If you’re a woman and one Saturday morning you hear a knock on your door, do me a huge favor and don’t answer it. I mean, if it’s the cops or one of your kids then by all means find out what they need, but if it’s obviously Jehovah’s Witnesses, please don’t open that door.
When JWs visit you, it’s easy to be impressed by their simple manner and friendly demeanor. They may show you a nice scripture and talk about god’s purpose for the earth, and leave you with a book that’s full of colorful pictures of people who are all smiles and happy. They’ll talk about how very soon the dead will come back to life, about how governments in this world have been a failure for a reason, and about how everything will be a paradise right here on earth, any day now. You may be tempted to visit their local Kingdom Hall to find out more.
Like I said, please don’t open that door.
When you visit a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may immediately notice that all the women are in skirts and dresses. This isn’t an accident; female members in good standing are not allowed to wear pants to their meetings and in their preaching work. See this post for more. You may not own a skirt or think your legs are anyone’s business, but if you want to be a member in good standing, you’re going to need to go along with this rule. Period.
You might also notice that women do not address the audience from the stage of their Kingdom Halls, walk up and down the aisles with the microphones during audience participation parts, or hand out literature from a back counter. When an elder’s meeting is called for, no women will attend. This is because women are not allowed to teach or have any position of authority in the congregation, and are also not allowed to handle any official tasks, no matter how menial. This is true of the work done behind the scenes; at their world headquarters, women are not allowed on any of their committees that write literature or to make decisions regarding the religion overall, or serve in any other official capacity. Of course, when it comes time to clean that literature counter or podium in the Kingdom Hall, women can certainly do that.
This submissive position for women applies in any situation when a male member of the congregation is baptized, no matter his age. As an example, if you were to show up at the brief meeting they have before going out in their preaching work, you may notice a teenage boy is the one leading that meeting while older women, even those of retirement age, sit in the audience. If that teenage boy tells you what to do, you’ll be expected to fall in line. In some cases, the boy may even be a preteen. Your illustrious and successful career, years of being a mother, advanced educational degree, and overall maturity won’t matter one bit; he’s the male and you’re the female, so he’ll be in charge.
In the Home
Do you and your husband have a respectful relationship where you share the decision-making process, and you’re in charge of certain areas of the home and family? When you disagree, do you have just as much right to the “last word” as he does? Can you, at times, give him direction about how things will be done around the house, and can you make your own choices about what you wear and other such matters?
If so, be prepared to give that up if you become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As I bring out in this post, husbands have the authority to “correct” their wives where they see fit, even in how she dresses and wears her hair and makeup, and to do so with “firmness.” In other words, if your husband decides that you’re wrong about something, then you’re wrong. Period. He is also outright encouraged by Jehovah’s Witnesses to be “firm” when he “corrects” you. If you try to have equal footing with your husband in order to have some say about how the household is run, you will be accused of “competing” with him; note this post. The husband has the final say in all decisions, and you as the wife will be expected to be submissive and supportive of him.
Do you personally think a woman who is being abused by her husband should leave, not just for herself but for the children also? That’s another idea you need to give up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. While their official writings say that they cannot tell a woman to stay with an abusive man, those official writings are confidential from women. Their public literature consistently encourages women to stay with abusive men, even if they’re physically abusive to them and the children; see this post. Elders often blame women for this abuse, as I bring out in this post, telling her that she obviously has not been submissive enough and must have provoked her husband.
Lest you think I’m exaggerating this attitude Jehovah’s Witnesses have toward women, note the words of Samuel Herd, who is now one of their “governing body,” or their ultimate leadership. As I bring out in this post, he has said that women’s brains are too small for leadership roles and counsels them to act dumb with their husbands.
You might also consider that if you’re accused of committing adultery, your husband is allowed to sit in on all your meetings with the elders; however, if your husband is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and outright confesses adultery, you are not only barred from his meetings with elders, but the details of those meetings are considered “confidential” from you. See this post.
Note, too, that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the only grounds for divorce and remarrying is adultery on the part of the other spouse, so unless your husband cheats on you, you’ll be expected to stay with him no matter how poorly he treats you, and even if he’s outright abusive. Even if he does commit adultery, don’t expect a lot of sympathy and support. The November 1, 1981, Watchtower, had the experience of a 9-year-old boy who “tackled” his own mother after his father had an affair, telling her about forgiveness and daddy being the “head of house” so she should listen to him and take him back; you can read more about that at this post. That’s right, ladies, if your husband is unfaithful then your very own prepubescent child, whose diapers you used to change and who probably still isn’t allowed to cross the street by himself, is going to give you a lecture about marriage, commitment, sexual intimacy, and how daddy somehow deserves extra forgiveness because he is your “head.” If you don’t think that type of thing would ever happen in your house, remember that you need to sit in the audience at the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and listen to this type of counsel being given to women.
Dust Off the Hats
Own a hat? I don’t mean a ball cap, I mean a nice Easter Sunday hat like your grandma used to wear. No? You’ll need to run out and buy a few. This is because Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that women must wear a “head covering” of some sort when doing any type of work that would otherwise be handled by a man, or when doing this work in front of their non-JW husbands. This is to show her submissiveness and subjection to men.
Let me explain. A man is supposed to organize the car groups of local JWs before they go out in their preaching work, but if there are no men available, a woman may do this. However, she must wear a hat. Women who interpret public sermons for the deaf must also wear a hat. (November 15, 2009, Watchtower) If you study the bible with your own son and your non-JW husband is present, you must wear a hat. Married or not, if your son decides to get baptized as a JW and you study the bible with him, you must wear a hat. To show your submissiveness. To your own son.
Sexy Details, Please
Jehovah’s Witnesses have very stringent rules about behavior between the opposite sex when dating, and when these rules are broken, you can be “reproved,” either publicly or privately, or outright disfellowshipped (excommunicated). In order to determine if you should be simply reproved or disfellowshipped, and to ensure you’re nice and repentant of any sexual contact, three elders will meet with you privately and ask you details about the encounter. They might ask if the man fondled your breasts or your vagina, if you fondled his penis, if you had oral sex or anal sex, if you changed positions during sex, if you were penetrated with the man’s fingers, if you had an orgasm and how many, and anything else they might think of. You’ll be expected to answer these questions in detail and if not, it will be assumed that you’re hiding something or not repentant of your sexual conduct, and you’ll be disfellowshipped.
Don’t Be Raped, You Fornicator!
If you were viciously, brutally raped, what would you expect the response to be from your “spiritual shepherds” in the congregation? Would you expect help, support, comfort, loving words, or at the very least, assistance with getting to the police and a crisis center? How about those “shepherds” demanding you tell your story again and again to a group of three men, alone, who need to “discern” if you actually were raped or are lying about the incident, and who will excommunicate you from the congregation if you didn’t scream and fight and resist enough to satisfy them?
If the last option doesn’t sound very good to you, be prepared for it when you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As I bring out in the Rape category, JWs have equated raped with fornication, tell women to treat rapists “respectfully,” and will disfellowship female members who have been raped if they don’t resist enough to satisfy this three-man committee. If the idea of being grilled this way is unappealing enough, remember that this disfellowshipping means being cut off from every singe person in your life, as Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to associate only with other Jehovah’s Witnesses. This includes curtailing time with your own family and dropping your current friends in favor of other JWs.
I Could Go On, But…
Remember that all these rules apply to you and to your daughters as well. If you raise a girl as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and she’s reported to have gotten a little frisky with her boyfriend as a teenager, three elders will expect to be able to question her, privately, about the graphic details of her sexual experience. If she marries an abusive man, you’ll be expected to stand by silently, and even encourage her to stay with him and take that abuse in hopes of converting him. Your daughter’s and your grandchildren’s physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual welfare will be of little consequence or concern.
As a JW, there are no social groups for women, no special responsibilities to make women feel needed and appreciated. Instead, women are not allowed to teach, don’t have any say in anything that goes on in the congregations, and may have little to no say in their own home. Women do the bulk of their preaching work but are not supposed to even organize the car groups for that preaching. Women get no sympathy or support from elders and others in the congregation, even when abused, suicidal, or struggling alone. You’re expected to give up your friends, your family, your standing with your own husband, and your right to teach your own son as his head rather than having him as your head. You’re expected to do all this with a smile, even in the face of outright violence and abuse.
And for what? Some vague promise about a paradise earth, which JWs have been predicting for over 100 years now.
Oh, and don’t forget, during that “paradise,” none of this will change. You’ll still be expected to be silent, second class, subservient, and submissive.
I beg you, please don’t open that door.
Please share with others via social media below.