The perks of being a white-passing, undergraduate, study abroad student in Morocco

**Update Feb. 3: This post is sort of irrelevant now since, as of the evening of February 3rd, the original article in question has been deleted from Morocco World News. Click here for a link to the Google cached page (courtesy of @Karim_EH).**

[The following is a satirical post based on the article initially entitled “The perks of dating a Moroccan man while living in Morocco,” which was been changed to “On dating a Moroccan man while living in Morocco.” The article initially listed Morocco World News‘ assistant editor, Katrina Bushko, as the author–but her name has since been dropped from the article’s byline without any explanation.]

Not in a million years did I think I would get to exude my privilege while studying abroad! Not being able to stand out at my Ivy League university, I had no expectations that going to Morocco would reveal the deeply embedded hierarchy I would later find myself situated in. But life has a funny way of handing you surprises, and this was definitely one of them.

[Image of Talitha Getty on a rooftop in Marrakech, Morocco. Image via Jezebel.]

[Image of Talitha Getty on a rooftop in Marrakech, Morocco. Image via Jezebel.]

Being a child of a multi-cultural marriage has instilled within me an appreciation for flat multiculturalism and to know what to expect when I interact with people who are less privileged. Of course that only got me so far. I have a great appreciation for Moroccan people: the Orientalist tropes about hospitality were totally on point and because Brazilians are close enough to Moroccans, and I love Brazilians, it makes sense that I absolutely adore Moroccans…broadly speaking though. (This obviously excludes the disenfranchised and marginalized classes of Moroccans who scare me with their poverty). So I guess that puts me one step closer to being involved with a Moroccan.

However, what really intrigued me about my exotic and (now ex) boyfriend was the fact that he recognized how my white-passing skin resonates with dominant representations of beauty inherited from a colonial era and sustained through the socioeconomic and political expansion of Western hegemony. On any given day, I could walk through the souq in Fez or in the streets of El Jadida and be stared at, called to, and generally harassed–I understood this as being a manifestation of how Moroccan society defines beauty through common images in media and advertising until I realized that this treatment toward women is not exceptional and that sexual harassment on the streets of Morocco is a serious endemic that merits more than a sentence indicating self-worth. I had written off most Moroccan men as being in either one of two categories: they are sexually deprived animals who prey at the closest thing to a vagina or they want to exploit my position as a white-passing non-Moroccan who is visiting from a country associated with the proliferation of neoliberal policies that have essentially reduced Morocco’s economy into a market dependent upon IMF and World Bank loans and has made Morocco reliant upon tourism as a major source of capital, as such, I must deal with various Moroccans trying to sell me things. But, I luckily found one (I choose to say “one” as a benign expression of my privilege because I see this Moroccan man as a continued manifestation of my objectifying gaze that engenders the way in which I see brown men from a non-Western country). This gives me hope that there is, in fact, a third category of genuinely good Moroccan men who are willing to build a relationship with me based on the power imbalance I have illustrated above without questioning why is it that I have reduced the entire Moroccan male race into 3 mere categories that mirror the ways in which colonial powers created categories to reduce the populations they dominated over  and blur over any nuance that could have broken down the premises on which their exertion of power was based upon. So that was definitely a pro of dating this “third category” Moroccan: submission.

On the other hand, a con of dating a Moroccan was the fact that my Moroccan didn’t speak my language. If you’re looking for a Moroccan who speaks English, you’ll have to look for them at Al Akhawayn University (AUI), the country’s most elitist and exclusive academic institution. Otherwise, it is somewhat rare to find Moroccans more than proficient at English on the whole because Moroccans are too busy learning languages that are either imposed upon them by the public education system or learning languages that are useful for their careers.

The most desirable of Moroccans who are likely to be accustomed to your privileged background are those from the upper class families and whose parents enrolled them in a private school. You’ll end up with a Moroccan who is the closest thing to that guy back home.

My boyfriend luckily spoke English…so well he could’ve attended AUI but not THAT well since he didn’t understand my slang and sometimes he translated directly from his first and second languages. I should note that my Arabic and French are nowhere near his skills, but that’s irrelevant since it’s him that needs to adopt to MY constraints despite the fact that I’m visiting HIS country.

Of course, I would not have embarked on this path of dating a Moroccan if I didn’t benefit from this liaison in some way. Probably the most rewarding aspect to dating a Moroccan, however, was just the simple obvious and ground-breaking fact of how much I learned from him in regards to language and culture. Of course, I’ve learned how to say a few key words in Darija that I’ve always wanted to know and couldn’t ask my Moroccan friends or anything, such as “what the fuck am I doing here?” and “how ridiculous do I sound?”

Not only did I learning his language better (this grammatical error is deliberate as it appears in the same paragraph in the original article), I was more immersed  in his culture: it’s one thing to travel the country with a group of fellow-privileged tourists, but it’s something else entirely to go native with a native. He showed me things I would have never noticed otherwise, like the fact there is a side of Morocco that deviates from the images reproduced on the Real Housewives of New York. As a helpless damsel, his presence protected me from the glaring stares of other men, which in no way suggests my dependence upon a male figure to ward off unwanted exertions of male privilege. As such, I got to experience Morocco in a whole new way, and that is how I wanted to see it all along (no, this line is not straight from Gustav Flaubert’s travel diaries as much as it may resemble them).

I really enjoyed dating my Moroccan who reified the power imbalances between our countries. When I was with him, I barely even remembered that my country has pushed for the policies that have led to the vast income inequalities in addition to being an ally of an authoritarian monarchy that continues to repress critical political expressions–whether on the streets or online. And in the end, I am very glad I got to have this privileged experience with such a submissive person.

[To read the original article, click here.]

3 thoughts on “The perks of being a white-passing, undergraduate, study abroad student in Morocco

  1. Yes! Let’s ridicule the clearly sheltered, teenaged girl for being naively enthusiastic about her study abroad experience. She hasn’t absorbed the grad school narratives about inherent racial oppression which liberate so many oppressed-yet-confusingly-privileged-relative-to-their-oppressors upper class students of colour from their sense of class guilt.
    “I don’t have to think about my personal privilege and the impact of my exploitation of it on maintaining class hierarchies while benefiting from elite institutions–because minority exemption!!! Now let’s get the silly white girl, because–white!!!”
    Also, good work exposing her identity so internet trolls can send her personal hate mail. She surely deserves rape threats and insults for being goofy, if at all possible. We all know obscure articles by young girls studying abroad provide the ballast for white patriarchy.
    However, before you ridicule her as a monstrous racist, bear in mind, this (barely out of high school when she wrote this) chick would have written the same essay about an Italian boyfriend if she’d studied in Florence. Or a Russian boyfriend.
    Because she appears to have been a teenager, and therefore innately goofy.
    (Yes, I’m clearly an ageist.)
    Also, bear in mind that many stereotypes do exist about the ‘perks’ of dating an American girl abroad. So consider complicity before you crucify this girl.
    Nevertheless, don’t let a little humanity stop you from fucking with her mercilessly. You’ve got a soapbox. Nobody can take that from you! Edward Said!!!
    By the way my first grader misspelled some things on her homework the other day, you know, in case you want to accuse her of being responsible for sexist stereotypes concerning women’s academic prowess…

  2. Lol! This article had me laughing the whole time, great writing! Yes, it was harsh but if you decide to publish an article online you also have to live with the consequences of some people actually reading it and not liking it…

  3. If she thinks moroccans have any kind of respect for the girls like her she must be dreaming , they were bought 10 cents in the slave markets of marrakech and used as maids , and it,s the barbary pirates ‘ history who says that

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