Having an Esther Moment

Having an Esther Moment

Patrick Horvais / Getty Last week, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape and a felony sex crime. This follows months of news about Jeffrey Epstein, which follows years of news about famous others, such as Bill Cosby, Garrison Keillor, and Mario Batali. Sexual innuendo, harassment, and abuse make women into objects rather than subjects, reducing human beings to body parts to be complimented or criticized, touched or molested. Sexual misconduct—from a lewd joke to nonconsensual relations—stems from men having too much power and women having too little.

With each new case, I feel a pound of relief and an ounce of remorse: Why didn’t we stand up to this earlier? Why does this happen so much? Why do I feel so powerless? The surfeit of stories becomes mentally and emotionally destabilizing. It’s enough.

None of this is new, of course, which is why I turned to an old story for some solace and guidance. Seeking ancient wisdom, I opened a biblical book in which women were also treated as objects: the Book of Esther. For those unfamiliar with this 10-chapter scroll, it’s the strange comic, tragic story of a young, beautiful Jewish orphan, an exile in Persia, who was forcibly taken, along with all the other virgins in the empire, to compete in a beauty contest to win King Ahasuerus’s heart. Ahasuerus, an impressionable buffoon, has been identified as the Persian ruler Xerxes, dating the setting of this tale to the fourth century b.c.

The king had a queen by the […]

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