Media Representation of Women in Morocco – Script (en)

A film by Soufyane Moussaoui, Jamal Khalil, Annabel Schewe, 2021
Supervised by Dr. Kenza Oumlil

In a historically patriarchal society, Moroccan media have seen some positive changes in the past couple of decades regarding its representation and inclusion of women. However, injustice and sexism are very much alive in the media landscape and are not being sufficiently investigated.
Although modern scholars refute that media directly influence people’s opinions on a different subject matter, they still confirm that they play a major role in influencing one’s perception of the world and other people.
In Moroccan media the contrast between male and female representation in consequential fields such as politics or economics is obvious. And recurring stereotypical images of women with specific personality traits, domestic behavior, occupations, and physical appearance are only steering the country against the current of development.

In an attempt to propose a procedure to start monitoring TV programs in response to all of this, the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication; or HACA conducted a study with the intention of combating these gender gaps and stereotypes and revealing the difference between the airtime and exposure given to men and women on TV programs.
As one may expect the numbers can speak for themselves to say the least. This pie chart shows the number of interventions on TV in regard to gender. In news broadcast, 93% of the interventions are by men while only 7% are by women. As for debate programs, 88% of interventions are masculine while 12% are feminine.
Study by HACA:
This is one of the many findings by the H.A.C.A. that only reinforces the argument that gender inequality and women’s representation in Moroccan media is not in its best shape.

Interview with Dr. Kenza Oumlil:
I think generally speaking the Moroccan population is not feminist and does not openly advocate for gender equality. So, for one to be able to actually challenge stereotypical representation, they have to first have some type of media literacy, and not only that but also have some type of feminist consciousness. So being able to understand that there are socially constructed gender roles and expectations and that these are reinforced by mainstream media representations. And to also understand that these representations at the level of discourse have real material consequences. So to reach that level of consciousness I would say overall for the Moroccan population hasn’t been achieved yet. And so this is why there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done.

The foundations of the fight for women’s rights goes all the way back to the post-colonial era.
Indeed, as the country was rebuilding itself, a modernized wave of Moroccan women emerged with it, women who had access to proper means of education and a strong drive for change.
This led to them starting organizations and taking initiatives with the intent of promoting gender equality.
One such organization was the newspaper “8 Mars” the first feminist publication in Morocco. Its editor in chief Latifa Jbabdi was a fervent feminist and activist who participated to the creation of “L’union de L’action Feminine”.
The UAF became one of the biggest feminist organizations within the country. They pushed for many reforms and held many campaigns such as the 1 Million signature which consisted in pushing for a reform of the Moroccan Moudouwana, which is the country’s official family code.
This started a national debate, and the topic sparked controversy as it challenged the core values of many spheres of Moroccan society such as the minimum age of marriage or the removal of the Male guardianship system.
The debate took new heights in 1999, when the Moroccan secretary of state Mohammed Said Saadi worked hand in hand with women’s rights groups to create a plan for the inclusion of women in the National Development of the country.
This plan caused a national uproar as religious conservatives took it to the streets of Casablanca to protest this initiative on the basis that it went against religious values.
Meanwhile the supporters of this bill organized a march in Rabat at the same time to support women’s rights and equality.
All these events led to the change of the Moudawana in 2004, which was a historical turn point in the country.

From 2001 to 2003, King Mohammed the Sixth and his royal advisory board intervened for the revision of the moudawana.
The kings’ guidelines for the moudawana reform were as follows: Being attentive to the proposals of society with all its components, being coherent with the founding principles and spirit of Islam, following mainly but not exclusively the Maliki school of thoughts, being consistent with Moroccan obligation vis a vis the universal international human rights, principles and laws as stated in the constitution of Morocco.
All these events led to the change of the Moudawana in 2004, which was a historical turn point in the country.
In her book Women, Gender, and Language in Morocco, distinguished scholar and linguist Fatima Sadiqi sheds light on how language and misinterpreted religion plays a major part in assigning gender roles that result in sexism and prejudice against women.
She argues that decontextualized religious sayings such as “al mar’atu naqisatu din wa akl” (which literally translates to a woman’s mind and religion are deficient) often discredit women and weakens their image when tackling serious public or private issues.
She adds that women in Moroccan society are frequently referred to with words that put them in relation to their male entourage. As an example: bent flan (daughter of someone), mrat flan (wife of someone), or even al kateba d’flan flan (the secretary of someone.
Though the way Moroccan society is constructed comes in conflict with many factors that lead to a finer representation of women in media, modern digital platforms have come to challenge all of that.
Morocco has seen an upsurge in Instagram pages and movements that defy the status quo and point out everything that is wrong with it.

Thanks to new media, a generation of artists and creators who do not limit themselves to what society has provided them with, but look further into finding new ways of representing women. One pretty controversial movement goes by the name of “7achak”; it aims at breaking the taboo around menstruation and denouncing menstrual precariousness in Morocco which is still a taboo to this day.
We got a chance to have a sit-down with one of its co-creators: Sarah Benmoussa.
Interview with Sarah Benmoussa:
In Morocco, only 30% of women have access to sanitary napkins. And when women are on their period, they say: “I am on my monthly 7achak”. So, we chose the word 7achak to normalize periods.
Today, the media are more at ease when talking about women considering that women’s cause is a landmark for the country’s development. Mio, for example, have clearly democratized dishwashing in their ad by showcasing a man doing the dishes and it created a lot of buzz in Morocco.
The world is in constant evolution. Evolution means sharing, and sharing means sharing cultures & different points of views. So, if we can share points of views and open debates, we can automatically develop and evolve.
Regardless of their opinions, Moroccans like to hear new ideas. Our youth have access to multiple digital platforms.
I am very optimistic for the future generations because our youth are open minded, they are open to the word and very curious about other cultures.

This modern manifest of artistic expression that explores gender in Morocco can also be seen in the film medium, with movies such as Number One, Sofia or Rock The Casbah. All these movies explore gender in a way that has never done before. Mind bending ideas and notions are revealed to the public through the strong medium of film.
However, this can also be applied to photography with artists like Lalla Essaydi. Contemporary Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi, whose work revolves around Arabic female identity, addresses the intricate reality of the power structures imposed on the Arab female body through a scope tinted with tradition. Lalla’s work resonated with a large audience in Morocco and overseas, where she was acclaimed both by the public and the critics.
Although Morocco has come a long way from the 60s and 70s in terms of representing women in media, there is still way much that can be done.
Media literacy is a key component in the interplay of the media consumer/producer relationship.
And for starters, it helps one identify when they are being subjected to a caricatural stereotype that is invalid and unrepresentative of reality. The disparity between men and women in mainstream media is problematic and it needs all the attention of the responsible parties.
Clip from Zhor Mdaghri Alaoui talk: I appreciate Hegel’s Master-slave dialectic. He argues that when a slave frees himself from his master, He frees himself and his master. But how does he free his master? He frees him from the illusion that there are slaves and masters in society. When did you enslave people when they were born free?

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