Fatima Bouhtouch is a very young (second generation) emerging writer of Moroccan origins, born in Modena on 25 October 1994. The young woman, who has always been passionate about all forms of writing, first approached reading avidly, then began to experiment with writing herself. Her debut as a writer was made official by the publication of Come Alberi (Einaudi-2019), a collection of writings that reaches out to the Western world, without forgetting or jeopardizing her roots. Today we decided to meet her to ask her some questions about her writings and to deepen some issues that many people may still consider taboo.
The role of the woman in society is very dear to you, this sentence is very striking… Are you referring to the situation of women in Morocco? Is it still true?
Fatima Bouhtouch: «Thank you for the question, this issue is very dear to me. That sentence has to be contextualized back at the time when my grandmothers were children. Today in Morocco the situation has improved a lot compared to that of half a century ago, but there is certainly still a long way to go. What’s most needed is to ensure full access to education to everybody, whether they are male or female. It cannot be denied, however, that in mountain villages and in the most isolated areas, girls have more limited opportunities than boys.
Unfortunately, this situation can be experienced in many places around the world. The paradox of Morocco is that it is a developing country, but in a capitalist and consumerist key. Cities increasingly resemble western urban agglomerations, where you can find shopping centers of all kinds and entertainment venues of various kinds, but education and health go on suffering from the usual problems, without real social progress. I hope for a prompt change».
What similarities did you find between Italy and Morocco in this regard? Do you think that, even if in a more subtle way, the role of women is always relegated to that of ‘second sex‘?
Fatima Bouhtouch: «The world and its history have always been male chauvinists. Just think of how recent is the entry of women into the active life of society and of the nation, even in Europe. I believe that there is still a lot of sexism in Italy, women are often referred to as the weaker sex or subordinate to men. There is also a male-dominated narrative when it comes to femicide, rape and family.
When I talk about it, I am often dismissed with the usual: “If you don’t like it, go back to your country where they subdue you and kill you as they please” and this is an indication of great ignorance, as well as a sterile approach to the problem. The fact that in another country the situation may be worse or the same does not make the problem in our country less important. I have the same right as anyone else to report a problem that I suffer from and I see its impact on a national and global level».
In the second part of the collection, entitled Fusto, appears Orgoglio (Pride) – Do you think that integration is always synonymous with denial? Have you found yourself in a situation where you had to make a choice? How did you deal with it?
Fatima Bouhtouch: «Excellent question. Integration is not synonymous with homologation and is the antonym of disintegration. We are all people with heterogeneous identities that must be respected. Italian citizen is not the definition of: white Christian individual. Yet often there is a great deal of confusion about these issues.
For me it was necessary to understand it and understand that there is nothing wrong with inherited and acquired culture. If they can coexist peacefully inside me, why can’t they do it outside of me?Fatima Bouhtouch
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I have always tried to make thoughtful choices, which did not clash with my identity, but I certainly had to find compromises. When I wore headscarf, I was not accepted for some jobs, without any reason related to my skills. I was explicitly asked to take it off because the people around me wouldn’t like it. These episodes are on the agenda».
Another concept that is very striking is to be found in Conoscenza Generazionale (Generational Knowledge) – Knowledge, therefore, is not just education, today’s world is constantly evolving, Will we have something to pass on to future generations?
Fatima Bouhtouch: «Of course, knowledge is not just education, but also common sense and a critical spirit. I learned a lot in school, just as I learned a lot from the people I grew up with and from the books I read out of pleasure and passion. I hope that digital progress and globalization won’t erase our peculiarities and that they won’t make every corner of the world look the same. If anything of it were to happen, we would lose a lot».
What does the term ‘digital humanism’ make you think about?
Fatima Bouhtouch: «The term makes me think about the need to make the human being the protagonist of the digital world and not the other way round. This is a very important, almost crucial point if we want to maintain human depth within a technological system».
Is digitalization useful for breaking down mental barriers? Is today’s situation better than how it used to be?
Fatima Bouhtouch: «This is an interesting question, because I have not yet taken a decisive position. On the one hand, I think that the digital world helps in breaking down mental barriers by offering new points of view and facilitating access to realities that otherwise we would know anything about, insinuating doubt in the most closed minds. But, on the other hand, I think that it can become a way of spreading the most obtuse ideas, giving voice to the most vulgar hatred, influencing weaker minds».
What are your plans for the future?
Fatima Bouhtouch: «Well, I would certainly like to make my way in the writing world, even if I still have a long way to go. I would like to challenge myself by trying different genres and styles. I would like to finish my studies successfully and achieve the right stability, which would allow me to work and find time for my friends and family and my passions».