I spent much of my free time in late 2014 and most of 2015 helping ex-JW and anti-cult activist Bo Juel write his first book, “The Least of God’s Priorities.” He and I are both very proud of this creation as ex-JWs and activists, and because it’s just simply a very well-written story. Everyone who has read the book so far has said that it’s a great read; they laughed, they cried … which completely disproves the notion taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses that husbands should be the head of their wives, with the authority to make all final decisions between them, whereas she never has that same authority over him.
Write a Book
You may be wondering at that connection since Bo and I are not even close to being married (except for his silent screams and stomping of an imaginary brake pedal when I was driving him around the city during a visit). The connection between writing the book together and the headship arrangement as presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses is that Bo and I disagreed on virtually everything about the book from the very beginning. He wanted it to be half his life story and half a self-help book, whereas I said that we needed to remove most of the self-help section and tell more of his story. I wanted parts of his story he didn’t want to include, and there were many things he wanted to put in that I thought we should leave out. We disagreed on the title and the price, and also went back and forth on the structure of the book, trying to determine if it should be in exact chronological order or not.
To work out all our disagreements, we talked. And talked. And talked some more. We “tossed ideas onto the table” and explained our reasons for why we felt the way we did. We tried things a few different ways to see which would work the best and, on more than one occasion, “shelved” a decision to work on other aspects of the book.
Eventually, somehow, someway, we managed to agree on things. He conceded to me in areas where I have more experience, such as editing the story, and I conceded that he’s the businessman, so we adjusted the price and a few other things about its overall release, and of course I respected that it was his story and needed to reflect his voice completely.
The point is, Bo didn’t always have the final say just because he’s the man. I give him tremendous, tremendous amounts of credit for allowing me, as an editor, to actually slice and dice some of the book, while being willing to let me suggest parts of his life story that were missing and needed to be included.
Fly a Plane
During the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry into child abuse accusations among Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia (see this post), the subject of a woman’s role in the process of investigating child abuse was brought up repeatedly, even to governing body member Geoffrey Jackson. The point was made that female victims of sexual assault were very uncomfortable in having to tell their stories to only men, and in the case of the victims who were interviewed, both admitted that they were so uncomfortable, they couldn’t disclose all the details of their abuse.
When questioned about this, Jackson made the comment that a plane cannot be flown by committee, a common illustration Jehovah’s Witnesses use to justify having women in positions of submission to men. His point was that you cannot have two captains or pilots of a plane, ship, etc. According to him, one person always needs to be in charge and make final decisions; otherwise, as Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, it would be nothing but chaos and disunity.
Yes, when two people disagree, someone needs to make a final decision or the two need to compromise in some way so that an agreement can eventually be reached. However, Jackson’s illustration of a plane is grossly overstated and not applicable. For one thing, planes actually are flown by a “committee,” or should I say, the pilot doesn’t always have the absolute final say in every matter. Note a few things taken from the site collegegrad.com, about the role of air traffic controllers (bold added for emphasis):
Air traffic controllers typically do the following:
- Issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots
- Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air
- Air traffic controllers … manage the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport airspace, guide pilots during takeoff and landing, and monitor aircraft, as they travel through the skies.
Controllers … might direct one aircraft on its landing approach, while providing another aircraft with weather information.
Tower controllers … give pilots clearance for takeoff or landing, and direct the movement of aircraft and other traffic on the runways and other parts of the airport.
Approach and departure controllers … give clearances to enter controlled airspace …
En route controllers monitor aircraft once they leave an airport’s airspace… As an airplane approaches and flies through a center’s airspace, en route controllers guide the airplane along its route. They may adjust the flight path of aircraft for safety and collision avoidance.
Note how often it’s said that the air traffic controllers actually direct the pilot in what he or she does. Yes, the pilot is in the cockpit pushing the buttons and doing the steering, but imagine if the pilot ignored or overrode the direction from the towers. No doubt it would be disastrous for a pilot to stubbornly say that he or she is in charge and is the “head” of the plane, and didn’t recognize the importance of such a committee.
Note, too, that the pilot doesn’t just “consider the advice” of the air traffic controllers, but is told what to do by them on more than one occasion. They aren’t asked to reduce their speed or adjust their elevation, they aren’t requested to circle when a tarmac is not yet cleared; they are told what to do.
But It Is a Committee
This illustration was also grossly misused by Jackson as the subject at hand was the investigation process when it comes to allegations of child sex abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses. These things are handled by a committee; as a matter of fact, when someone has allegedly committed a serious sin, they are investigated by what is called a “judicial committee.”
However, within the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, these committees are always made up of elders, who are always men. The point was made by the chairperson that pilots can certainly be women, but even so, Jackson still didn’t get that pilots take direction from others, and that investigating accusations of child sex abuse shouldn’t mean just two people, with only one always in charge, like a marriage of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This outdated, antiquated notion that men should always be the head of a woman, in a marriage or elsewhere, is actually ineffective. In a home, there are two adults in a relationship, and having one in charge of all the tough decision-making puts an unnecessary burden on that one, and dismisses the valuable input of the other. The husband may not be the best choice for deciding on child rearing, the budget, where the family will live, and so on. The wife isn’t always going to be the best one either. They both have their individual skills, experiences, intelligence, abilities, and so on. They also both have their own opinions, and both should get equal time and consideration when it comes to having the final say.
As with flying a plane, writing a book, running a family, or investigating allegations of child molestation, it would be grossly ineffective to leave one party out of that process no matter what. Nothing would get done and even if it did, it wouldn’t get done very effectively, as the victims of child sex assault within the religion so painfully prove.
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Great analogy. I will make sure to use it. It makes a ton of sense.
Thank you. I would never tell anyone how to run their family; if the wife wants to defer to her husband on certain matters, that’s their business. However, making it an absolute rule and saying that otherwise there would be chaos and disorder is just ridiculous.