A Self Journey Discovering Feminism
“Don’t say you don’t care about what people think or say about you, you live in this society, whether you like it or not.”
Those are the words my mother likes to say to me whenever I do something ‘troubling’ or state an opinion which leads to an argument between us, which usually ends with one of us crying herself to sleep (always me).
I was born and raised in a family, like any old-fashioned family in an old neighbourhood in Casablanca, Morocco, where you have the right to dream about whatever you want to be in the future, just as long as you don’t make your dreams come true. You can dream of travelling the world, starting your own shop, or even becoming an actress. If you are a girl, you can dream and work on it to make it true later, but once you are twenty-five, you should trade all of your dreams and ambitions for a house, a family and a man. Otherwise, you become the gossip of the neighbours, the family and every single person in your social surrounding.
My parents never pushed me to do something that I wasn’t willing to do; I had the right to dream and go to the schools I wanted to, but I could still pick up on the shadows of patriarchy and stereotyping in the conversations with my parents and in the opinions shared over the dinner with them.
I first learnt the word ‘feminism’ through some people I knew at school. They said that some girls were flashing their nipples and walking shirtless in the streets. I was shocked since I lived in a house where going almost naked was a shame for the whole family. The people from school told me that those women were feminists, a word that was foreign to me. So, from that day, the word ‘feminism’ was linked in my mind with images of women all around the world shirtless on the streets, holding signs and walking in protests. I wasn’t bothered to read the signs or look up the word. My parents, my teachers, my friends were right, I told myself.
I didn’t feel the suffocating hands of the patriarchy around me because my world was the people around me. My only source of information was my parents and I was okay with what I had at the age of thirteen. [CF1]
I was told to be ‘different’ simply because I wasn’t girly enough by the standards set out by my parents and my relatives. I didn’t play with dolls just because I was afraid of them, but in the eyes of my parents and my mother’s friends I was a tomboy, a girl trying to look ‘not like the others little girls from around my age’. I had a set of tools, just like the one my dad had, but made from plastic. I had video games and I was addicted to comics. My parents didn’t object, thinking it was just a phase. ‘A girl is always trying to be like her dad,’ my mother would say proudly to her friends and neighbours. [CF2]
After learning the world feminist, I forgot about it the next week, until I was put in unfair situations and faced with denial and disagreement because I was a girl. I started to realise I was wrong. I was treated unfairly, raised to be weak and in need of a man or a male figure in my life to get it all right. The arguments with my mother, since she was in direct contact with me, were a daily thing. No, you can’t go out whenever you like. No, don’t wear that, what would people think of you? Why were you smiling, you let that guy think it’s an invitation to speak to you.
Every choice I needed to make, either small or life changing, I had to give strong arguments to make it happen, or else I wouldn’t even dream of making that choice. I was expected to have a motivation for everything and I had no right to be spontaneous or to do things just for the heck of it.
I don’t blame my parents, they did nothing wrong, they are the victims, too. They are victims of a society that believes in a huge difference between women and men.
When I went to college, I left my parents’ house to live in the dorms of the Higher School of Technology in Casablanca, one hour away from my parents’ house if I took the Tramway. I befriended people my age and they had different opinions about life. I felt myself detaching from the bubble I used to live in and I encountered the word ‘feminism’ again. I did my research, met other feminists at my school, and participated in awareness campaigns on campus or on the internet. I felt productive doing something that I believed in. But that didn’t mean it was easy.
I was called ungrateful, a lesbian, an attention seeker and even selfish, which hurt because they came from the closest people to me. But I didn’t care because, for the first time, I believed in something.
This year, I received what we call in Morocco a Professional License in Computer Engineering and Advanced Administration of Systems and Networks, which took me three years to get and meant that my time at college had come to an end. So I went back to my parents’ house. In Ramadan my father said, while helping me, my sister and my mother [CF3] in the kitchen, that “Samah before the dorms isn’t the same as Samah after going to the dorms.” I was shocked because I thought it was a bad change, but he elaborated: “You grew up, and you became confident about things.” To say I was about to cry would be an understatement because I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I wasn’t looking for validation or recognition from my parents or anyone, but those words felt good to hear.
I believe I still have a long road ahead to change the way people see feminism and girl power, because it’s all women against a society built on the patriarchy. But at least I have a voice, and I want all girls to speak their voices, too. I want every girl out there to believe in her dreams. Fight for what you believe in, fight for women’s rights, and try to make this world a better place for women all around the world who are afraid to speak up and make their voices heard.