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Definition: Adult human females. In Hebrew, the word for woman is ’ish·shahʹ, which literally means “a female man.”

Does the Bible downgrade women or treat them as if they were inferior persons?

Gen. 2:18: “Jehovah God went on to say: ‘It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.’” (The man is not here described by God as being a better person than the woman. Rather, God indicated that woman would possess qualities that would complement those of man within God’s arrangement. A complement is one of two mutually completing parts. Thus women as a group are outstanding in certain qualities and abilities; men, in others. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:11, 12.)

Gen. 3:16: “To the woman [God] said: ‘ . . . your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.’” (This declaration after Adam and Eve had sinned was not a statement of what men should do but of what Jehovah foreknew they would do now that selfishness had become part of human life. A number of Bible accounts thereafter tell of the very unhappy situations that developed because of such selfish domination by men. But the Bible does not say that God approved of such conduct or that it is an example for others to follow.)

 Is the assigning of headship to men demeaning to women?

Being under headship is not in itself demeaning. Headship contributes to the handling of matters in an orderly arrangement, and Jehovah is “a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33) Jesus Christ is under the headship of Jehovah God, and he finds great satisfaction in that relationship.—John 5:19, 20; 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:27, 28.

A relative headship is also assigned to man, particularly in the family and in the Christian congregation. God has not given to man absolute authority over woman; man must answer to his head, Jesus Christ, and to God for the way that he exercises such headship. (1 Cor. 11:3) Furthermore, husbands are commanded “to be loving their wives as their own bodies” and to ‘assign honor’ to their wives. (Eph. 5:28; 1 Pet. 3:7) The sexual needs of a husband are not put above those of his wife in God’s arrangement for married couples. (1 Cor. 7:3, 4) The role of a capable wife, as outlined in the Bible, emphasizes her value to the household and the community. It allows a broad field in which she can use initiative while demonstrating her appreciation for her husband’s headship. (Prov. 31:10-31) The Bible commands children to honor not only their father but their mother as well. (Eph. 6:1-3) It also gives special attention to caring for the needs of widows. (Jas. 1:27) Thus among true Christians, women can find great security, true appreciation for themselves as individuals, and personal satisfaction in their activity.

The dignity of woman’s position in God’s arrangement is further shown by the fact that Jehovah refers to his own organization of loyal spirit creatures as a woman, his wife, the mother of his sons. (Rev. 12:1; Gal. 4:26) Also, the spirit-anointed congregation of Jesus Christ is spoken of as his bride. (Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9) And from a spiritual standpoint there is no distinction between male and female among those called to share in the heavenly Kingdom with Christ.—Gal. 3:26-28.

Should women be ministers?

Those charged with oversight of a congregation are described in the Bible as being males. The 12 apostles of Jesus  Christ were all males, and those later appointed to be overseers and ministerial servants in Christian congregations were males. (Matt. 10:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:2, 12) Women are counseled to “learn in silence with full submissiveness” at congregation meetings, in that they do not raise questions challenging the men in the congregation. The women are ‘not to speak’ at such meetings if what they might say would demonstrate lack of subjection. (1 Tim. 2:11, 12; 1 Cor. 14:33, 34) Thus, although women make valuable contributions to the activity of the congregation, there is no provision for them to preside, or to take the lead by instructing the congregation, when qualified men are present.

But may women be preachers, proclaimers, ministers of the good news, outside the congregation meetings? At Pentecost of 33 C.E. holy spirit was poured out on both men and women. In explanation, the apostle Peter quoted Joel 2:28, 29, saying: “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams; and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’” (Acts 2:17, 18) In like manner today, women properly share in the Christian ministry, preaching from house to house and conducting home Bible studies.—See also Psalm 68:11; Philippians 4:2, 3.

Why do Christian women wear head coverings on certain occasions?

1 Cor. 11:3-10: “The head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God. . . . Every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head . . . For a man ought not to have his head covered, as he is God’s image and glory; but the woman is man’s glory. For man is not out of woman, but woman out of man; and, what is more, man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels.” (When a  Christian woman wears a head covering on appropriate occasions, this is an evidence of her respect for the headship arrangement that was instituted by God. Christ respects theocratic headship; man and woman are also obligated to do so. The first man, Adam, was not produced by birth from a woman but was created by God. When creating Eve, God used a rib from Adam as a foundation, and God stated that she was to be a helper for Adam. Thus to man, who was produced first, was assigned the position of head. The man does not wear a head covering when ‘praying or prophesying’ because, in regard to headship, man is “God’s image,” having no earthly head in matters relating to his family. However, for a woman to ‘pray or prophesy’ without a head covering would show disrespect for man’s God-assigned position and would shame him. Even the angels, who are members of Jehovah’s wifelike heavenly organization, observe the “sign of authority” worn by faithful Christian women and are reminded of their own subjection to Jehovah.)

When is it necessary for a woman to wear a head covering?

When she “prays or prophesies,” as stated at 1 Corinthians 11:5. This does not mean that a head covering is needed when she prays privately or when she converses with others about Bible prophecy. However, she should wear such a head covering as an outward sign of her respect for man’s headship when she cares for matters pertaining to worship that would ordinarily be cared for by her husband or by another man. If she prays aloud on behalf of herself and others or conducts a formal Bible study, thus doing the teaching, in the presence of her husband, she should wear a head covering, even if he does not share her faith. But since she is divinely authorized to teach her children, no head covering is needed when praying or studying with her undedicated young ones at times when her husband is not present. If, in an exceptional circumstance, a dedicated male member of the congregation is present or when she is accompanied by a visiting traveling overseer, then, when she conducts a prearranged Bible study, she should cover her head, but he should offer the prayer.

 Is it proper for women to wear cosmetics or jewelry?

1 Pet. 3:3, 4: “Do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.” (Does this mean that women should wear no ornaments? Certainly not; just as it obviously does not mean that they should not wear outer garments. But they are here encouraged to be balanced in their attitude regarding grooming and dress, putting the primary emphasis on spiritual adornment.)

1 Tim. 2:9, 10: “I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.” (What really counts with God—one’s outward appearance or one’s heart condition? Would God be pleased if a woman wore no cosmetics or jewelry but lived immorally? Or would he approve women who are modest and sound in mind in their use of cosmetics and jewelry and who primarily adorn themselves with godly qualities and Christian conduct? Jehovah says: “Not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”—1 Sam. 16:7.)

Prov. 31:30: “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.”