I am just back from Morocco, where I spent two weeks and two days with my daughter, Maggie, seven of her classmates, three other moms, two dads, one sister, and the founders of her boarding school, Mary and Kenny.
The purpose of the trip was for us to trek across the Sahara for four nights and five days, camp out at night, and then to go to Marrakech, where we did service work at an orphanage for four days. In between, we had a day of sightseeing in London, and two days in Marrakech.
Morocco is a place where various ancient indigenous cultures live side by side, winding their way around each other, geographically, like the circular cobblestone streets of the medina, each archway holding thousands of years of history, each doorway leading to some impossible-to-imagine world that opens, and then shuts, as if it had never been, or, perhaps, as if it has always been.
Donkeys share the roads with goats, chickens, bicycles, motorcycles, cars and pedestrians. We took an eight-hour journey from Marrakech, through the Atlas mountains, covered in snow, and arrived at the edge of the Sahara at nightfall, meeting up with our guides and camels, and setting up camp.
This was my first time, camping out. Yes, you heard me. I came, I saw, I camped.
The girls had bought a soccer ball to entertain themselves. And what we discovered, over the next few days, was that whenever they played, local kids of all ages would appear—as if by magic—wherever we were, to join the game. We would trek for six hours a day, and when we would stop for a picnic, in the middle of nowhere, suddenly a Berber child or two would come running across the desert to play soccer.
One day, we stopped on the edge of a village in the Sahara. There was a tiny one-room schoolhouse nearby. Some small kids from the schoolyard came and grabbed the ball, and our girls ran to the schoolyard, and played, just over a stone fence, out of our sightlines. About 20 minutes later, one of our girls came back, soccer ball in hand, looking upset. A moment later, another one of our girls arrived in hysterical tears, flinging herself on the ground, unable to stop crying.
Mary and Kenny had the situation in hand, so we waited until evening Circle to get the story.
Western women and girls have a tough time in Morocco. We do not wear veils, we do not hide from view, as do the women of Morocco. And even when wearing long sleeves and trousers, the outlines of our bodies are visible in a way that is not customary in this culture. The girls had been drawing lots of attention from boys from the moment we arrived. Some girls found this beguiling, some girls found it offensive, and some girls were just plain scared. In this case, some of the older boys had asked to take pictures with the girls after the soccer game. The girls felt comfortable enough to agree. And then, some of the boys put their arms around them. And asked for their watches and bracelets. Some of the girls rebuffed the attention. Some of the girls enjoyed it and flirted back. At one point, the boys’ attention crossed the line from fun to discomfort. The boys stole a kiss. Which resulted in the tears, and then, accusations.
The discussion that evening became emotionally charged. The girls reported lots of different responses; some of them were able to say “no” to the boys. Some felt powerless to stop them. Some loved the attention and encouraged it. The girls who had said “no” were really down on the girls who did not. And of course, the parents, filled with concern, were extremely upset with the girls who had not declined the attention.
I listened carefully to the criticism and fear. And finally spoke my truth.
“We live in a world that does not understand or value the power of woman. Women do not understand it, nor do men. In fact, we are on a continent in which 92 million women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation, and three million young girls each year are at risk for this procedure. There is a child, right now, having her genitals cut, because her culture does not want her to own her birthright, her power as a woman.
“And right now, in our world, there is no place for a young woman to practice taking ownership of this innate power that is her birthright. Boys get to practice. But we criticize our girls for experimenting.
“What happened here today was great research. Our girls were but an arm’s reach away from us, and they experimented with their impact in public view, with a group of kids, in the company of one another. And the moment they got in above their heads, they reached out for help. This was a perfect experiment, executed perfectly. Our girls now know more about their impact. They know more about the boys in this culture. And without knowing it, they have already learned how to make even better decisions about using their innate power next time. A woman’s power is something that has to be learned, just like learning to walk, or talk, or play soccer. We start out not understanding the game and gradually build more and more skills. Going too far is part of learning. So is not going far enough. Every time you play, you get better. Especially with encouragement and appreciation, which these girls have earned today. Each of our girls played with her whole heart, and pressed into new depths of her emerging womanhood, in a foreign culture, with great courage. I honor each one of them. And I honor the pain of the risks that each of them has taken, even in bringing this experience forward for our attention.”
The girls’ relief at my comments was enormous.
They went from bad girls to heroines, in the flash of a paradigm shift.
This was not the only paradigm shift in Morocco that month. A few days before my arrival, 600 African women gathered under a white tent in Tangier. They traveled from all over the continent to celebrate the 100th Annual International Women’s Day, and to talk about government.
The meeting was the first forum of locally elected African women organized by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa. It took place as the winds of change were sweeping North Africa. Both Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak had been toppled, and unrest raged in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya—and host nation Morocco.
Women are waking up, internationally, experimenting with using their voices and standing in their power.
I am so grateful to have had a chance to travel to this part of the world, with my daughter and her school. I feel even more aware of my leadership and my responsibility in this world.
Our Sister Goddess Community is so powerful.
I know that each time we inhabit the fullness of our freedom and stand inside our gorgeous, radiant, eternal, incandescent power, we open the doors for women everywhere on this planet to do the same.
Each of us has a part to play in our own personal Pleasure Revolution.
I have let you into my most recent chapter.
How are you rocking yours?
With so much love and pleasure,