Purim in Israel looks like Halloween on the outside – costumes, parties, drinking – but it’s actually the celebration of a woman who saves the Jewish people. Coincidentally, I saw Captain Marvel and On the Basis of Sex this month, which happens to be Women’s History Month. If you know anything about the story of Purim, you’ll know that that is also a story full of coincidences.
What I found interesting in these three stories is that Esther, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Carol Danvers succeeded in a man’s world without forcing themselves to become masculine. Moreover, their inner spark and strength was hidden in plain sight. Esther was a beauty pageant winner and queen. She followed the rules and requirements of her position, and found a way to avert the genocide of her people. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a wife and mother, valued her family above all, followed societal rules, and still excelled in everything she did (except cooking; she’s terrible at it). Carol Danvers joined the Air Force, became a fighter pilot, and, in typical superhero style, was infused with the most powerful energy in the universe. At first glance, she seems “masculine,” but she leads with her heart and one “friend” calls her emotions a weakness. Rather than a weakness, she finds on her journey that they are her strength. The best feminist line is when she is set to fight a guy she thought was a mentor and a friend. He knows he can’t beat her powers, so he challenges her fist to fist, no weapons, to prove herself to him (he knows he can win). She shoots him with photon blasts from her hands. As he wakes, he sees her surrounded by sunlight and she says, “I don’t have to prove anything to you.”
In Hero(ine) Journey style, Esther, Ruth, and Carol have an ally. The ally is not just a partner, but is a person who reminds our heroine who she is and helps her fulfill her destiny by lifting her up and acknowledging and celebrating her strengths and easing her weaknesses. Esther had Uncle Mordechai. He raised her, helped her win the pageant, coincidentally stopped an assassination attempt, and kept her in touch with her roots and her people. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had her husband Marty. He was her partner in life: an involved father and husband, a supporter of every choice, a peacemaker, and he was also quite a good cook. Carol Danvers had her best friend Maria Rambeau to remind her who she is and what her true strengths are and Nick Fury to help her navigate Earth of the 1990s and fight bad guys.
Stories for Women and Men in the Real World
Women can be inspired and fulfill their destinies. Men can see what true allies look like so that they can move forward by lifting women up instead of pushing them down to soothe their own egos. Armie Hammer who plays Martin Ginsburg said that he could never live up to the standards set by his character, but it was something to aspire to. He says (on The Graham Norton Show): “I think the model of their marriage and their relationship was the basis of the gender equality that Ruth later sought during her entire legal career.”
At the same time, I’m sickened by the news coming out of South Korea right now of Korean pop singers sharing hidden camera videos of their sexcapades, procuring prostitutes for investment schemes, and other crimes. This week a live streaming hidden camera site spying on 1,600 people having sex in their motel rooms was exposed. Under the banner of “My Life Is Not Your Porn” Korean women started taking to the streets last summer to highlight the phenomenon of cameras hidden in changing rooms and public bathrooms. This led to an effort to sweep public restrooms on a regular basis to check for spycams. I hope Korean women can find inspiration from a real person like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a possibly real person in their history like Jews have in Queen Esther, and if all else fails, they can take inspiration from the most powerful superhero in the Marvel universe, Captain Marvel. And from these stories, Korean men can learn to be allies instead of misogynists.
In every reading of the Purim story, we can learn a new lesson. Let’s let this year’s lessons be:
- Women are strong
- Sometimes only a woman can save everyone
- Step by step, with patience and determination, women can change the world
The movies are very good, not the best I’ve ever seen, but they are definitely stories worth telling and sharing.
*This post is inspired in part by this article.