This reaction paper talks the social codes that guide how women and men interact in exercise and cyber clubs. The author discusses the detachment between Fassi women in Fes. Some Fassi women identify more with conservative practices while others identify more with liberal ideals. The concept of public separation between different genders is practiced differently in exercise clubs and cyber cafés in Fes.
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Conflict on Modes of Interaction
Some women seek more privacy and as such, the club has partitioned their exercising space with heavy drapes. The liberal female clients find this to be suffocating because they are not able to get fresh air when the weather becomes too hot. There is divided opinion between female clients regarding if the separation of the space is necessary or not.
This creates conflicts between women that seek comfort and those that want the space to be hidden from men’s prying eyes (Newcomb 2006). Fassi conservative female clients cherish their religious practices and do not seem to be aware that they infringe on the right of other women that visit the club to exercise. The owners of the club do not know how to satisfy both sets of clients.
Another breed of younger women who have grown up in Fes find fault with the deep religious and cultural conservatism. They differ strongly with older women who still hold on to the conservative cultural norms and values. These young women do not want to be associated with conservative Fassi social norms and want fewer restrictions in public places.
The exercise club cannot be distinguished as a public or a private space. It is difficult for all its members to comply with the principle of separation of the two genders in public places as stipulated by Islam. Newcomb (2006) observes that the club represents foreign values that are beneficial to the society yet; the Fassi society is yet to embrace these ideals.
Changes in Culture
Cyber cafes have brought about a change in the way women and men interact. Majority of clients in these cyber cafés are under 30 some of whom are single and still in school. Many female internet users interact through the web with men from other parts of Morocco. Some of these relationships lead to marriage and as such, the strict social codes do not restrict men and women in Fes from dating.
The mixed gender interaction is made possible because there are fewer restrictions on the internet (Newcomb 2006). This shows a shift to foreign attitudes and values in the city and the country at large. Young people conduct their online interactions in French yet Arabic is the most spoken language in the country.
The internet has eliminated the barriers that exist in Fassi society between men and women. The women conduct themselves the way they are expected to. They have been able to find an effective medium through which they can share their experiences with people of the opposite sex.
Newcomb (2006) shows us that Fassi women interact with men without worrying about what the society will think of them. Cyber cafés have made it possible for young people in Fes to communicate with their peers with fewer restrictions. There is a difference between how young people understand culture and how old members of the Fassi society understand it.
Newcomb R. 2006. Gendering the city, gendering the nation: Contesting urban space in Fes, Morocco. City and Society 18(2): 288-311.