In the United States, the term “housewife” comes with a plethora of opinions & associations. Whether Americans love the concept or hate it, generally the status of being a housewife is one saved for women in affluent families. In traditional Moroccan families, however, the term “housewife” doesn’t really exist; it is simply just a fact of life. Housewives are part of the cultural norm. In fact, The World Bank reports that Morocco’s female labor force participation (FLFP) rate was only 21.6% in 2018. That being said, a large majority of Moroccan women are not contributing to the labor force.
Time & time again on this trip we have been told that the house is reserved for the woman. This is due to cross sections between Islam and Moroccan culture that keeps women separated from others in private areas of life like the home. Within the Moroccan family, women play a quiet but important role. The woman is responsible for cooking, cleaning, and generally keeping order in the house. Without the woman in the home, the household crumbles to utter chaos.
Initially, the confinement of so many women to their homes stirred a level of uncomfortability in me. I felt almost as though the role was unfair and that Moroccan women should “break out” of these confines into the work field. After engaging with Chapter 10 of Leading Across Differences though, I’m recognizing that this is due to my own independent self-concept. I had to realize that the housewives I’m referencing may have a more interdependent self-concept. They may see their role in the house as being important for more parts of themselves including spouses, children, and extended family. It would not surprise me if this was the case in Morocco’s collectivist culture where everybody has a role that should be used to advance the greater group instead of the individual. It is important to check differences in self-concepts at the door before passing judgment on other entities. This way, we can look past our own biases to learn about & appreciate cultures different from our own.