Vashti – The Forgotten Feminist
When every year we retell the story of Purim we focus on one woman, Esther. She, with a bit of support from her brother, is a brave and powerful woman who convinced a King of an Empire to save her people – the Jews. Vashti doesn’t really get a look in, the previous queen discarded by the king for disobedience is a mere footnote on Esther’s brave actions.
However this does her disservice, Vashti is a great feminist icon. Vashti is not vain, arrogant woman she is often portrayed to be, by saying no to King Ahasuerus Vashti was standing up for woman rights. Vashti wasn’t disposed of because of this single act of defiance but because if she wasn’t then it would impact the whole fabric of relationships. Ch 1, 16-18:
“… Vashti the queen has not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the peoples who are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. For this deed of the queen will be made known to all the women so as to make their husbands contemptible in their eyes, when it shall be reported that the king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. And the princesses … shall be telling of it today to all the king’s princes. Thus shall there be contempt and wrath in plenty’
Vashti is a feminist role model, rebelling against the patriarchy! Earlier on in the Magillah you can see the difference between how she is perceived to how she perceives herself. Ch 1,11:
“to bring Vashti, the queen, before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look on.”
Compared to Ch 1, 12:
“But the Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment”
She sees herself as Queen Vashti, whereas the King and sees her just as Vashti. This is what gives her power, the fact that whatever society says she sees herself as equal. So this Purim while you celebrate by taunting Haman, eating hamanstaschen and extoling the virtues of Esther don’t forget about Vashti – the forgotten feminist .
Chag Purim Sameach from these cheery chappies :