I present a brief interview I conducted for my gender studies class. Henna across genders and cultures from a Moroccan perspective. I interviewed an anonymous male identifying subject to gain an insider perspective. Please keep commentary respectful, this is just one unique perspective, I will give my thoughts from a western perspective at the end.
I understand you are from Morocco. Where did you grow up?
—-> In Casablanca, Casablanca is the biggest city in morocco, is a port city and commercial hub in western Morocco.
You mentioned Morocco is a good place to visit and not live, why is that?
—-> Because there is a lot of corruption there, legal prostitution( under the table) the crime rate is increasing from year to year. ( plz check the links attached)
Where in Morocco would you recommend visiting as a tourist?
—-> South of morocco: like Agadir, Dakhla, taghazout, Tanger, chefchaoun. ( still two more touristique place like marrakech and Fes but not safe)
How long have you been in the United States? Do you like it here better? Why or why not?
—-> Im in US for 8 months now, people here are so nice and don't judge you by your religion or your color.... you can be what you want and specially everybody here is under a law not like in morocco, if you’re from a big family famous or if you have a lot of money you’re not under a law.
What type of henna events/ traditions did you observe in Morocco?
—-> Mariages, Circumcision Ceremony, Religion Holiday (Eids)
How did you get interested in doing henna? Did you teach yourself?
—-> Since i was young kid, 5 or 6 Years old. My family do it for me in my Circumcision ceremony ( its the only thing when mens have to use henna)
—-> i try to teach myself, in still doing the easy design. But i like more the traditionnel stikers henna
The traditional Stickers he is referencing are known as the "Tape resist method" or simply "Henna stickers/ Mehndi stickers" partially shown in this image. These stickers are traditional in many different cultures and you can see them used many in parts of Africa. It is to be noted that the floral patterning on these stickers are more Indian design influence than Moroccan influence.
Was it always clear to you that henna was not to be applied for men? What reinforced that idea?
Our traditions in my country and in all other arabic country. Because henna was always applied by female in that country. If somebody see a man with henna even if its small tattoo he gonna complain.
(Sidenote: it is extremely common in India for men to apply henna as artists, but not as common and socially accepted for males to receive henna. )
You mentioned to me that you have a male side and a female side. Tell me about that. Were your sides always evident to you?
—-> the two are evident. I like my man side, the side that i have always use in my life for work, sport and everything. The oder side i like sometimes doing makeup, lingerie and specially doing my nails. But always discretely.
Do you personally feel that henna is just for women?
—->No, for me henna is for everyone. Man and women.
Do you see henna as a cosmetic or more of a ritual?
—->I see henna as cosmetic, as médecines, and for making ourself beautiful
(Trigger warning: hate speech.) You mentioned to me you had a Facebook page dedicated to your artwork, but you deactivated it due to hateful comments. What type of artwork did you post and what kind of responses did you receive? Where these judgments from males or females?
—-> I was sharing my little works, henna for woman’s, man with henna, specially in india when its possible for man to do henna for there weeding.
—-> i had some comment and private message like this: God does not have mercy on you, Virility is worthless, (a lady speaking to there friends: The mens started competing with us), You have tarnished the image of men, Do you feel abdominal pain at the menstrual cycle bitch? If you are behind me Im gonna kick you.
—-> The judgments was from males and females too.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience with us! I am very sorry for the abusive feedback you have received.
Here in the United States, cultural attitudes toward body art on males varies but is generally more accepted. This might be attributed to the popularity of permanent tattoos in western culture, and their association with masculinity and toughness. Many male clients LOVE expressing themselves through body art.
Some of my clients come from traditional henna-using cultures/backgrounds and embrace those customs for themselves and some communicate the idea that henna is reserved for women or a feminine thing. These attitudes are highly subjective and depend on upbringing, culture and learned gender norms.
I would not make any sweeping declaration that anyone's personal feelings or beliefs are wrong, I simply encourage all people to follow their interests and comfort. I will say, some of the most EPIC hennas I have ever seen are on men! Check out the tag #MENNA (men +henna = MENNA) online to view mind blowing pieces by other artists!
Preconceived ideas of design styles looking "masculine" or "feminine" still inform cultural attitudes in western society and members of the Indian, African and Middle Eastern Diaspora. In my experience, men in festival settings and private appointments generally love to get large designs done. Many prefer the more "masculine" geometric styles inspired by Moroccan design, yet many others opt for floral design that is typically associated with "femininity."
Some men opt for smaller designs, it just depends on your comfort zone and preferences. Small designs can be just as powerful!
Moroccan Fusion style, Mixed with talismanic elements from various cultures: Unalome (Buddhism) and Seed of life (sacred geometry).
To sum it all up: If your a male seeking some body adornment, go for it! Seeking body adornment does not make you feminine or less masculine.
Search for a henna artist that works on both men and women because some female artists are not comfortable or cannot due to religious reasons. Always respect the artists cultural norms when your seeking a henna artist, and please do not seek henna for the wrong reasons! To mock a certain culture by getting henna done, henna as a costume or getting disrespectful hate symbols is not appropriate.
PS: Please refrain from cracking a Mike Tyson joke: we henna artists hear that one ALL THE TIME!
Comments? Let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.