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