From JW Survey contributor Brooke
No girls allowed – a common theme throughout my childhood; raised with all older boy cousins, I had to learn to stick up for myself. I fought tooth and nail for my spot in the video game room, just to watch them play. Just to feel like a part of the group.
My rules for entry were simple: sit there, be quiet and don’t complain. Plus, please bring us chips and soda when we ask.
It amazes me that I was never allowed to grow up from this little girl; according to Jehovah, this was the role I was meant to play for the rest of my life
It is your “privilege” to do things for us when we ask. But you never get to hold the controller. it’s never your game. Isn’t it fun to watch us play?
To the Kingdom Hall! – No Difference
I was not having fun. Somehow the idea that I wasn’t qualified to hold a microphone didn’t sit right inside me.
(Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, a rite of passage occurs when a young man is given the privilege of carrying microphones inside the Kingdom Hall, passing them to members giving comments or testimonials)
I was polite, smart and well spoken, with a natural ease for public presentation; but never granted the privilege to address an audience. I could only speak on stage, sitting down with my legs crossed, addressing another woman. I never got my day on the podium. It was never my turn to play.
But this is as God intended – Jehovah’s Witness women are inferior, they are not capable.
man’s little helpers
Somehow the ability to bear children makes me less desirable than a man who is deaf, dumb and blind. I was reminded that there are no princesses on the throne with Jesus. Well, you all sound like a bunch of pricks (or a word which rhymes with pricks).
I found myself wondering, why I could not do everything the boys did. I am a very strong woman, always have been. I wrestled with boys and played backyard football. I was never the biggest or the strongest but, I was not half-bad. I never identified with the daintiness of being a girl. I understand that some women do, but that was never me.
Despite the way I felt, I was born into a submissive role. As a female member of the Jehovah’s Witness Congregation, certain “feminine” attributes were expected of me. I was placed in high heels from the age of five and only permitted to wear skirts to the Kingdom Hall. Women were not allowed to wear pants suits; this was considered “inappropriate”. Once I became a part of the Theocratic Ministry School, it was made clear to me that the only instructional parts I was allowed to present were the bible study presentations, where I demonstrated how to conduct a bible study to the congregation by the passive manner of having a conversation on stage with another woman. I was not supposed to address the audience. My brother was allowed to stand at the podium and carry out a bible reading. This made no sense to me. Firstly, I was older than my brother. Secondly, I was a better reader.
Then one year I noticed that one of the elderly ladies in my congregation was partaking of the emblems at the memorial observance of Christ’s death. This action symbolized that she was anointed and one of the 144,000 destined for heaven. Afterwards, I talked to my mother about it and asked her if this woman was ever allowed to speak from the podium. She told me no. She said that she remembered one time when most of the men were away for some reason and this woman was allowed to carry the microphones up and down the aisle for people to use when speaking. This privilege under any other circumstances was reserved for men. This paradox seemed absolutely absurd to me. A woman, who was so close with God that she was going to live with him in heaven, while the rest of us lived on Earth, was only granted the privilege of holding a microphone when all the men were away. There is an obvious glass ceiling effect for women in the Jehovah’s Witness organization. Women are permitted to become pioneers for God’s work and spend hours preaching the word of God by knocking on their neighbor’s door with Jehovah’s Witness publications in hand. However, women are not allowed to hold any position of power within the organization. The roles of ministerial servant, elder, and committee member are reserved for men.
Who made up these rules?
Men made up these rules.
In our society, feminism often receives criticism. The definition of feminism according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”. With this definition in mind, I would consider myself a feminist. Google defines misogyny as “dislike of, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against women”. I would consider anyone who tells a person they are not allowed to obtain a certain position solely based on the fact that they were born female, a misogynist. I feel that I saw and experienced many examples of ingrained prejudice in the Jehovah’s Witness faith for being female.
Developing in this environment undoubtedly affected my psyche. I came to have a great feeling of inadequacy. I felt like I was never going to be “good enough”. I felt I was powerless. What I want to convey to someone in a similar situation is that no matter your age, ethnicity, race, sexuality or gender, every person has the power within himself or herself to be the person that they want to be. Do not let anyone stand in the way of your aspirations. You do not have to obtain your goals alone.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The archaic position of the Jehovah’s Witness organization is largely based on Old Testament Biblical principles, which carried over into the Christian era. The example you just read from Survey contributor Brooke follows the misogynistic mandates from the Apostle Paul, who stated:
Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but she is to remain silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Also, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and became a transgressor. – 1 Timothy 2:11-14, New World Translation
Paul’s flawed reasoning consists of two arguments. First, that God created man before woman, therefore she MUST be inferior to man. Second, that a woman has lesser intelligence than a man, since Eve was intellectually incapable of recognizing deception. This mental deficiency rendered her useless as a decision-maker or judge.
The Watchtower Organization has no intention of revising its antiquated position on female members, as this would interfere with their entire organizational structure, and their relentless quest to harmonize every book of the currently accepted Bible canon. (including the misogynistic and homophobic statements of Paul)
The application of this Watchtower policy is being carried out even as I write this note. The 2016 Regional Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses feature a live demonstration of the question and answer Watchtower study, during which 20-30 participants deliver their comments (or answers) to Watchtower paragraph questions. JW Survey has received a leaked copy of the instructions for this 30 minute talk, where very specific direction is given to the women who are assigned some of the comments. The edict states:
The sisters must NOT give the appearance of teaching
I know there are many JW women who feel unburdened by the existing family “arrangement” of male dominance and headship. To those we ask: Is this who you really are, or is this merely a role you are playing in life?
For all of the women trapped inside the Jehovah’s Witness organization, know that you are not alone in your feelings, and as Brooke says, you have the power to make a change, no matter how insurmountable this obstacle may seem. There is a new sign in town – and it reads: