I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I recently read a story that confirmed that women have been dealing with drunk men for thousands of years. The story was written over 2,000 years ago about a queen who refused the requests of her drunk husband. Although it was originally written in Hebrew, I read an English translation.
In this story, Queen Vashti was married to King Ahasuerus. For seven days, the king was partying in the palace garden with his officials and ministers. "Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and... drinking was by flagons, without restraint." (Esther 1:7-8)
On the 7th day, when the king was drunk on wine, he commanded Queen Vashti to come to him "to show the peoples and officials her beauty; for she was fair to behold." (Esther 1: 11)
"But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command." (Esther 1:12)
The king's officials said Vashti was wrong to disobey the king. They feared that "this deed of the queen will be made known to all women," (Esther 1:17) causing women to rebel against their husbands and the king's officials. The king and his officials decided Vashti was "never again to come before King Ahasuerus" (Esther 1:19) and a replacement queen was found.
I was inspired by Vashti's strong sense of self-worth when I read this story. I've spent the last six months interviewing recent college grads, professors and university administrators. I'm working on a book called Savvy for high school girls heading to college on how to redefine the hook-up culture. I've been reading and hearing a lot of stories about drunken encounters, and I think there's a lot we can learn from Vashti.
I see Vashti as the Queen of Self-Respect. If you are finding you have a man or men in your life who are like King Ahasuerus -- I'm going to call him King Aha for short -- I want to ask you to look for Vashti inside of you. See if you can find:
- The woman who has had enough drunk offers and knows she is worthy of being treated with more respect.
- The woman who refuses to be a prize.
- The woman who uses her voice to say no.
If you find yourself reading about King Aha and saying, "A-ha!" because his behavior sounds familiar, consider looking for a partner who doesn't:
- Ask you to for drunken favors.
- Ask you to act like a trophy or prize.
- Reject you when you say no.
Instead, find a partner who:
- Values himself and knows his own worth so he can be kind instead of king.
- Respects himself so he doesn't need to degrade others to try to feel better about himself.
- Respects you.
- Works to understand what you are saying.
Perhaps King Aha's officials were right. As women hear about Vashti's denial of the drunken king's request, they may increasingly stand up for themselves and refuse to be degraded. Vashti's bravery and self-respect is worth celebrating. In any challenging situation, it's worth asking, "What would Vashti do?"
Although the 2,000 year-old story didn't include what happened to Vashti after she left King Aha's palace, I want to imagine that Vashti found a new partner.
In our culture, a lot of bravado and effort, both male and female, goes into maintaining an aloof façade -- our own versions of acting like a king or a queen. But all humans do better with love and connection in our lives. We are wired for relationships. The goal is working to make them healthy and understanding that mutual respect and kindness are foundational attributes in every encounter.
I'm picturing Vashti with a partner who has taken the time to know her and treasures her strengths and weaknesses. I'm picturing Vashti with a new partner who truly sees her as a friend.
I'm picturing a world where men and women value their own beauty and worth so that degrading someone else to make themselves feel better.
Kathleen blogs regularly to The Huffington Post. To be notified when she publishes a blog, please sign up here. Kathleen is the author of two books that celebrate life and motherhood:Mother Advice To Take With You To College, a collection of humorous drawings and wise sayings, and The Tiffany Box: A Memoir, an International Best Book Awards Finalist, a true story full of humor, heartache and love--told through emails, letters, diary entries and columns about the last two years of Kathleen's mother's life. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Esther quotations are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989.