Independent. Savvy. Intelligent. Courageous. Brave. Outspoken. Heroic.
In a time where damning attacks on everything from reproductive rights to basic human rights occur around the globe, it is essential that we continue to instill and promote the traits above in every young girl and woman.
At the same time, it is important to remember that there is no ONE way to be a woman.
Today, of any day, proves that.
Today is International Women’s Day.
Today is also the Jewish holiday of Purim.
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Today, you will find hundreds of other people blogging for International Women’s Day. Today you will find many other people writing about how to involve, educate, and inspire young women around the globe. Many will focus on the present and future as they write about this year’s topic: “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.”
I’m taking my own spin on this topic and looking toward the past to inform the future. Today, while people across the globe celebrate women, Jewish people are celebrating the holiday of Purim. Kids and adults will dress up in costume, eat lots of delicious hamentashen cookies, and rattle their noise-making groggers as they listen to the Megillah – the story of Purim.
Purim is a perfect “fairytale” story in every sense. There is a king and queens, a villain and even a few different heroes. There’s intrigue and deception and finally, at the end, a happily ever victory. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details of the story – there are plenty of places online to read the whole Megillah. But what I will go into is the role of women in the story. Because it is during the story of Purim that it is clear – there is no one way to be a woman.
There are those that say the Story of Esther is a feminist tale… That the King’s first wife, Vashti, is indeed a feminist icon, while the King’s second wife, Esther, is a post-feminist icon. Regardless of their icon-status, and the choices they made within the story, both women still held the attributes above: Independent. Savvy. Intelligent. Courageous. Brave. Outspoken. Heroic.
However, many historians, scholars, and drunken Purim revelers end up pitting Vashti against Esther when recounting the story. Some paint Vashti as vain or *gasp* slutty, while at the same time boosting Esther to savior status. Others build up Vashti as an independent woman who stood up for herself, while decrying Esther as submissive or weak.
The notion of needing to break down one woman to uphold another is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less acceptable. In the end, there is no need to pit one woman up against the next. Instead, let us celebrate the fact that in one story there are two strong, autonomous women who made their own choices. And that despite the differences in perceived personalities they both held fast to traits that are still honored, respected and sought after today.
Queen Vashti show dignity and courage when she refused to be summoned to dance naked for an audience by her drunk husband. While Vashti’s “disobedience” was eventually punished, just the mere fact that this ancient story includes a woman saying no and standing up for herself is worth mentioning.
Then we have Queen Esther, promoted as the heroine of the story. Though many question her methods, it can’t be ignored that Esther made the active choice to play the system, and that in and of itself it noteworthy. Whether you agree with it is another story.
So let’s look to the past, to these two Persian women. Let’s remember the traits that earned them a story in the first place, and celebrate them. BOTH of them. Then let us continue to find ways to instill these traits in our daughters and sisters and other young women around the globe. Let’s turn young women around the world into the heroines of their own stories. Whether through education, activism, voting, or financial aid, let us continue to ensure that every young woman across the globe has the opportunity to stand up for themselves and be their own hero.
This video crossed my path recently, and I couldn’t help but share it today… There truly is no one way to be a woman… let’s celebrate them all! Happy International Women’s Day!