As much as I had hoped to educate myself about my host nation, I have gotten excruciatingly weary of guide books and websites and cookbooks and so on that claim to know-it-all about Morocco, but are actually full of inferences and assumptions and, just uff. What may be true in one house, for one family, for one Moroccan-verily cannot be true for all. So recently when an elder Moroccan Amazigh woman brought us some tales from her vacation in the countryside I was enthralled to hear her version of something I had read similarly about in a guide book. Here’s my interpretation of what was interpreted to me through one woman about what another woman witnessed in one community:
Like many villages, once a week the souk comes to this rural community a little south of Marrakesh and all the menfolk head over to what is part farmers’ market, part flea market and purchase their weekly food and supplies. While the men are away for the day, all the womenfolk of the village come together for a picnic and chit chat. I was told that these villages are very, very quiet unlike our traffic-congested Casablanca neighborhood and though made of thick mud, the houses are not at all sound proof, so any kind of disturbance or raised voices are easily heard by neighbors. Therefor, once a week, these women come together and cut loose quite a bit. The gathering is actually called something to the effect of “Bad word gathering” as the women do on these occasions cut loose with their language as well.
These gatherings are known of to the men and they also know to stay away from these women-only events. On the rare occasions that men have either intentionally or unwittingly happened upon these picnics, they have been beaten up by these ladies! Once an oil seller was passing through the region and stopped by the group of women not knowing what he was intruding on. Not only did they beat and scratch him, but they also ripped off his clothes! This really shocked me and I asked how could these Muslim women defend their actions of attacking an innocent man and exposing his awrah (portion of the body that should not be exposed to others)? Wasn’t this a hshuma (shameful) act on their part?
The elder woman explained to us that it was necessary for the women to pro-actively defend themselves and their honor from the intrusion. Firstly, their diligent behavior is a way to discourage any man from willfully spying or intruding on their events, and also necessary to defend their honor–no questions will be asked as they take action before any man can.
My guidebook made it sound like these occasions were just a bunch of cantankerous old women being meanies. Now you know the truth. Er, one truth. Fierce.