Traveling in Morocco is an adventure. Traveling in Morocco as a woman is a challenge.
Unaccompanied foreign women (read: unaccompanied by a man) are seen as easy prey for hustlers and false guides.
To navigate the convoluted streets of the medina, you need a callous shell in addition to a compass. You quickly learn to trust no one, no matter how kind they may at first seem. You are always on guard.
Trying your best to be anything but, you are nonetheless provocative. Your blonde hair. Your khakis. Your blouse—even if it’s buttoned all the way up and covered with a scarf.
Adolescent boys walk in step with you, begging you to give them a kiss.
A man murmurs, “You’re beautiful,” and brushes your arm as you pass.
Another whispers, “Nice pussy,” and your skin crawls and your stomach churns.
Catcalls aren’t unique to Morocco, but their density is markedly higher, especially in tourist hot-spots like Marrakech.
And when you ignore them in one language, they come at you in another. French, English, Italian.
In less-touristy places like Rabat the voices are quiet, but the probing stares speak just as loudly.
No matter where you go, you feel like a fly caught in a web. Meat roasting on a spit.
But once accompanied by your new male Moroccan friends in Fes, you are suddenly not accosted at every turn.
Though the one who takes a liking to you immediately puts you on a pedestal.
No matter how you look at it, you aren’t a human as much as you are a woman.
The focus on my femininity was so foreign. So grating. So infuriating.
Gender equality is still a distant horizon in the United States. Leading women reject “feminism” as whiny and “militant.” And rape culture and victim blaming unfortunately aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
But being so obviously estranged from them in Morocco made me appreciate the hard-won feminist freedoms that I do enjoy. And it drove home that now more than ever is the time to actively fight for more of them.
Being a woman and being a human should never be mutually exclusive.