Andrew was reading a book online that included bits about the changing role of women in the western world. I woke up this morning with my mind spinning with observations and questions from my time in Morocco so far. Unfortunately, not many answers but hey if we spend our lives rushing to answers we shortchange the journey and dont ask enough questions or make enough observations. Or we only see what supports the answers we came up with to early. So, in trying to keep my eyes open here are some of my thoughts.
The most obvious thing to look at first seems to be dress. It is difficult to know how to dress. I live in a personal dilema of trying to balance individuality and cultural sensitivity. I have found this has special challenges here. I have found that it is easier to dress like an individual in cultures that we are more comfortable in and are similar to our own. This is only a recent observation as this is a culture that is alot more different than anything I have ever known. So, when we first got here I put on a headscarf everytime I exited the truck. This seemed to work quite well. I enjoyed the rare times I got the headscarf on right and snug. I loved it when Rachel said that I looked Berber when we went into the ladies co-op in the atlas mountains. I enjoyed feeling like one of the ladies. However when I put on the same headscarf and baggie clothes in Aourir I was asked if I was muslim and laughed at. Someone told me that it makes the locals feel comfortable for the tourists to look like tourists. Back to boxes I suppose.
I let the girls dress like they feel comfortable. I encourage them to note the amount of attention they get showing different amounts of skin. After we had been here just a few days TJ was wanting to stay in the truck all day and when I asked her why she said, “everybody stares at me and I find it disturbing.” My 7 year old used the word disturbing. We had a long talk about being different. I am beginning to think we all get lots of attention no matter how we dress because of our hair and skin colour – or is it something else like posture, walk, eye contact or smiling? Trying to nail down something in regards to dress.
One good idea we got from Perine. She bought a man’s Djellaba. She puts it on and pulls up the hood when she doesnt want to be noticed. Like at night. People assume she is a man and leave her alone. So here are my temporary conclusions in regards to dress. Go native in small villages that dont get tourists. Leave your head uncovered but cover up your upper arms, at least, and have something hang over your backside and keep your legs covered at least over your knees.
But, if you are getting ready to go on a 4 hour hike into the mountains on a very hot day your might opt for comfort.
If this hike involves hitchiking in the Sahara, like some of our friends, you might try to incorporate more modesty.
Sometimes I think too much about all this and go out afraid to smile or look a man in the eyes. Then I realize that is walking in fear and that is a place I don’t want to be. Obviously no conclusions yet.
Dang, this is getting to be long and Andrew is up and wanting the internet dongle. I think I will have to limit this post to my observations on dress.