Saturday, January 30, 2010
Women Keep it Going
Near as I can tell, it’s the women who keep things going here. They are the ones going to work, earning the household money, cleaning the house, shopping, cooking the food and raising the children. It’s the women who manage the money and make sure there is enough to pay the utility bills and creatively manage to feed their families on a shoestring budget. That’s not much different from where I come from.
But here, I find the roles of men vs. women are in sharper contrast to those found in good old California, land of the alternative way of doing just about everything. And while I marvel at the stamina and forbearance of the women in Morocco, sometimes I just want to shout, “Stop the madness! You’re doing too much.”
Like many places in the world right now, work is hard to come by. Yet it’s the men who sit around in the cafés all day long while women board the buses to the factories and take in laundry. I’m told women get the jobs because they are willing to work for cheaper wages. Okay, so who takes over the full-time job of managing the household while the women work? It’s certainly not the men.
But isn’t this often the case? Women do what needs to be done to take care of their families. Women bear the burden of the daily drudgery and are breadwinner and bread maker all in one.
The workload is not being shared and the efforts of these tireless women and their acceptance of their lot both irritates and awes me. I can relate to the idea of taking a deep breath and doing what needs to be done as gracefully as possible. But I bristle at the notion that house management duties cannot be assumed by a man. Sure, some roles are more natural for them than others, but adjustments can certainly be made, can’t they? Shouldn’t they?
I observe the women holding their families together and adding on responsibilities -- never delegating to the men. And the thing that really strikes me is the unquestioning acceptance of their lot. Why should they be doing all the work? And why, oh why, do they train their sons to let women mother them and coddle them for the rest of their lives, expecting their daughters and daughters-in-law to carry on the tradition?
Perhaps it’s because the system works. In Morocco, if there is more work to be done, simply gather more women together!
But can you picture a medina where it is the women who populate the cafes from morning until night, some smoking, eyeing and gossiping about the young men and tourists walking by on their way to the hammam or hanut? Envision the women bringing home friends for their husbands to feed. Imagine it is the women who arise from their beds in the morning, leaving the men to tidy up and fold the blankets.
Turn the whole situation around and see the men making breakfast for the household. Watch him usher his mate out the door with a few words of encouragement and a pocketful of dirham. Picture, if you will, these same men cleaning up the breakfast dishes and cleaning the house which the women messed up the previous night as they entertained their friends until the wee hours. And after this, imagine the men going off to their full-time jobs, returning in the evening with the 50 dirham they earned to prepare a hot meal and waiting for the hour when their women ultimately decide to come home after the football game they were watching in the café has come to an end.
Of course that doesn’t seem right either. It sounds downright preposterous when you switch the roles of men and women. But put the roles back in their place and this preposterous situation is accepted and passed on to the next generation.
But who am I to challenge the status quo?
These women appear to have a contentment that eludes me. I always seem to want more than the situation offers. And I always try to go it alone.
I recall being very upset one day about my life here and being told by a Moroccan woman that I just had to accept my situation. The fury of my reply surprised me. “I don’t have to accept” I hissed. “I can just leave.”
Ahhh. Perhaps this is the underlying difference. I have more choices and the resources to exercise those choices. I don’t need the forbearance Moroccan women need. I remind myself to keep this in mind as I bear witness to the yeoman-like work of the women here. They are doing what needs to be done to keep life going. And they do it with grace and humor and incredible aptitude. And in spite of all their responsibilities, they smile and laugh and take pleasure in the simple things in life. Me, I have more angst.
Who am I to suggest that things be done differently? Without these women, the foundation of family life would surely crumble.
Once again, I am reminded not to try to force fit my ideas and attitudes onto a culture that appears to be getting along just fine the way it is.
Posted by Water Dragon at 4:11 AM