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Hafsa Bekri-Lamrani

University Mohamed Benabdellah

Saïs –Fès   March 14, 2003



When Professor Khadija Loummou contacted me for this lecture, I first thought she was inviting the poet. Then she told me that my talk was to be related to the International Women Day, I thought:”Oh Oh! That’s more problematic. As you know, we have a myriad of personalities in us, all wrapped up in one body. Separating them could prove dangerous, since separation could be a fertile land for tyranny. So I turned on my thinking machine and started questioning the woman, the teacher, the poet, the wise, the rebel and even the…man in me! I came up with the following questions:

  • March 8, an International Women Day? Why? Since when?
  • What evolution of the relationship men/women?
  • Women/Men: is the division natural or artificial?
  • What do we do today with what we have accumulated throughout the history of mankind?
  1. March 8 International Women Day

If we look at the context in which the celebration of this day began, we realize that it was born in Europe and America in a time of crisis at the beginning of the XX century when women in industrially developing countries started working for a salary outside their homes. They were underpaid, compared to men, and worked in difficult conditions. Uniting in Trade Unions helped women find the necessary support to express their rebellion against discrimination.  The first form of this rebellion came from socialist women in the U.S. who demonstrated on the last Sunday in February, in l908. In 1910, two years later, inspired by the U.S. women movement Clara Zetkin from Germany proposed an International Women day for women to press their demands. It was unanimously approved.

“Now, what is the importance of the place of this event in history in general and for us in particular?” you may ask.

Well, we see that it took place in countries that were accelerating their rhythm of industrialization which means that the revolt came from exploited city women, which in turn brings us to the question: What is the interference of time and civilizations in this male/ female conflict?

2.  Waves of civilizations and the Male/Female evolution

In the early 1980, the American prospect analyst and writer Alvin Toffler wrote a book entitled: The Third Wave. The book presents and analyses the main three periods of humanity: The agrarian wave (Long period), the industrial wave (shorter period) and, now the information wave. What kind of men/women relationship and behavior to observe and analyze during those three periods?


The agrarian wave

Working and living in close contact with nature implies living in harmony with it, since agrarian people’s source of shelter and food is earth. Mother earth, and hence a respect in all agrarian societies for women as related by their ability to give birth to both sexes and to feed the human baby (one of the most dependent animal on her/his mother). This power gave women a sacred and mythical power which imposed respect on men. If we shed this type of light on this region of the world (Middle East and North Africa) we noticed that Bedouin women were freer than city women. The Harem is a city product, linked to immobile city life.


The Industrial Wave

The more urbanized a society, the more discrimination on women. And, Industrialization implies urbanization. In the mid XX century in Europe, the most industrialized country was England and it was the most urbanized (compared in 1844, to France for example). The “natural” division of roles and tasks between men and women started to change in this new wave of industrialization. The economic language for industry, inherited from the accumulation of goods from the colonial era, was wild capitalism. Creating needs to make profit resulted in exploiting the vulnerable: poor people, women, foreigners. The more vulnerable, the more exploited. This is why industrialization, socialism and, the protest of women are linked. They are different aspects of the same phenomenon.  Women protest seem to have been born with the industrial era and to have weakened (if not died) since 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapsing of the Soviet Union.


The Information Wave

This wave is at the same time the most important one for us and the most difficult to analyze, since it is too recent, too young for us to perceive it as a whole. Old references are fading away and new ones are not clear yet. And yet, we have to keep alert, not to get caught in fake problems. As communism, the counterpoint of capitalism disappears we are left with savage capitalism again as THE sole economic system for the world, with its deceiving tricks. Everything is merchandised and marketed with high tech information tools. Cyber cafés flourished throughout the world. The most vulnerable people are again exploited, this time regardless of any geography. It’s so great to have an e-mail and correspond at light speed with the world. But how sad and degraded that millions of women and children are exploited for sex through the same web! For women like me who were strong protestors, in the seventies, against this vile exploitation, there certainly has been a great regression. When I watch video clips where girls are shown either as perverse sex objects or stupid dolls, I feel that we are way  “Beyond Freedom and Dignity”.(B.F. Skinner)

3. Men/women: Natural or artificial Division?

 Nurturing-Gathering Women/Hunter-Killer Men


In our journey in time from March 8 into deeper times and, for further understanding of the existing conflict between men and women, we will travel back to pre-historical times before the agrarian era. If we look at the symbol for men and women (      )

We find that the female symbol represents stability and the male symbol an outward movement. Man as a mere animal is a very weak, defenseless being. His female needs a lot of protection, since his children stay dependent for a long period of time unlike other species. Naked he needed to hide in caves. He would go hunting to bring back food for his female and children. How did this weak, insignificant being got to master the whole planet? Through his accumulative creativity in arm making,, from the fabrication of the stone arrows to hunt animals for food, to the making of intelligent bombs to hunt oil in Iraq. What kind of psychology would this man develop? “I can kill or subdue anything that moves and function in directions opposed to my views. I am the man, the god (Pharos, Caesar, Hitler, and more modern tyrants). Unlike other animals, man has not stopped at the hunting for food stage, he has accumulated killing technology and humanity has been a constant war trend (with some parentheses of truce) Even today figures speak for themselves: a very large percentage of the scientific research budget in the U.S. goes to arm technology, and this budget was increased after September 11.

Meanwhile women still have to confront nature, its beauty, force and violence in their own body. They bear and give birth to children of both sexes. Bearing life and preserving it are sacred acts and keep women in a vulnerable situation. This vulnerability is used as a step for men to prone their superiority as inventors and technocrats. Brain inventions gave men an immense and uncontrolled power on his environment. The sacred and mythical role of the Mother, Mother Nature, Mother Earth is cast down as a plain unsophisticated role, as compared to his brain productivity. Drowned in his pride he does not realize that he is a mere Frankenstein who will be destroyed by his monstrous creatures, unless he accepts his natural vulnerability, in a word find God above him and the woman in him.



We have today, reached a point of international madness where we cannot afford needless conflicts. We have all, in one way or another participated to this madness; each culture, each country contributing its part. Time has accelerated with the globalization of greediness. Tyranny has always flourished on division and separation. Awareness of our common task is urgent and we have to make internal room for RESPECT which for me is an absolute must and the real source for equality, not only between men and women but between nations.  “Alienation starts” says Michel Foucault, “when one designates to the other the place where the other should stand”. Who decides for me what I am, except God who created me?

To conclude I would say that in my Islamic culture, mind and creation are linked. Women and men are thus equally created and are to be equally respected.

Some books to read

Mary Wollestonecraft:    A Vindication of The Rights of Women

(Mother of Mary Shelley)

Alvin Toffler:                  The Third Wave and Power shift

B.F. Skinner                  Beyond Freedom and Dignity

Eric From                             To Have or to Be

Leonard Schlain            The Alphabet versus The Goddess

Hafsa Bekri-Lamrani

Fès 14, 2003

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