I Am Pregnant And I Exist

Femmes du Maroc

In an already bifurcated country, The November issue of Femmes du Maroc – Women of Morocco, a Moroccan magazine that caters to the interests of Moroccan women with a panoply of feminine subjects is bound to turn into lascivious fodder for a misguided and testosterone charged fringe of society, an opportunity for vitriolic religious condemnations and exhortations to aspiring jihadists to perverted religious zealots, and a cause for celebration to post-feminists and advocates of women’s rights. The magazine dedicated its cover to a very pregnant former 2M anchorwoman Nadia Larguet, in the buff, with one hand covering her breast and the other one holding her belly a la Demi Moore on the cover of the August 1991 Vanity Fair. A first in an Arab and a Moslem country. It will certainly spur a vocal public backlash against Mrs. Larguet and Femmes du Maroc. National and international news outlets will cover the story ad nauseam.

The issue transcends the aesthetic aspects of pregnancy and nudity. The exclusionary and sometimes castigating treatment pregnant women are subjected to is a leading cause of abortion in Morocco where the number of out of wedlock pregnancies have dramatically risen. The pool of medical doctors performing abortions today has grown exponentially. They charge 3000 Dirhams ($391.00). Additionally, an increased number of women, especially in rural areas where medical oversight is minimal and sometimes non-existent, die from standard pregnancy complications.

The message of the magazine’s cover is a loud and clear confirmation of the self: I am pregnant; I am beautiful, and I exist. I agree. In our society, pregnant women need to feel less excluded and be viewed in a more gratifying fashion. For a country like Morocco, where television channels are flipped at the mere sight of a man an a woman kissing, where, in neighborhood foodstuff stores, menstrual pads are stuffed in a black plastic bag to conceal them from the embarassed looks of customers, the idea is outrageous. I find it revolutionary and prescient. I am hoping the cover will set off a debate on what some might see as mere sexual objectification of women and others as feminine empowerment. I see in it an expression of the beauty of fertility and a much needed glamorization of woman as a genitor of life in a male dominated society that regards pregnant women – especially those in their third quarter – as nothing more than diaphanously dressed humanoid incubators, breast feeders, care providers. Generally speaking, men in the Arab culture are outside the emotional support system of their pregnant wives. The task is often delegated to female family members. Husbands who accompany their pregnant wives to OBGY consultations are a rarity. Seldom do men assist their delivering wives or witness the birth of their babies; they financially support the endeavor, but remain content in their impervious insularity.

I will ask you to not judge the magazine by its cover. You can choose to see it as nothing more than a nude picture. Such is your prerogative. You can also choose to see the glossy cover as an attention grabber to all the problems women endure on a daily basis. Everyday, in a remote decrepit mud hut in one of our villages, a pregnant woman is dying from complications while her husband, because of that traditional mindset we are so attached to, is detached from that reality. The problem is in the multitudes of abortion clinics in our cities. The problem is the increased teenage pregnancies caused by, not promiscuity, but lack of sexual education. Tradition has not solved these problems. In fact, in some cases, it has exacerbated them. It takes moral fortitude to recognize that aspects of our traditions are part of the problem. It’s outrageous to me that there are some who refuse to see beyond the nudity. Was it necessary to sensationalize the issue with a nude picture? Absolutely! Because the Arab psyche is so traumatized that only shock therapy would work. Countless articles were written about Moroccan women’s problems, but they all failed to dislodge the entrenched retral thinking. If a polemic is what will do, so be it.

We need to purge ourselves of that mentality. 

A. T. B. Copyright © 2009

About cabalamuse

venture down those ominous ways thread into that austere city
This entry was posted in Freedom of the Press, HUMAN RIGHTS, Individual Freedom, MOROCCO, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to I Am Pregnant And I Exist

  1. sissi says:

    Most of people in Morocco will find this photo inpudent and erotic, Is that the wanted effect ?

    The nudity does not symbolise the same thing in the occidental and west countries. Why forcing people to adopt this representation of the body ?!

    Acctually, Who cares about the body, apart from cosmetics compagnies and the magazines they put their publicity in.

    If I am pregnant, I am not beatiful, not slim, nor photogenic, do I exist ?

    • You make it sound as if nudity has just always been a part of western society as it is today (when in fact, the lack of modesty in American culture is a product of the last century alone).

  2. Fays says:

    I definitely agree with you. It is about time that people purge themselves from these old fashioned thoughts. But this is not specific to Morocco, despite its schizophrenic identity.

    Not so long ago, the US faced the exact same situation, where pregnant women didn’t feel comfortable, lacked of confidence in themselves, hence the exact same magazine cover (picked up by Femmes du Maroc) published by Vanity Fair starring a pregnant Demi Moore (http://a.abcnews.com/images/GMA/ap_vanity_fair_080324_ssv.jpg). A new picture of the glamour and womenly nature. And I shall congratulate these women and men at “Femmes du Maroc” for pointing out embarrassing bad habits.

    The woman nature should be praised and supported in all situations, especially during pregnancy. Minds should evolve above the simple reduction of women to a mere useful companion, especially in the Arab culture.

  3. Wow, I don’t even know what to say. Putting aside the nudity (which I think is secondary to the purpose of the article, which I have not yet read and won’t until someone kindly scans it for me) for a moment, I think that the general idea is right on, and that, while I’m a bit tired of the pregnancy obsession in the U.S. in particular, I can see how the treatment of pregnant women is nearly the opposite in Morocco (and other countries of a similar culture). I can’t recall seeing any pregnant women there who were not wearing djellabas – an obvious attempt to somewhat hide the pregnancy. And so to me, the article (at least as you described it) signifies a call to recognize pregnancy for what it is – something beautiful, natural, and normal. I love that.

    • Ali says:

      “I can’t recall seeing any pregnant women there who were not wearing djellabas – an obvious attempt to somewhat hide the pregnancy”

      Bravo! You came to Morocco and figured out this all by yourself :)

      However, let me introduce you to the Real Moroccan lifestyle. Women show proudly their pregnancy as part of their feminity and fertility. Djellabas are traditional and comfortable clothes, did you want them to wear jeans ?

      • Um, Ali, no need…you know plenty of women in Morocco do wear Western clothing, and yet those same women during pregnancy hide themselves under a djellaba. You really think that’s *just* a matter of comfort?

        Clearly my naive foreign mind must just be making this up, right? Because this article doesn’t exist and no other Moroccan has ever complained about this.

        I don’t really agree that women “proudly” show pregnancy in Morocco and clearly, neither does the blogger or the author of the article. But of course they’re wrong too, right Ali?

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  6. Amina says:

    I’ve looked very hard at that photo and I’ve tried to see all of the things you talked about…poor health care for pregnant women, abortion issues, the embarrassment of buying Always pads from your neighborhood hanout, viewing women in a more gratifying fashion….say what?

    The truth is, images like this reflect declining morality and little else. I’m not getting that light bulb moment where I say, indeed this photo transcends issues of pregnancy and nudity. Instead, I see a naked pregnant woman. I wonder how she has deluded herself to think that this exposure was a good thing to do. I wonder if the readers of femmes du maroc will also feel the need to be immodest in order to feel empowered?

  7. Ali says:

    Come again? Could you pleaaaase kindly explain to me how a picture of a nude pregnant anchorwoman meant to rise the sells of the magazine, how this picture can help solving all the issues you mentioned?
    This woman is obviously not from the countryside and she’s definitely not poor. The only message I can get from the picture is “I’m almost 40 and I’m still attractive!” Big deal!

  8. mona says:

    I want yo comment on JILLIAN s. How many times you have been to morocco and what do you know about the moroccan woman? obviously, from your comment, you know NOTHING, NADA, RIEN… because this is the first time that i hear this absurdity that moroccan women wear jellaba when they are pregnent to hide their pregnancy, which absolutly not true. the moroccan woman is a strong and proud woman, if they wear the jellaba whether pregnant or not that is because it is a traditional dress and very proud of it.In that concern I advice you to do your homework on cultures that you have litle information about before you start preaching. and unfortunatly it is people like you who send these wrong messages and information about certain countries to the rest of the world, like the arab world is a desert and people still leaves in tents and women oppressed………..! As for the cover picture of the magasine, regardless of the subject discussed, am totelly against having the a picture of a nude woman on the cover. first because it s against our culture , and second most important, am against teh use of women pictures as an object to sell whatever. women are not a product for sale, so stop depicting them that way.

    • Mona, I lived there for more than two years.

      You’re making a bunch of claims about me that have absolutely nothing to do with this conversation. I could certainly be wrong about this one thing (although all I said was that I personally had only SEEN women wear djellabas during pregnancy), but you’re quite wrong about the rest. I don’t claim Arab women to be oppressed, by any means.

      I may have made a sweeping generalization, so for that I sincerely apologize. That said, as you clearly know, Morocco is a big country, and in the city in which I lived, that was absolutely my experience there.

      Mona, perhaps you ought to consider tolerance and consideration before you jump on someone for one little comment.

  9. mona says:

    JILLIAN, I did not say that you said arab women are oppressed, it was an example of the narrowed images and information that some people convey to others .

    • Mona –

      Here’s how I see your comment: You assume, that because I have an obviously non-Moroccan name, that I must know nothing about your country, or that I’m somehow unqualified to comment on it. Therefore, you take one small comment (which is true, at least in terms of personal experience) and remark that it is “people like me” who send incorrect messages about Morocco.

      On the contrary, Mona, I felt that Ahmed’s blog was a safe environment in which to make a criticism about one tiny aspect of Moroccan life. I have overwhelmingly positive feelings about Morocco, and say overwhelmingly positive things, particularly when the audience is not Moroccan, but in this case, I thought I was in a safe space where I wouldn’t be attacked by immature vitriol such as yours.

      Apparently, I was wrong.

  10. cabalamuse says:

    Lala Mona, Lala Jillian, Si Ali,
    This is not about who’s right. All your comments are true. They are based on your personal experiences. They are also a bit emotionally charged. It is understandable. I am Moroccan and I live in Casa. I see highly educated, sophisticated, emancipated, and professional women every day. Some cannot go for a walk in the city without being sexually accosted by men. I also see young Moroccan women in knock-off designer clothes selling their bodies. The majority of them are forced to do so by poverty, lack of education, lack of resources. Every day we see old and young women begging. It cannot possibly be their choice; some were kicked out by their husbands and (for the older ones) their children; they have no one to turn to. A couple of months ago, a mentally ill woman who was kicked out by her family because they could not (or would not) take care of her died in the waiting room of Ibn Roushd’s emergency pavilion after days of laying on the very floor unattended to. I have friends who are engaged in grassroots associations that stood up from within the medical corps. Doctors and nurses that travel to remote villages in the region of Marrakesh, Asfi, and Casablanca to provide medical attention to locals. They described untenable living conditions. Women give birth in unsanitary condition and total deprivation. The government provides no support whatsoever to these associations; they operate on donations. The mainstream Morocco is hardly aware of their existence. When the plight of Zainab Shtet broke out, Moroccans were outraged. But let’s be honest, we know that, for as long as we can remember, teenage girls are forced by their fathers to drop out of school and work as maids. Nothing is being done to correct it. How many women are barred from education in the name of what we believe is tradition. Because let’s face it, some of our ignorance often passes for tradition. The cover draws attention to a pregnant woman not as a wife or a daughter, but as a woman. Something needs to be done to help the Moroccan woman and girl living in conditions as those I described above. It requires more than just an association, but a mentality overhaul.

    • Amina says:

      <<<<<>>>>>

      It certainly does draw attention to a woman — a naked woman! My American father and mother would be crushed if I posed for a picture like that. My American brother would be mortified. My Moroccan husband would divorce me.

      <<<<<>>>>>

      Will someone please pop the bubble?! Why should the image of a sophisticated woman be projected as the desirable norm? This is a perverse aftermath of the French occupation, which taught Moroccans to buy into the concept of the carefree, non-religious working woman as emancipated. Emancipated from what – modesty? Housework? Staying home with children?

      What on earth do these women have to do with the plight of the poor in Morocco, other than the fact that they employ them? These so-called emancipated women likely have a maid, and maybe a driver and perhaps a nanny. Those same professional women have good health care for themselves and their babies, they know how to read Femmes du Maroc, and their kids attend good private schools. Some of these women, like some of my kids’ classmates, can barely speak darija, and it’s only when they hear English come out of my mouth that they shed their disdain of my hijab.

      Should this be the goal for Moroccan women? Or do you just want to give impoverished women that choice?

  11. mona says:

    Si cabalamuse , all what u said is facts and we do not deny it. an overhaul is needed, definetly. My quetion in what way is it relevant to what Jillian and I were discussing.

  12. cabalamuse says:

    I’m glad you agree. We tend to be defensive when criticism comes from non-Moroccans. I’ve been reading Jillian’s articles for a few years now; Her fondness for Morocco is palpable. She’s defended Morocco in countless venues. I hold her previous comment to be true and in good faith.

  13. Ali says:

    It is true that people tend to be a bit defensive and/or aggressive when they’re criticized, even if there’s nothing to be mad about, being pregnant is a natural stage of life and there is absolutely nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. Also, being pregnant and beautiful at the same time isn’t incoherent and the dress that a woman choose to put on is completely a matter of choice and comfort, djellabas are traditional Moroccan dresses, not every woman wears them every day but I’m sure every Moroccan woman keeps at least a couple of djellabas in her closet ^^.
    Finally, I don’t deny the fact that pregnancy is emotionally challenging for women in general, some women may not accept the physiological changes that occurs, changes that even djallabas can’t hide ^^. And if you still are ashamed of being seen pregnant, well, don’t get pregnant!

    Now, about the article, it does clearly say “Nadia Larguet, bientôt maman”, so the article is all about Larguet, not Moroccan women in general. In her interviews, Larguet doesn’t discuss issues. Some people when they read “Nadia Larguet, anchorwoman, presented 2 shows on National TV” think that it was something Tyra show or Dr. Phil discussing issues and all. Well, it was some juvenile stuff, bunch of buddies fooling around in front of the camera, nothing interesting. Ahmed, you may be remember the ‘bande à part’ show. This is precisely why I say that this article isn’t discussing any of the points you mentioned.

  14. mona says:

    Mr cabalamuse, u still did not answer my question. Jillian and I were discussing one specific thing which is ” pregnant moroccan women weraing jellabas to hide their pregnancy” and my point was that is completely fase and misleading to other people who knows nothing about the moroccan woman. what you said and which i agreed on was irrelevent to our discussion. As for jillian Ive never read her previous writtings, so I was responding to and a specific subjectand correcting a specific idea.

    • Amina says:

      I think Moroccan women run the full gamut with regards to dressing their pregnant bodies just as they do with non-pregnant bodies. The women who dress less modestly in general are not at all shy about cramming their pregnant tummies into shirts which are way-too-small-and-show-pregnant-belly-skin-to-boot. Pregnant women who wear djellabas simply favor them and they are practical and fit the Islamic modesty code. I don’t see any relationship between the djellaba and pregnant women feeling the need to hide or minimize their appearance. Also, I haven’t seen very much maternity wear here, although there’s more now than there was some years back.

      In general, I think Moroccan women veiled or not are much more comfortable in their skin (pregnant or non-pregnant, fat, thin, or in-between) than their American counterparts. I attribute this to the hammam culture. I’ve never heard a Moroccan woman complain of feeling fat while pregnant, unattractive while pregnant, yada yada like American women often bemoan. And we’ve all seen Moroccan women considered quite chunky by American standards showing fat rolls along with their cleavage. No shame there.

      But no worry, this insecurity will certainly be coming to Moroccan women as well. A few more good magazine covers like the one above, and a few junky articles like, “How to Look Your Best While Pregnant: or “How to Still Turn Heads Even Though You’re Married” should help do the trick.

  15. mona says:

    I would like to add that I do not know the woman who is in the cover of the magazine, I was just provoked by the picture and the image that this woman( who is representing herself) is portraying, indirectly, of the moroccan women.

  16. mona says:

    Mr cabalamuse you youself could be non-moroccan.it s not a question of being defensive, it s more a question of facts and realities. whether u r moroccan or not, if you come with stories that the others r sure that they don t exist or false, you will receive the same response.

    • No, Mona, you were defensive and accusatory – instead of attacking me over one potentially incorrect comment (which was still true in my experience in one city for two years), you could have said “Really? I’ve never seen such a thing” but instead you basically used me as a stand-in for every foreigner who’s ever said something negative about your country. Frankly, Mona, you come off as the naive one in this conversation.

  17. mona says:

    Same old story, whenever someone is not of the same point of view or defends the facts that he is sure about and believes in, he becomes defensive, naive,accusatiry or even maybe “terorrist” . never ends…..Whose being judjemental?????????

  18. Fahmou says:

    I wish you could write as much and be choked or moved as much by articles about pregnant young women who are cowardly abandonned by the father of their child, and by our hartless society who is only good at condemning them instead of trying to solve this creepling problem. I whish the so called religious people could find in their heart sympathize with these young and often ignorant mother whose mistake will mark them for life. And I whish we could face this problem and stop acting like it doesn’t exist…I wish islam could soften hearts and open minds so that we stop condemning everything and everybody. I whish people’s faiths could make them more peaceful and more helpful, I whish, I whish, I whish…

  19. inspiration says:

    “Nadia Larguet bientot maman”; the title says it all. I think it’s not about conveying the idea that pregnancy should be seen as a great event in the life of a woman, and how every woman and her partner should celebrate it with a big smile on the face and a great pride of showing the big belly. It’s not about stirring up a discussion in the Moroccan society about women struggling with pregnancy or dying from the lack of tools in hospitals or from ignorance… The title says it all again! It’s about Nadia, the woman who is letting everybody know she is pregnant, a chocking way of doing it for sure. Maybe her own way of saying: ” i am a “free” woman, and i do not give a “damn” about what this society thinks of me!”Maybe she misses being under the spot light, and is feeling nostalgic to her days in 2M, or maybe even she is giving a “coucou/wink” (her way) to those who have always criticized her and her performance in the two programs she had produced and presented in 2M. She is reported to have said in one of her interviews that if we had a People like magazine in Morocco, she would have been its main topic all the time; referring to all the gossips that have been going in the newspapers, and in the media arena about her and how good or not she is as an anchorwoman.
    So my friend cabalamuse, you wish and I wish, the reason behind her photo in the magazine was all about what you have talked and wondered about.
    My question is who reads “femmes du Maroc”? Certainly not those ladies you talked about, being stuck in some villages, and struggling every single minute to make a living for their families and kids; not those women who could have had a smooth delivery and found themselves in a grave instead because of a simple delivery that could have gone right if only they had the possibility to deliver in a descent environment. Surely not those mothers who do not have the time nor the thought to look at their bodies and wonder whether they are still cute or ugly with a big belly!
    Beside all of this and if we think that Nadia wanted to really start a discussion within the Moroccan society about giving more attention and credits to pregnant women, then i think there are other ways of doing that and which suit the Moroccan environment better. We do not have to always copy the other in order to convey an idea; we can learn from the other to stir in debates and talk about tabous, but we need to take the idea and give it our own “clothing”… For god’s sake, when was it ok in our society to show one’s naked body in public, be it of a man or a woman?! Why do we have to play the cool and force ourselves to fit within this new world with all these new norms and ideaologies, or else we are labeled as a “non cool” person with backward mentality…

    When you want to defend a general public, in this case the everyday Malika or Fatima, you have to go towards them, to talk their language and fit in their way of living; then bring them toward your world and opinions. That’s if we think that Larguet, behind her photo shoot, intended to really do that. I doubt it strongly just because i never thought she was interested in what the everyday Fatima or Khadija go through. I am not blaming her for not embracing the women (or people in general) struggle, but i just think she was a simple girl who cares less about what is going on in the destitute women lives. She was (as i remember her from 2M) a cool girl who wanted to present a cool program targeting a cool audience and pasta.
    Did she change over the years and matured and so wants to carry a fight for women? Not sure about that; plus doing that through a magazine that the women we are talking about (or their partners) do not even purchase, well i am sorry to tell you that her goal was purely “lucratif” or as i already mentioned, it’s all about her sharing her pregnancy with the “femmes du Maroc”, those “femmes” whom “everyday” Fatima or Malika are not…

    Now having said that, i do not care about what people want to do with their bodies; chacun pour soi, but when it comes to a mother body, well excuse me but my PERSONAL opinion is that it is a very pure, even a “sacred” (to me) thing. Seeing a pregnant woman is just so awesome that one thinks that is purity in itself, or like you described it Cablamuse, you see the fertility exposed in front of your eyes. To me this should be kept private, because whatever a pregnant lady is carrying inside her, it is so pure and so great that none has the right to approach this body that is “incubating” this pure little thing (the baby) not even by a look. There was this period when i started seeing these girls pregnant and showing their belly (with a demi-ventre showing their belly button), i would feel like approaching them and asking them to cover their belly, because to me a woman body is not hers anymore once she is pregnant, it is shared with another human being (the baby inside her), and she has no right to use it for a new and fashionable look. The same thing with a woman with a baby in her arms, and showing her breast to the whole world….
    My opinion about the body of a pregnant woman might seem silly, weird, but that is the way i look at pregnancy. To me, it goes beyound my freedom, my body, cute or ugly, attractive or not; because when you get pregnant, you do not think anymore about yourself only; there is a human being that will forever depend on you and get the best of your attention, feelings and life. So the argument that i am a woman, and i am free to show my body, and you have no right to look at me in a sexual manner or think i am ugly….does not stand anymore when you are a mother. Nobody forces any woman to be a mother and yes a mother can still remain a woman, attractive, cute, and taking care of herself, but that erases the ME; you have shared your body with another Human being, you offered this body as a carrier to another being, and that in itself puts the woman in a much higher position than anybody else, and so who cares about how people look at her body but rather how people should consider her as a whole: a mother, a caring person, a giver….
    I love the mother notion and that makes me criticize a lot women who get stuck up in their own world forgetting that they have a new mission in life than just being a woman trying hard to prove her feminity.

    I apologize for this long comment, but this one picture carries so many topics in it…

    voila,voilouuu :))

  20. mona says:

    To the point ” inspiration “. Well done, I hope people read your comment and understand it. because there are some people who just want to be the other by any means, and worse they want you to change and be the other as well, using wrong arguments for wrong causes. pretending they are defending and saving the others while they are abusing and using them to reach their own interests.Keep it up!

  21. Charlotte says:

    Great post! I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and very much enjoy your articles. I hope you don’t mind that I quoted you about a post of my own regarding this particular magazine feature?

  22. Ali says:

    Totally agree with Inspiration! Besides, I think that the big selling promotion tactic have failed, because all the kiosks that I walked in are putting the magazine behind newspapers.

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  24. briefguest says:

    This debate is no doubt important, but where on earth do you guys (respected people) find the time to write all this and keep the discussion going? I have seen the cover and I am so indifferent to it. Will the cover alter gender politics in Morocco or in the Arab world? Of course not. Only education can make the change happen.

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