Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Protecting our Sister Missionaries

If I ever have children, I am not letting them out of the house. It's just too dangerous out there. I guess I'll eventually let them go to school and so forth (I'll probably be sick of being cooped up in the house with them for five years by that point) but even that's a maybe.

One thing I'd never let my daughters do is serve a mission. If they insist, I will carefully screen where they go. New York City South? Next. Colombia Baranquilla? Surely you jest. France Bordeaux? I'll think about it.

It is quite amazing that sister missionaries still serve. It is a dangerous world out there and missionaries are particularly vulnerable. They are out late (till 9:30) in unfamiliar neighborhoods and often without any particular destination in mind. Being North American (in the majority of cases) can also draw unwanted attention, depending on the area.

The sisters in my mission didn't complain about harassment, but if you walked anywhere with them, you couldn't help noticing the catcalls and unwanted attention. It was a private joke among them that you were considered a greenie sister missionary until someone had flashed you.

Am I over-reacting, or do we need to do more to protect the sister missionaries? Are there certain countries they should not be called to? Am I sexist because I don't have similar concerns about Elders?


J. Stapley said...

France Bordeaux? I'll think about it.

Sure, if you want your daughter to turn apostate. :)

Rusty said...

New York City South? Dude, what's wrong with my hood? Actually, serving in any other ward but mine (in my stake) can be a little hairy.

You're right that there are dangerous areas out there but I guess it just doesn't scare me. I'm either really naive or have a lot of faith that the Lord will protect them. I was often in dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala and never felt like I was in danger. Again, though, it's probably one of those two things.

Susan M said...

Yes. You're being sexist.

John Mansfield said...

Your sexism concern reminds me of this bit from James Lileks:

They had a block party, and as is the custom, a fire truck showed up to amuse the kids. One of the firepersons was a rather petite female, presumably hired after the city fire department rejiggered its standards of physical fitness. A neighbor of my friend remarked how neat it was to finally have women firefighters; my friend - who is not only female but six feet tall - replied that she hoped that this firefighter wouldn’t be the one to attempt to carry her from their second floor bedroom. Whereupon the neighbor looked at my friend, looked at the firefighter, and put two and two together: deadlifting my friend out would have been impossible. Reality and The One Thing had just met like particles in an atom smasher.

And reality, of course, lost. “She could drag you out,” the neighbor said.

NFlanders said...

Actually, Rusty, I lived in NYC for five years (one year in Prospect Heights) and I really enjoyed it, besides that year in Brooklyn (no offense). I really love Queens.

Susan M-- I thought so, too. I mean, I got robbed a couple of times on my mission, and in the neighboring mission, a missionary was shot and killed. I didn't worry about it too much, but I'm sure my parents weren't ecstatic. I don't seem to have a problem sending a male child into that environment, but I think I would balk at sending a daughter.

Maybe I've been watching too much Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (I hate that show, but my wife watches it three times a day) but I think the sister missionaries are harrassed much more than male missionaries and that scares me.

mellancollyeyes said...

Your wife and I can have L&O:SVU parties. I love it so much I abbreviate it!

This is a tricky one. My first gut instinct says, "YES!" but I admit, I FEEL more at risk in any situation than I assume a man would feel. I feel at risk in un-risky situations, because of how women are treated in society.

Case in point: Most men don't go out to bars, worried that someone who they don't know is just going to come up and start touching them. As a women with strong opinions, I get really, REALLY pissed when a guy I don't know feels like I am a piece of furniture, like the glass or the chair, and he is at total liberty to put his hands on me, an arm around me, on my butt, grab my arm, whatever, as he hits on me. This is a threat to me in that it's unwanted physical contact. Of course, I'm not freaked out where I think I'll get raped, but it is a situation where I feel more uncomfortable and, in some settings, I avoid it totally. I don't think men necessarily feel this way. Now, take me and put me in a dark alley at night in downtown Minneapolis, and you're damn right I feel a hell of a lot better with a man there with me. (Well, arguably, I feel a hell of a lot better with a woman there as well.)

So, I don't know. It's a tough call. I suppose either way, it's a bit risky for both sexes. But, women in general tend to be a bit more at risk. So, I wouldn't say your CONCERN is sexist. I think it would depend on the resulting actions you make based on that concern. If you let Johnny play outside till 11 by himself but not Susie, that's sexist. If you let Johnny go on a mission but refuse to let Susie go on one at all, that's sexist. But, being concerned about it and wanting to ensure her saftey, not so much, in my opinion.

NFlanders said...

Adrianne makes some good points. I wouldn't treat my children any different, but I might be more concerned about certain situations.

Also, I was exaggerating: I don't think you can "let" a 21-year-old do anything. They're pretty much done taking orders after high-school. At this point, I don't even know if I would raise my theoretical kids Mormon, so mission talk might be a little premature.

Jason King said...

I think you are being sexist. First of all, I've known sister missionaries on my mission that could have been middle linebackers for our high school football team (I'm not joking).

So, if you're qualification is that of physical weakness, then surely there are elders that would fit your criteria, too. I've known quite a few nerdy elders on my miss who were not capable of defending themselves (think kip from Napoleon dynamite).

I don't think it's a sister/elder issue, but a physically capable/destitute of self-defense capabilities issue. Otherwise, you're just categorizing a bunch of woman with your stereotypical male chauvinism (in the nicest way of course :-).

Susan M said...

I was half-joking with my comment. (Just about all my comments anywhere are half-joking.)

It's a sore spot for me, though, because my mom was sexist. She wouldn't let me have a paper route because I was a girl. My brother got to. He got the easier chores around the house, too.

I'm not one to let fear of being attacked/raped/etc keep me from going anywhere/doing anything. I'll go to shows on my own at little bars and walk through Crackville on the way to my car at 2am. I'll be a little scared, but I won't let it stop me. Probably because I used to actually live right dead center in Crackville and it's different when it's your own neighborhood, I don't know.

So I'm with Rusty.

Anonymous said...

Sisters do endure A LOT of sexual harassment that I doubt is an issue for Elders. It would be great if someone in the mission or MTC actually talked about this and acknowledged it or even gave pointers for how to handle it.

I do remember a discussion among sisters of what to do when groped on the train (served in Japan, and this was a common problem durng rush hour for women of any nationality). Not sure the advice was particularly practical, but it was nice to know other people were in your boat.

I would guess that some MPs have areas where they do not place sisters for safety, but in my mission, the sisters got the worst (most urban/unsafe) areas because they also contained "areas of temptation" for elders.

Basically, sticking with your companion is a good tactic to stay safe.

You should just let your daughter decide. And your son, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Ten years ago I seved in Bulgaria, then the most dangerous and violent mission in the church. There were several instances when I was groped, sexually harassed etc. on public transportation and in my day to day meanderings. Our very wise MP knew these types of things went on and wanted us in when the sun was down, no exceptions to that rule. There were also areas that sisters just didn't go (gypsy quarters etc.) I had some comps who had trouble with the sun-down rule, and felt guilty that they were not out "working". My response was that you're not going to get hurt obeying the rules. A few comps and other sisters tested this rule and found out that, the president was right. For me personally, when I was grabbed or harassed, I fought back. Christlike? No, but when I was being violated I didn't care. You invade my space, I'll invade yours. You'd be surprised how quick the harassament stops when the dainty American turns into Jerry Springer ugly. If you do have daughters and they do want to serve missions, let them. Thanks, Eden