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Rural-Urban Womanscapes And Fourth Wave Feminism In Morocco

Session XI-14, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
This panel explores the rise of fourth wave feminism in Morocco that surfaced during the February 20th movement and marked a major break from the country’s mainstream feminist activism. It stems from women’s increasing discontent with the culture of misogyny, authoritarian governance, and overall conservatism that erases women’s autonomy through silencing their political voice, and policing and disciplining their bodies in the name of tradition and honor. While feminists in the past lobbied for change through legal and political patronage, fourth waver sidestep all institutional structures to directly work at the grassroots level for gender equality and social justice for all. In addition, they choose digital media – largely overlooked by mainstream feminist organizations - for knowledge construction, dissemination, and mobilizing. Central to our argument is an exploration of how representations of the “woman question” – as advocacy for and/or opposition to gender equality, women’s rights versus the Islamist agenda, or modern versus traditional values – have been challenged by the eruption of bottom-up, female-led street protests in rural and urban spaces. These eruptions are redefining the conversation about women, exposing power relations within feminism and its discursive framework of rights, laying bare the gap between the inequalities. By way of illustrating our claim about the rise of fourth wave feminism, our paper analyzes women’s engagement of urban Morocco’s social media audiences with Jawjab’s webseries Marokkiates (2017, 2018), Zainab Fasiki’s artivism (2017-2022), and the Moroccan Outlaws collective’s manifestos (2019-2022). The statistical analysis and netnographic research of qualitative Facebook and Instagram comments demonstrate a high engagement with controversial feminist content aimed at breaking silence around questions of bodily autonomy and sexuality. At the core of our findings is the flourishing digital ecosystem of counter-culture content producers and the bourgeoning of this new feminist movement in Morocco that support an intersectional agenda (including LGBTQIA+ issues), encourage self-expression in the public space, and engage in constructive interactive debates around body and sex positivity. In addition, our paper also explores the women’s land rights activism against displacement and land dispossession in rural Morocco, the power dynamics between rural land rights and urban feminists, and systemic social inequalities. Given the disjunction between urban feminists and rural land right activists’ narratives, it examines the process of women’s positionality within the private / public binary and complicates theories about the urban elitist status of women’s leadership in North African countries.
Disciplines
Media Arts
Participants
Presentations
  • This paper will examine a new form of engagement with feminist content in Morocco on social media, liberating voices which were muted by dominant legacy media. The nature of this internet technology alters the way Moroccans send messages and interact with a large community of social media users. After the Moroccan Arab Spring, known as the February 20th Movement, and after the propagation of hashtag feminism, Moroccans looked to social media to unite their views in search for gender equality and social justice. This research will analyze the engagement of social media audiences with three feminist campaigns, which captured media attention and awakened collective consciousness: a documentary webseries produced by the disruptive digital platform Jawjab, Marokkiates (2017 and 2018), the artwork of artivist Zaynab Fasiki (2017-2022), and the manifestos of the Moroccan Outlaws collective (2019-2022). The statistical analysis and netnographic research of qualitative Facebook and Instagram comments will demonstrate a high engagement with controversial feminist content aiming at breaking the silence. Central to our findings is the flourishing digital ecosystem of counter-culture content producers and the bourgeoning of a new feminist movement in Morocco, support feminist and intersectional agendas (including LGBTQIA+ issues), encouraging self-expression in the public space, and engaging in constructive interactive debates around body and sex positivity.
  • This paper examines the growth of fourth-wave feminism in post-Arab Spring Morocco. Drawing on previous modalities of feminist engagement, this new gendered activism is rooted in a heightened sense of bitterness with the country’s misogynistic, repressive, and conservative culture, state, and the religious order that deny women their autonomy through enacting a regime of discipline and punishment. It explores how the development of digital technology, and the global protest culture that grew in the post-2000 economic recession-era, spawned the language, strategies, and modalities of mobilizing and organizing protests in the country. On the one hand, my work explores the significance of social media that has profoundly changed the process of knowledge construction and dissemination of issues of gender and social inequities. This anonymous, non-hierarchal, and democratic media, which helps skirt traditional gatekeeping mechanisms, and enables new ways of thinking and modes of operating (Chamberlain 2017), has been charged by some with reproducing neoliberal feminist framework (Rottenberg 2018, Ghadery 2019). However, the sheer number of stories shared via hashtags debunks such accusations and displays “collective experiences of structural inequality” promoting solidarity among individuals (Ghadery: 261). The paper illustrates its claim through a case study of the web series Marokkiates (2017, 2018), Zainab Fasiki’s illustrations (2017-2022), and the Moroccan Outlaws’ manifestos (2019-2022). On the other hand, this paper also brings into its fold the land rights activism carried out by women in Morocco’s rural areas. It does this to complicate the urban elitist status of women’s leadership to make space for the language for rural women’s struggle against land dispossession and understand the local and regional growth of this popular, nationwide uprising that is truly intersectional in its reach, modality, and objective.
  • This paper aims to look at the new context of gender politics in Morocco post-Arab uprising and post–gender-based reforms. This new context reveals an interesting reconfiguration of the terms of the debate —and its players—around what constitutes and frames the “women question” in Morocco. Representations of the “women question”—as advocacy for and/or opposition to gender equality, as women’s rights versus the Islamist agenda, or as modern versus traditional values— have been challenged by the eruption of bottom-up, female-led street protests in rural areas and in the suburbs of urban centers. These eruptions are redefining the conversation about women, exposing power relations within feminism and its discursive framework of rights and laying bare the gap that I have just mentioned, between the inequalities that are ostensibly being addressed through activism led by long-standing NGOs, and the system that continues to reproduce those inequalities. In each case, the changes that are emerging operate within leaders’ specific local socioeconomic situations, and the political issues at play are largely structured by the intersection of socioeconomic inequalities and political authoritarianism.