Growing up a woman in the cult was pretty bleak. Most of the adult women I knew were either depressed sad women or an embarrassment to me. I was typical kid in that regard. I was atypical in that I had critical parents and my mother was 'annointed' and also crazy (mentally ill). Suffice it to say my relationship with my mother and how I saw her was complicated.
From time to time I will think of the weird stuff people did in the cult and it almost always makes me laugh. But a few weeks ago I had a different experience to remembering an old embarrassment.
Women are never supposed to lead. But if they do and if there is a single man present (even a baby) they have to cover their heads. It wasn't only my mother that would grab a Kleenex to cover her head with when the necessity came to lead. I saw lots of other women do it as well. When it was my mother I chalked it up to one of those crazy things she did and I felt really embarrassed. But when other women did it, I just didn't understand why.
A few weeks ago I made a flippant off-hand comment about how I would never wear a Kleenex to cover my head and I just started crying. The comment was made out of the context of the cult and I thought it would be funny but it just wasn't. Since then I have thought about the whole situation and my reaction to it.
How humiliating it must be for a woman who has daughters to have to cover her head with a Kleenex because there is an infant boy in the group and she has to cover her head in order to lead or pray. What a horrible message to send your daughters that you are so unworthy that you don't even carry a head covering for just such a situation and instead have to use a Kleenex. Jehovah's Witnesses don't use head coverings. I knew a few women who had them but it went against the uniform as far as I ever knew. To be so subjugated that you won't even carry a piece of cloth... To have to subjugate yourself to that extent because a single male infant is in the room... That using a Kleenex, and all the humiliation that entails, is preferable to using a piece of cloth and giving a woman any measure of dignity.
It just hurts to know that I and so many other women went through that. It was so subtle but so incredibly indicative of how the cult views women. It is such a very clear picture of the systemic abuse and bigotry against women. And the fact that it took me 21 years to process that tiny little part of my formative years... it's a little overwhelming.
I feel very sad when I think about it. I don't mind feeling sad over it. But I did want to share my moment of clarity with someone. Who else would understand such a thing?