In this moment, one’s feelings about, or position on abortion are not what matter. What does matter, a lot, is that the
conversation fight even ensues; that a woman’s right to manage her own body is still, or ever has been, at question.
How is it possible that this topic is even entertained in politics, religion, or cultural critique of any kind? How is it possible that anyone is still
talking arguing about this? Why is this legitimate tenet propaganda given enough context media coverage to continue being discussed proselytized?
It’s an old, sad story…
The Old Testament tells of Esther; a young girl who was captured and then taken to be part of the King’s harem. She was prepped and readied for a year before being eligible to be “chosen” by him then risked life and limb to protect her entire clan from a route of ethnic cleansing by the king’s power-hungry, right-hand man. It is from this text that we hear the well-known words spoken by Esther’s uncle, Mordecai:
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have been made queen for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:12-14)
Esther’s is a powerful narrative worth knowing, (re)telling, and redeeming; words themselves that impact and transform when internalized and allowed to inspire. And (as is always the case) her story rests on the shoulders of another’s: Queen Vashti.
The King had been celebrating (translate: drinking) for days. A huge party that included all the dignitaries and military leaders under his reign. On day 7 of this endless revelry, he remembered his wife, Queen Vashti, and called for her to join him.
“…he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.” (Esther 1:10-11)
Her “no” to certain mistreatment and disrespect unleashed a chain of events that culminated in losing her throne and being deposed; that led to the region-wide search for all eligible young girls, including Esther. These realities, in and of themselves, are upsetting, but it’s the
reasoning diatribe that ensued about why Vashti had to go that causes me to hyperventilate almost every time I read it:
One of the nobles present said, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.” (Esther 1:16-18)
I’m taking deep breaths.
(Parenthetically, let me calmly state that this is exactly what has happened for centuries upon centuries. Womens’ lack of rights, silencing, less-pay-for-equal-work, and an exhausting list of atrocities borne throughout time has, in large part, been motivated by the same reality that motivated King Xerxes: fear. Fear of a woman’s strength. Fear of a woman’s power. Fear of a woman’s “no.” Even fear of a woman’s “yes.”)
Enough of the deep breaths. Enough of the calm. I feel the emotion build – way, down deep within. I roll my shoulders back. I stand up even taller…
And I roar…
on behalf of Queen Vashti-deposed and Esther-turned-concubine-and-queen. On behalf of Eve and Noah’s wife and Sarai and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and the hundreds and hundreds of ancient, sacred narratives of women waiting to be heard, understood, and honored. On behalf of the countless named and unnamed women before Roe v. Wade and after. On behalf of you. On behalf of me. On behalf of my daughters. On behalf of our daughters. And on behalf of our sons, our husbands, our fathers, our lovers, our friends.
And I roar…
until the day when it never occurs to me to write this post. Until the day when the sacrifices of so many are a distant, but esteemed memory. Until the day when terms and concepts like feminism and record number of women in Congress and sexual trafficking and rape and domestic violence are no longer in our lexicon or shared consciousness – other than to proclaim, again and again, the stories of those who suffered so we don’t have to.
And I roar…
to praise the enduring strength and power of women. No matter the obstacles, the harm, the silence, the struggle. This is the nature of women. This is the capacity of women. This is what we do. Not as martyrs; rather as necessary and willing fighters, advocates, lovers, fierce friends, champions of truth and justice and all-things-good-and-right.
And I roar…
in the belief that despite how heavy our hearts and sore our throats, we do and will have the strength to continue, to keep hoping, to keep believing, to keep our desires for healing and change alive…
…for such a time as this.
Lucky are you, reader, if you happen not to be of that sex to whom it is forbidden all good things; to whom liberty is denied; to whom almost all virtues are denied; lucky are you if you are one of those who can be wise without its being a crime.
We are lucky. And with such privilege comes responsibility – and a roar that has the potential and passion to shake both earth and heaven.
So go ahead and roar – on behalf of women’s stories, your stories, and all else that matters. I hear you. And I feel the quaking even now. As it should be.