Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear Middle East, How will you treat my daughters?

Did you hear about Lara Logan, the reporter working on a 60 minutes story on Egypt's joyous celebration at their new found freedom? It was outrageous and truly horrifying, but an experience that many foreign woman in the Middle East worry about.  My friend Bridget, currently living in the UAE, but who has lived and travelled all over the Middle East sums up the concerns on her blog here, the reality of living in the Middle East as American woman.   As the days have passed, the story stays in the back of mind, a dark spot that taints what was otherwise a truly remarkable piece of history.  It has added a nagging doubt, questions as to how I want to proceed with my life.  Until we finish residency, Dr. J and I have a guaranteed four more years in this country but after that, the world is open.  We have both always wanted to do something more with our lives, travel, have adventure, do something to improve the quality of life of others outside this country.  It is the reason I joined Amnesty International in college, the reason I minored in anthropology, the reason I wanted to do the Peace Core, the reason Dr J studied the Middle East, decided to go to medical school, is working on a dissertation on how to make International Aid more effective, the reason that all the residency programs we applied to had strong international aid programs that he can participate in while in residency.  Whether it be for only a few months out of the year, for a couple of years, or for the rest of our lives we have always intended to take our family out of this country.  When we think of this time, this goal we've been working toward for so long, it usually brings excitement.  And when I watch stories like this I think, "please let's take our son where no girls will be sexting him.    A place where our children won't be thrown into the sex culture in junior high, a time when let's face it, few people are ready to deal."  But then this voice in the back of my head shots out, "Dear Middle East, How Will You Treat My Children?"

The thing you have to understand about the Middle East is that little American kids stick out.  They are darlings, surrounded by groups of people, photographed via cell phone, given candy, sweets, ice cream, and small gifts by strangers.  The attention can at times be overwhelming, stifling, and downright frightening.  Kids are unable to play uninhibited at the playground because of people wanting to look at their hair, pick them up, take their pictures.  Moms get upset by people trying to walk off with their children or with adults giving gifts without asking.  In some ways it is like being a little celebrity.  When Captain E was two we experienced it on our visits to Jordan and Egypt.  His blue eyes and curly gold locks were an instant magnet.  That in and of itself is not a "true" danger as they reach into the teen years.  While I'm sure that the blue eyes my husband blessed our two oldest with could potentially increase their popularity in class, I think that strict social pressures to not date, to avoid sex until marriage, to not marry outside of ones religion will probably keep my sons much appreciated "American good looks" from turning him too much into a ladies man. 

My question is more for my daughters, specifically my blond haired, blue eyed daughter.  Middle East, will you see her as my sweet, darling girl?  Will you understand that I am teaching her to keep herself pure and clean, that I am asking her to save herself for marriage, to give herself completely only to one man who has lived a life making him worthy of her?  Will you know that I am teaching her that her body is a temple?  That I am asking her to marry in the Temple?  Will you see that I hope for her an eternal marriage, one based on complete love and fidelity?  That I am teaching her to be the type of woman you are teaching your girls to be.  Will you be able to look past your own stereotypes of what an American woman is and see that I'm raising mine to be chaste and virtuous just like your own?  Will you protect her?  Will you treat her as the treasure that she is to me?   Will you keep her safe?  Or will all the unwanted and unwarranted attention of childhood turn into unwanted and unwarranted attention in young womanhood?  Will she be safe to walk to school, to have her hair uncovered?  Or will she be targeted by unscrupulous men, both young and old who will see her as "easy" because she is American?  Will the unwanted sexual attention poured out on my friends, now be poured out on my daughter?  Lara Logan, while an extreme case, was a very visual example of the sexual harassment and abuse suffered by woman in the Middle East.  There are many arguments as to why this is the case and many hypothesises on how this can change.  I hope that as the region changes, as more freedom is realized, prosperity gained, diversity is accepted, and violence is ended that it is a problem that will dissipate.  For now though let's take hope in the 20 or so soldiers and the group of woman that pushed their way into the crowd to save Lara Logan.  They are the heros of the this horrible event and they give me hope for a brighter future, one that is safer for all woman in the region, including my someday teenage daughter. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow...well said Crystal! There is a fear that keeps me from desiring to leave my home land but at the same time I have great fear for what my children's teen years will bring them here. You voiced what I very much want people to know about my wish for my own children and when I consider turning those questions to be posed to the west where I call home I realize the answer I would most likely receive is not this world values and morals are dissipating not just here but everywhere so we teach our children, as if the only thing that will protect them is what we teach them and hope and pray that they stay safe. I don’t feel as if the moral compass is that much better in the east…there is just more being kept from view. Satan has a grasp upon this world that I don’t think many devout members of our church understand and the more I learn of the moral sickness this world suffers from the more I prefer not to understand.



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