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 Feb 15 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.
Kingdom Ministry 2015 Mar p.6
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.
The following is a recording of a public Talk by Samuel Herd, who later went on to become a member of the Governing Body. He makes the following comments about why women need to be in subjection to men. This was based on information from a 1967 Awake!
"You know, scientists say that the cranial capacity of a woman is 10% smaller than that of a man so now this shows that she's just not equipped for the role of headship. Her role is one of subjection to the man. Her role is that of submissiveness and that means that she should recognize that she is a woman and be glad to be a woman. Never want to be what you are not equipped to be. ... Sometimes we hear her say, "oh if-if-if-if I-I were a man I'd do this and I'd do that as if to be wishing to be something that she is not designed to be. Do you know what that borders on? That borders on homosexuality. And do you know what the Devil is doing nowadays? He's taking women who want to be men and makes men out of them. ..." The Value of Our Theocratic Sisters" Samuel Herd, Oakland CA 1971
Awake 1967 Aug 22 p.27
"The female skull is lighter and its cranial capacity is about 10 percent smaller than that of the male, even as is the rest of the anatomy. ... That it is in the best interests of both sexes for man to take the lead is also supported by psychological evidence."
In public talks, Judge Rutherford, Watchtower's second leader, would refer to women as "bones and a hank of hair." This comes from a line in Rudyard Kipling's 1897 poem The Vampire - "To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair." One such talk was quoted in the 1941 Watchtower, where Rutherford advises against marriage.
Watchtower 1941 Sep 15 p.287
""Why, then, should a man who has the prospect before him of being of the great multitude now tie himself up to a stack of bones and a hank of hair ?" (Applause)" Click for scan.
Vindication I (1931) pp.156-157
"The women make monkeys or dupes of men. The men have become effeminate, soft and easily influenced, and have lost their real manhood and sturdiness in the affairs of state and home. For instance, when men are sitting at a table and a woman approaches, all the men arise and pay her homage and thereby elevate her to a place above men. The men remove their hats upon entering an elevator, if a woman is present; and these things are said to be acts of respect and to show that a man is a gentleman. But it is subtle, and the real meaning is much different from that. It is a scheme of Satan to turn men away from God and from his announced rule of the proper position of man and woman. The Lord has declared that no effeminate man shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. (1 Cor. 6:9) This proves that the scheme or habit of paying homage to women is not of God, but from the great enemy of God. It is a veneer of being a proper thing, and therefore it is more subtle than otherwise."
Golden Age 1930 Apr 2 p.446
"Whether the identity of the sexes, as such, will be preserved, we do not know. There have been some well authenticated instances in which women have been transformed into men, and it is possible that this transformation may become general and we shall all be brothers together."