SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2002        Personal Memory Ethnographies


My Story with Tough Gender

I am a person who believes that I was born in the wrong place and the wrong moment. I was born and raised in North Africa, in a country where unfortunately women are discriminated because of their gender. My personality always stood out among people. Contrary to most Moroccan women, I speak up my mind and always make sure that my point is heard. My society always gave me the impression that my type of person is not appreciated. Being a woman back home means that woman has to carry herself a certain way. For instance, if a group of men is talking, a woman should not get involved in the conversation or try to prove her point. Men will take it as something not classy from a woman to do. I could never go out at night or travel by myself. If I insisted my family would send a guy with me and that guy has to be my brother, my father, or a made that they trust. Men in a Moroccan society can do everything they want and nothing is considered as forbidden for them. When it comes to women everything becomes so complicated. We do not have a choice, our family will get involved and women cannot do anything without their familyís approvals including parents, brothers, and sometimes-even grandparents.

I used to get mad and angry at the unfairness women were facing in my country. We could not date because we have a reputation to care about but it is ok for men to date. ěHe is a man.î It is ok for a man to drink but forbidden for a woman. What was that?

Basically, I felt so limited. Because I was born a girl, I will not be able to do things that I want to do. All my acts and my gestures were watched very closely.

I got married to a North African American engineer. Everything seemed to be working in the beginning. I came to live with him in Arizona after the wedding. Then things started to change. He said that I am not like other women that listen to their husbands. I had to do whatever he wants without discussing it. His family was involved in our daily lives, which always bothered me. They did not like me because I had the nerve to say that I want to be left alone. He did not want me to raise my voice to his family when they disrespect me. Basically he wanted me to keep my mouth shut and accept the way his family was treating me even if it is bad. I said no and put his family in their places by telling them exactly what I think of them, which caused my divorce. A Moroccan woman should never disobey her family in law. A man can disobey his wife and her family without even a good excuse and will be ok.

My family in law saw me as a threat. I used always to speak my mind and carry a conversation with a group of men if the subject attracted my attention, which they never liked. They wanted me to stay within a group of women chatting or go to the kitchen to offer my help.

My ex-husband was born and raised back home. He came to the states at the age of 17 where he got his masters degree in engineering. When I met him I thought of him as an open-minded educated person. I was wrong. I assumed that he is a modern man who respects and believes in womanís right of speech. And those women are equal to men. Unfortunately, America changed nothing in him. Inside him is still the traditional guy who wants a woman who cooks, cleans, and depends on him. He could not handle the fact that I am an independent person. He thinks that I am too aggressive when pursuing a discussion with a group of people. He said that it is not appropriate for a married woman to carry a conversation with a group of men. He did not like the fact that I speak up my mind when I am not happy with something.

  He said that he needs a woman who respects his father, sisters, and brothers even when they are wrong. We got divorced because I raised my voice to his sister who was always involved in our business. He said that it is ok for his sister to get nosey but I cannot disrespect her. Basically, he wanted a woman without voice. He told me that I put him down front of his family when I disagree with him. He wanted me to stay quiet and accept things like they are and people do not really care to know my opinion. He told me that he chose me as a wife because I was raised back home. I told him that he picked the wrong girl and walked away.

Who do you think you are? You will be nothing once my brother divorces you. A woman without a man is nothing. That is what my ex-sister in-law told me. My family-in-law though of me as someone who thinks that she is all that. They think I am a spoiled rich person who got everything in her life. However, I never wanted to defend myself or try to change what they think of me. I am very picky when it comes to choosing people I deal with. My sister in law was not a kind of person whom I would be a friend with. All she cares about is gossiping and creating problems between people.

I am (first name, lat name). That was my answer to her. It always made my family-in-law especially my sister-in-law so mad because I chose to keep my name. I cherish the name that my father gave me. I will not change it no matter what. I love having the name that my father, brothers and sister have and I do not need a guy to make me feel complete.

 The incident that happened with my sister-in-law came in the right moment. It was the one that made the divorce quicker. The divorce was going to happen. Sooner was better than later in my case. Why the incident happened? I guess it was meant to happen. It happened for a good reason. It was time for me to move on with my life. It was time for me to speak up my mind. Maybe I was tired of the way women in general were treated in my country. I was tired of the way my family-in-law and my ex-husband was treating me. I do have a voice. I never liked my husband to take decisions that concerned me. He made me feel so small when he used to speak in my place front of people as if I was a little kid.

 I think I made the right decision to walk away from traditions, cultures, and close-minded husband. I want to be myself, free from all things that will hold me back. The incident was hard on me. I paid for it. But in the end it was worth it. I chose to stay in the U.S. after my divorce where I work and go to school. I feel complete, independent. I will never regret the incident that happened between my ex-husband, my family-in-law, and me. Now, I have a kid to raise and I have to be a strong woman to do so. I  have to overcome all the challenges.

 How do I see my ex-husband? I see him as someone hyper ethnic. As someone who did not learn that much from being in this country. He is someone who looks modern from outside but is close-minded from the inside. He thinks that I have no respect for his family and him. He thinks that I want to be too independent. Maybe he is glad that it is over. He could not handle someone independent and strong like me.

My divorce will never make me change the way I am. I will always speak up my mind and defend my ideas. I chose to state in the states and live here after my divorce because I like the way everybody is treated. It does not matter if you are a woman or a man, you can still do whatever you feel like it and nobody will misjudge you because of your gender.

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