to say hello, she was so welcoming.  In just a few minutes we could feel her happiness radiating, we heard the intelligent thoughts that roll off her tongue and we saw a freed woman.  A woman who seemed to be comfortable in her own skin. These women, these mothers, sisters and friends who we often think of as so oppressed by the males, seem to not be constrained by anything that they don’t allow.  Instead, they show kindness with a level of strength and confidence that I don’t see much in America.
           Previously to this trip and studying other cultures in this class, I would have never thought of American women, myself included, as “trapped”.  Now, I am not so sure.  These Moroccan women are allowed to be both beautiful and smart in a hybrid interwoven identity that most Americans cannot.  Women are seen as precious here, not objects made only to please the male ego.  They don’t have to make an impossible choice between beauty and intelligence, they are respected as women for their thoughts, and unlike Americans, they get wiser and more beautiful in the eyes of others as they age.  Before we all make assumptions, we need to experience.  Experience and conversations are the key to unlocking the misconceptions of the “other” and seeing the beautiful identities that lay underneath.  If love for women and respect became  how we judged others, then I say Moroccans are going for the gold.

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