Women and Submission
Jehovah's Witnesses are a patriarchal society where women are to view men as their head and only men can hold positions of responsibility and teaching in the congregation. The head of a wife is her husband, and the spiritual head of a "sister" is a "brother". A female Witness is not to pray in front of a male Witness and must wear a head covering in order to pray in front of an unbaptised man or conduct a meeting in front of other sisters. This is one of the more unusual Watchtower practices, particularly as the covering of choice is often a tea towel or paper napkin. A 1930 Golden Age even claimed they may turn into men in the New System.
Although speaking against domestic violence, Watchtower articles praise women for staying with husbands despite violent abuse, and Witnesses are encouraged to stay with violent husbands except in extreme, life-threatening situations.
Well into the twenty first century, illustrations within Watchtower publications have a strange Stepford Wife feel, with women in the kitchen and men in the living room, seemingly taken directly from the 1950's.
Watchtower 2012 Apr 1 p.29
"Selma recalls a lesson she learned from the Witness who studied with her. “On one particular day,” says Selma, “I didn’t want to have a Bible study. The night before, Steve had hit me as I had tried to prove a point, and I was feeling sad and sorry for myself. After I told the sister what had happened and how I felt, she asked me to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As I did, I began to reason, ‘Steve never does any of these loving things for me.’ But the sister made me think differently by asking, ‘How many of those acts of love do you show toward your husband?’ My answer was, ‘None, for he is so difficult to live with.’ The sister softly said, ‘Selma, who is trying to be a Christian here? You or Steve?’ Realizing that I needed to adjust my thinking, I prayed to Jehovah to help me be more loving toward Steve. Slowly, things started to change.”After 17 years, Steve accepted the truth. Click for scan.
Watchtower 2011 May 15 pp.8-10
" “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Eph. 5:22) This statement in no way suggests an undignified position. ... Rather than manifesting the attitude of disobedience and independence that characterizes the world, she is in submission to her mate. (Eph. 2:2) A wife who is foolish does not hesitate to speak unfavorably of her husband, whereas a wise woman works to increase the respect that her children and others have for him. Such a wife is careful not to undermine her husband’s headship by nagging him or arguing with him. There is also the matter of being economical. A foolish woman likely squanders her family’s hard-earned resources. A supportive wife is not like that. She cooperates with her husband in financial matters. Her way of doing things is marked by prudence and economy. She does not pressure her husband to work overtime. ... Being exemplary in a supportive role may be a challenge for a wife when her husband makes a decision she disagrees with. Even then, she manifests a “quiet and mild spirit” and cooperates with him to make his decision work."
Watchtower 2008 Nov 1 pp.11-12
"Before studying the Bible, I didn't think that my husband ought to be the head of the family. I liked to make many decisions on my own. However, I gradually found that applying Bible principles contributed to the peace and happiness of our family. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Slowly it became easier for me to be submissive, and my husband has noticed these changes in me."
Our Kingdom Ministry 2000 Jun p.3
"Occasionally at meetings for field service, it might be necessary for a baptized sister to offer prayer if there is no qualified brother there to represent the group. She would need to wear an appropriate head covering. If it is likely that a qualified brother will not be present at certain meetings for service, the elders should assign a qualified sister to take the lead."
The Awake 2008 covers the topic "Violence Against Women, What is the Bible's View?" Whilst speaking against such violence, it then concludes with the topic of "Headship in Marriage", explaining why women must be submissive to their husbands. It refers back to Old Testament examples, where women were treated as their husband's collateral, a concept that is at the heart of the dominance and mistreatment of women over the centuries.
Golden Age 1930 Apr 2 p.446