Between the World and the State: Women’s bodies as a battle ground in Morocco

By Jesilyn Faust
Submitted to Session P4975 (Women and Contemporary Politics, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Gender/Women's Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
As concerns about Islamic extremism rise in Europe and the United States, the gendered body has become the space in which both international organizations and the state negotiate the terms of security. This body becomes both the subject and the object of security as it is simultaneously constructed as vulnerable and a threat. This can be seen in global discourses about refugees, bans on Islamic garments, and international campaigns about women’s rights issues. The gendering of rights and bodies as women’s is appropriated into hegemonic discourses as a tool of power. This does not just happen at the global level, the nation state is also deeply invested in the construction of the gendered object on which the desires of the nation can be inscribed. The Moroccan case shows the interference of the West, Saudi influence, and endogenous struggles as all using the gendered body as a vehicle for their own interests and a battleground on which to struggle for hegemony. The ban on the manufacture and sale of the burqa in Morocco is only the most recently example in a long line of events and actions where women’s bodies become the gendered object of state security. The gendered body becomes a vehicle which the state uses to negotiate its position in the international arena. It is in a perpetual limbo between the world and the state, used as a battle ground for power structures. The same voices that claim to either protect or liberate this body, erase its agency and individuality in order to use it in the service of the needs of those in power. The gendered body is therefore simultaneously hyper visible and invisible. The state has long used the gendered body as a tool to position its interests at the local and global level. However, it has come to occupy a prominent place on the global stage in the years since the Arab revolutions and the rise of right wing populism in the West. The practices surrounding the regulation of these bodies is rooted in the colonial legacy and the Cold War. Mapping and analyzing the history and different powers involved in the case of women’s rights in Morocco, will show the practices and discourses by which women’s bodies and their rights become the embodiment of a battle ground of hegemonic contestation.