Hello all, I am back! It is time to discuss how negotiation can, and may, allow us to normalize postmodernism. This post is going to be deep, highly political, and, in some respects, personal. I have been having a hard time conceptualising how to negotiate negotiation since I wrote “pomo blues”. The trouble for me comes from not knowing where to start, not knowing how we can collect difference into something concrete, something real. We are all too different, even for those of us that are the same.
Here I am thinking about myself. I’ve often tried to see myself as special, if only in the “there is no one else in this world like me” way. But this can lead to egoism. And I don’t like my ego. Yet, I need my ego. I am different. I’m misunderstood—like every one of us are. I think weird at times. I see the world in my own special way. And, then, I am sad. Is there anyone that thinks similar to me? Will/Can I ever find a mind to connect with? If I’m different, I may never fully connect with anyone else. But if I’m the same; we’re all the same. Ahhh, circular reasoning. Dependent clauses and persons. What is one to do?!
You see my inherent existential problem? I needed to find something to work from to gain perspective. Lucky for me, a very close friend posted a link to this article on Fox News that gave me a way to frame some of these ideas that I have yet to articulate. For context, go there, read, and come back. I’ll be here writing…
Hello again. I hope you all are well. How was that article? It is sad, haunting, isn’t it? I am assuming that you all think so, at least. I immediately drew upon the fact that this young girl is a minor, that she was raped, and then forced to marry her rapist—the title of the article made me read it this way. And I care about all three of those things happening, being a mother, a woman, and someone attentive to the detrimental causes of rape. But I’m also a student of legal discourse, and note the vastly significant imposition that laws place upon all of our lives. For every human, this is something we all have in common: we must abide by law, or face criminalization.
The author, un-named, states, “Article 475 of the Morocco penal code allows for the ‘kidnapper’ of a minor to marry his victim to escape persecution, and it has been used to justify a traditional practice of making a rapist marry his victim to preserve the honor of the woman’s family” (“Suicide”). Here is what is at stake for both this girl, Amina Filali, and her husband. Her husband? Yes. He is a victim too. Before you get upset, throw your computer, or start cussing at me, just wait. I have an argument.
The imposition of this law (all by the parents’ initiation, mind you) is a culturally fabricated view of “justice.” Since the Moroccan government adopted several cultural discourses—centuries in the making—it acts upon these ideas through law. This girl suffers the fate of being a girl, which means several things in this country (and, arguably, the world). Her virginity and femininity is her identity. Once she loses the first, she loses the second. She is no longer a girl able to negotiate her identity in a patriarchal society. Her only worth is her chastity. She is thingified. She is property whose only value is that which the men and her government have placed upon her. Of course, I feel this is wrong.
All of these views legitimize how girls and women are treated in Morocco. Because of their culture, their laws regulate the worth of them as women. And a woman can never escape this identity if she is entrenched in this culture. So what does she do? She does what her parents make her do; she marries her rapist, and suffers being beaten for the rest of her life. In the words of her mother, she needs “patience” (“Suicide”). Patience for what? That the bruises will fade? That she’ll die? That he will change, and love her? None of these seem optimal. Patience isn’t good enough.
Along with Amina, her husband needs support. He, too, is embroiled in a culture that tells him his behaviors are mostly okay. Had he not been caught—had Amina not said anything of his raping her (silence!!!!!!)—he would have had the freedom (two ways of reading that tricky word there, do attend to that) to continue living as he pleased, raping who he may. And he probably will do both of those things because he’s a man in this culture, and he can.
That’s the “funny” thing about the gender binary here. Once married, this man can rape young girls and not have to marry them because he’s already married. In some countries, he can marry more than one woman, or abduct them and hide them in a harem. Have you all read Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson? That book taught me so much about these sorts of cultural values. Coming back, it is socially acceptable for men to do these things, even if the laws are slightly against it. People in power will look the other way. I mean, the men in these governments also utilize these freedoms.
There are several discourses being harmed here: womanhood, manhood, and marriage. All three of these depend upon culture and how we negotiate through it. The husband in this case was forced to marry a girl he did not love because he raped her. He was also taught from a young boy to treat girls as property. And Amina was taught that her worth was her “pristine” virginity. This tells us that one act of culturally imposed violence can control a woman’s identity for the rest of her life. And will continue to do so, for all women. This tells us that a man may have to pay for his actions, but he can still continue to commit them. You see the double standard?
And how does this matter to us in another country where we do not suffer these fates? Do we turn a blind eye? Surely we can’t, it is news—and newsworthy. Do we tell them what they are doing is wrong? We can, and do, but it isn’t going to change their culture. So what do we do? Admonish them for their harmful culture and behavior? Something tells me no, not exactly…
The fact is that we aren’t doing things completely right here either. Women are raped in America. Children are abducted and taken who knows where—maybe there. This tells me this is a more global, interconnected issue. Though our American laws are not complacent to rape, and our culture is on-the-outset resistant to this form of patriarchal violence, it still happens.
So, I have an idea: we need to change our entire, global consciousness. It needs not to be okay to wreak violence upon women. It needs not to be okay to harm children. It needs not to be okay to rationalize another’s sufferings based upon geography and culture. We need to find a way to articulate through our differences and similarities to change the entire cultural stigma that plague women and men to this day. We need to change our collective culture to change laws that control us in harmful ways. Only this will stop rape and child sex trafficking!
I don’t have any concrete suggestions because I’m just one girl, one woman, one mother. I can teach my child what it means to be a compassionate and conscious person, and that violence is simply not okay. I can know in my heart that any violence and laws meant to encourage violence are wrong. I have a good deal of people that are with me on this (hoping you all are some). But I have some suggestions. Maybe we can keep encouraging discussion. We should discuss this with each other—all others. We need to negotiate through the harmful effects of such cultural/legal decisions. People in power should be more attentive to the detriments of legal decisions that affect identities for people—female, male, and every single wonderful person in between.
The cultural and legal discourses need to change, and the only way they will is if we talk about them. I, for one, am all ears. I want this mad violence to stop. I think the activist, Abdelaziz Nouaydi is another person. And I know plenty more. My friends are this way. My peers. Are you? Tell me what you think, please. Share resources and conversation with the people you know. Let’s get this discourse all the way across the world to Amina and all of the women and men being enslaved to their detonated identities. We can read books about each other’s cultures, and see our sameness: our humanity. Instead of placing blame, saying who is wrong and who is right, maybe we can say something else. Something that sparks change. I’m listening, waiting to hear what that is.
For those interested, here are links to two great, healthy “pro men and women together” sites:
The Good Men Project: http://goodmenproject.com/
The Men Can Stop Rape Campaign: http://www.mencanstoprape.org
Feel free to send me more!
“Suicide of Moroccan girl, 16 forced to marry rapist sparks outrage.” FoxNews.com . Fox News Network, LLC, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.