Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Vashti and Esther: Why it Doesn't Pay to be an Angry Feminist

The Banquet of Esther and Ahasuerus by Jan Victors

There was a time in my life when I had a lot of anger about issues relating to women. I wasn't angry at a specific person or organization per se, but angry at a world that treated women as objects, raped them, enslaved them, prevented them from being born, paid them less money, and undervalued their contributions. Like the Savior cleansing the temple I felt my anger was justified; I was seeing injustice and I was getting motivated about it. Yet the more I went down that path the more I saw that anger was a drug and an illusion. Being angry about wrongs didn't really change anything.

 Most of all I could feel that my "righteous indignation" was killing a beautiful part of my soul.

I found that I was becoming more judgmental of other people, that I was more easily provoked to anger and impatience by things people said or did, and that I was slowly loosing my faith in the goodness of other people's hearts. Most of all I wasn't as happy. One day it dawned on me that if I went much further down the anger path, I would never be able to come back up again.

It worries me to see people embracing, even unknowingly, an attitude of anger as it relates to feminist issues, or any issue for that matter. Not just because of what it does to their souls, but because actions motivated by anger-- in any form-- will never really change anything.

Let me explain. 

In the first chapter of the book of Esther it tells the story of Vashti. King Ahasuerus, the king of Perisa, held a huge feast for all the princes of Media and Persia. At the same time Queen Vashti held her own feast in the royal palace for the women.  It was a seven day long feast and on the last day, when "the heart of the king was merry with wine" he commanded his counselors to bring Vashti, with her royal crown, so that he could show off her beauty to all the princes.

Vashti flatly refused to come. She knew that what the king was asking of her was degrading to her as a woman and beneath her position as queen. I am sure that all her womanly pride boiled up at the thought of being paraded before a drunken crowd of men. The king's request was totally a misuse his power and showed a disregard for Vashti's feelings and dignity.

Really, no one can blame Vashti for not going.

Still, her very public refusal of the king's command made him angry. As both a king and a husband he expected to be obeyed, and she disobeyed him on both levels. Beyond that one of his counselors pointed out that,   
"Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, the provinces of the King Ahasurerus. For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes... Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath." (Esther 1: 16-18). 
Basically, he was afraid that Vashti had opened a can of worms and that if king didn't do something then Persia would have a regular feminist movement on its hands. This scared the King and so he commanded that Vashti be removed as queen and he sent a proclamation throughout the land stating that,  "every man should bear rule in his own house"... and that "all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small."

There, feminist movement squashed. Right?

Wrong.

Enter Esther.

After Vashti's demotion the King's servants brought all the fair virgins of the land to the palace to be dressed, washed and pampered for six months. After which each was given a chance to win the King's affection and become the new queen. Esther  was one of these fair virgins but unlike the other girls, when it was her turn to go before the king, she refused all finery except what was normally appointed to her. Perhaps it was this simplicity and honesty that caught the King's attention and caused  him to love Esther more than all the other women. Eventually he chose her to be his new queen.

Yet despite Esther's apparent honesty she kept one big fact a secret from the king, the fact that she was a Jew. This caused problems when later the king's advisor Haman (and his wife Zeresh)  convinced the King that he should exterminate the Jews in his kingdom. Once again, just like with Vashti, the King was being misled by his advisers and was being tempted to use his power in an unrighteous way.

The King's decree put Esther in a hard place. Due to the common occurrence of political assassinations in this time period King Ahaserus had a rule that no one, absolutely no one, could come into his presence without his permission. The penalty for breaking the rule was death, plain and simple. Not only was Esther afraid of approaching the King to state her cause, but it is likely she also remembered what happened to the last queen who disobeyed the King.

Queen Vashti Deposed by Normand Ernest
It is ironic that Ester was facing almost the exact same problem that Vashti encountered. Except that this time instead of disobeying by not coming  before the king, Esther was disobeying by coming before the king.

I think it says a lot about Esther's character that when faced with such a momentous decision she took it before the Lord before she did anything else.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was during those three days that she, her maidens, and all the Jews of Persia fasted that the plan she ultimately followed was revealed to her. Furthermore,  it is significant that she asked her people to fast for her and not that the King's heart would change. She wasn't trying to change anyone else's behavior, she was just asking for the strength to to what the Lord was guiding her to do.

On the third day of her fast Esther dressed in her royal apparel and stood in the inner court of the King's house. Eventually the King noticed Esther, and instead of being angry he was pleased to see her and held out his golden scepter as an indication that she could approach. Esther had blatantly disobeyed him but instead of getting angry and demoting her, like he had Vashti, he did exactly the opposite-- he offered her anything she wanted, even unto half of his kingdom.

Perfect time to ask for the king to not kill your people, right?

But Esther didn't ask for that. Instead she invited the King and Haman to a private banquet that she had prepared for them.That night the King asked her what she wanted, but all she did was invite them to another banquet. By the second night the King was pretty much begging Ester to tell him what it was she wanted, and promised that he would give her anything. When he found out what Haman was up to, and saw that he had been deceived, his attitude did a 360. In fact his heart was so changed that he sent a decree throughout all the kingdom proclaiming that the Jews were to be honored and protected instead of killed. This change was so enormous that even 4,000 years later the Jews still celebrate the story of Esther and what she did for her people.

The crazy part is that Esther's disobedience to the king was almost exactly the same as, if not more than, Vashti's disobedience to him. Yet the outcome couldn't have been more different.

Why?

It is important to note that Vashti and Esther were in much different circumstances. Esther wasn't facing a drunken king and all his buddies, and she had more time to plan and prepare. Yet, still the key difference in why Esther was successful in making a long lasting change in the lives of her people, and Vashti was not, was the was the fact that Esther's actions were motivated by love.

There is a lot to be said for loving people first and then helping them to be better. I think that is what Esther understood. She and the King had a good relationship, one built over time. She knew his heart and knew that it was good, but that he had been mislead by prejudice and the agenda of a corrupt adviser. So when Esther wanted to approach the King about a mistake he was making she didn't do it publicly. She could have done it right there in the throne room, but she didn't. She waited until she had Haman and the King alone and then she discussed with them what was bothering her.

I think too often when we see an injustice or a problem in the world we want to make it a public event.  We want to get people on "our side" and change things by a show of force of solidarity. We want to get media attention, go viral on social media with our message, and show that we are right and someone else is wrong. Yet, anger and force will never ever change anything for the good.

When we choose to be angry about something-- even if we are totally justified-- we choose to open ourselves up to the power of the devil. Anger is his territory, and he claims all who enter into it. But he has no real power, and anything he "creates" will never last. On the other hand love is the territory of the Savior and when we choose to turn over our disappointments, our injustices, and our concerns  to Him he can work miracles with them. He will change the hearts that can be changed and open up ways for the wicked "Hamans" to be gotten out of the way.

Queen Esther by Minerva Teichert

Even so, there is certainly a time and a place for being a "Vashti".  Sometimes we have problems that people are so blind to that they need to be shouted from the housetops in a bold way. Sometimes the "Vashti-like" actions can even help pave the way for the "Esther-like" actions. Yet, the truth is that a "Vashti" approach to change will never result in real change. It may open people's eyes, it may stir people up and make the them angry and passionate for a time, but it won't last. Like Esther demonstrated real change happens when individual hearts are softened-- one-by-one-- and people come to see and love others like the Savior sees and loves others.

I think that both Vashti and Esther are women to praise and hold up as wonderful examples of strong leaders who knew their hearts. Yet over the years I have seen, that if you really want to make lasting change in the world,  there is more wisdom in being an Esther than a Vashti.

There is real power, when instead of getting riled up and angry about a problem, you turn to the Lord with fasting and prayer to know what to do it about. God is in perfect control of the universe and His love and power  can change anything or anyone. If you turn to Him with your heartaches, your concerns, and your injustices He will show you what He wants you to do. Just like Esther it might not always be easy and it may not be glamorous,  but if it is motivated by pure love... it will change the world.

And it will last.

As in 4,000 years later it is still impacting the lives of people on a daily basis type of change. And not just the "We had 10,000 people together to protest such- and such" or "the UN passed this big resolution that nobody will really follow" type of change. 

The trick is that real change is slower because you have to do it person by person. Real change also doesn't often attract the attention of the media or make people famous, but it is what is going to make the world better for women.

Which is why I hope that if you have any anger in your heart... you let it go... and replace it with love and faith.

I promise it works much better.

33 comments:

  1. Wow. I love this so much. I needed it. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

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  2. Heather,

    How do you let go of anger that builds because you're confused. For instance, for some reason I've been getting really angry when ever I read my scriptures and whenever I leave the temple. Both of them stem from hurt and confusion. Why would God do this? Or why hasn't this been fixed? Why are there double standards in the church? Why did God make unfair laws in Leviticus? I just . . . I don't know how to let go of it. Every time I think I've let it go completely, it just rises back up whenever I'm confronted with it again. Any thoughts?

    Kenzie

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    1. Kenzie, I don't think that confusion or hurt ever completely goes away. There will always be things that don't make sense or thing that seem( or are unfair), and not just about women. In lots of areas of the gospel or in life. I know that I have often felt like you, frustrated or confused or hurt because something doesn't make sense. It is those times that I have to really rely on what I know of gods character. The god I know loves his daughters and all of his children and wants them to be happy. Sometimes I have to hold on to that knowledge and remember that if I don't understand something or if I am hurt by something it is because I don't have enough knowledge.

      It has been incredible to me to see that when I acknowledge my hurt( sometimes my husband gets an wet shoulder) cling to what I know of gods character and pray for more knowledge --- it comes. Sometimes it takes years and years but it comes and when it does it is incredible. I have gone through the process enough to have faith that some of my hardest questions also have answers and that I will get it one day. But it is something you have to experience for yourself and if you are stuck on the anger rut you might just miss the answers all together.

      Sort o like the ten virgins with their oil, you have to fill up your own lamp. And doing it can be Lot of work, but The Lord will fill it if you seek with love and faith.

      I don't know if that helps at all, but I understand where you are coming from. Anger can be hard to overcome but the atonement can help. Just realize that you know nothing compared to god and let him carry all the hurt and anger. It is okay to feel it and acknowledge it, because it will come, but don't hang on to it, surrender it right away and open yourself up to love and faith. And don't get discoraged if you have questions, all the great revelation we have came because someone bothered to ask god about it.

      Oh, one last thing. If there is something that really does need to change ask god what you can do about it. He will tell you. It may not be what you expect but be will give you things to do. Promise. Just try to keep love at the forefront!

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    2. Dear Kenzie, Sometimes things in the temple or in the scriptures are not what they would appear at first glance. Sometimes my misperceptions have prevented me from seeing glorious truths. The blessing comes with continued prayerful temple attendance and scripture study. When I've asked God to help me have understanding of things that have troubled me, I've found the answers to be beautifully reassuring of His abiding love for His daughters as well as His sons. Blessed be!

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    3. I'm new here. I found this when I was trying to find the meaning of helpmeet and am hooked. I'd also like to add to this discussion and say that it's likely we see things through a different lens then Heavenly Father does. I think in many ways the culture and society we live in holds onto many beliefs that are skewed and make it difficult for us to understand. My husband has said he doesn't believe that we have any idea of what a Celestial woman is like. I think he's very right. It's easy to see how Satan has focused on distorting and vilifying our view of what a woman is and should be. Think about it. Do you really believe that God has the same definition for masculinity as our society does? And who can define what femininity is in our society, since it's so full of paradoxes. That has helped me a lot since I've been able to vent some of my frustrations to Heavenly Father and ask that he help me understand. I think some of the comments mentioned earlier have already voiced that when you start seeking to look through God's lens, He shows you things aren't always what they appear to be.

      -Brittany

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  3. I have also been on the path of anger and realized I had to get off or anger would take over my life. I LOVE this analogy between Vashti and Esther. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. McKenzie, if I can also try to answer because I have felt similarly about a few things?

    For me, the solution has been to recognize the anger and give myself permission to be angry. Anger is usually a secondary emotion, stemming from some other cause such as frustration or hurt. So when I feel angry, I try to analyze why, and then let myself feel that way: to know that I am justified.

    But being angry about something doesn't have to mean acting angry or using force to get others to agree. We can still apply our mind when we choose how to act. Sometimes I wonder if Esther was truly as calm about everything as the story makes her sound. Obviously, she had some emotion or tension showing, since the king knew she wanted something and wasn't just inviting him to feasts for the fun of it.

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  5. I was going to write a comment about how God/Jehovah (Christ?) in the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament were angry many times, and therefore, it seems like anger is the territory of Christ as well. (I had a VERY hard time with this as a kid/teenager. It was my first concern about the church -- I just didn't see how God could be so angry all the time.)

    But then I re-read all the accounts of Christ and the moneychangers, and it never says he is angry anywhere! I was taught that he was angry, and I saw a scary picture where he looked pretty angry, but it doesn't tell us anything at all about his emotional state at all! I never realized this! I didn't take the time to re-read the entire Old Testament, but LDS.org returns 224 results for 'anger' so perhaps we legitimately find anger there.

    I used to think anger was all bad. I'm not sure I believe that any more.

    I think there ABSOLUTELY is a time and a place (frequently) for Vashti-style activism. And it DOES get things started so that the long-term change can be made in our hearts. So I do agree with you that in the end, the long-term change comes from love and from the heart. But it often needs that Vashti-style kickstart.

    Despite those disagreements, there was MUCH for me to learn and remember from this post. I am a warrior and I was sent here to be a warrior spirit, but I can still remember to use love and kindness as a first resort, whenever possible. It may be that you have a different mission, where being a warrior would harm your spirit.

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    1. That is fascinating about Christ not being referred to as angry! Thanks for that insight.

      I think you are right, anger in and of itself is nit a bad thing. It is just an emotion and those happen. i think the problem is though when people can't get past the anger and it starts to motivate their actions. I don't think we realize how much anger invites the adversary into our hearts and bodies.

      If we bathe too much in anger we might fnd we are fighting for the wrong things, whereas if you bathe in love you can be certain you are fighting for the right side.

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  6. Esther has long been my hero. Whenever I think of 'for such a time as this' it immediately conjures up thoughts of her love for her people and the courage she developed. She followed the Spirit and chose the right way to approach the king.

    I am so grateful I live in a time and place when I have rights and privileges that were never afforded to so many women throughout the centuries. We could learn much from Esther's example.

    Anger is one of my demons. I'm forever trying to eradicate it from my life! I grew up with 10 siblings, which is a perfect recipe for contention. ;) I've been married for 37 years. My husband chooses to live his life by fear, not faith, and it makes him an angry man sometimes. Angry is really too strong of a word for it, a better definition would probably be grumpy. LOL He doesn't see it, but I do.

    As a result of these environments, I 'learned' a response that often goes directly to anger, but I'm working very hard at unlearning it. :)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts today . . . they really helped me refocus on conquering anger. I want peace to permanently permeate my life.

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    1. I stumbled upon your blog relatively recently and I always enjoy reading your posts. They're always very interesting! Sometimes they are a little lengthy, but they're captivating, so I always find myself getting "sucked in!" You truly have a gift for writing, which makes your blog easy to read. I appreciate this, because most bloggers are not that great at the technical aspect of writing.

      You're paralyzed friend,
      – Heather :)

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  7. This was very well put. I am not an articulate person so thank you for putting into words the way I've been feeling about this same situation. I am very grateful to have stumbled across your site, thank you for sharing!

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  8. I agree with quite a bit of your post, Heather, but there are a few points I'd like to make.

    First of all, love is not always a fool-proof, pure motivation. People have done horrible things to others in the name of love, both well-intentioned and not, and then refused to accept responsibility for the hurt they caused because they did it with "love". I can not agree that love always "works better."

    Secondly, anger can be a healthy, necessary emotion and a productive motivator. It often serves as a warning sign that our boundaries are being violated and we need to take action to protect ourselves. Also, anger is one of the stages of grief. Many feminists go through a grieving process during their feminist awakening and the anger helps deal with the pain. One website I recently read describes anger as an "indication of the intensity of your love". If we don't care about something, it's not very likely that we'll get angry about it. That being said, of course, what we do with our anger can be either destructive or productive, depending on how we choose to use it.

    Women too often get the message - from both society and the church - that in order to be "good" we should be "nice" and "sweet" and "kind" and never rock the boat or cause any ripples. So instead of expressing healthy emotions, they get repressed and eventually manifest in unhealthy ways. Far better to accept the emotions we feel - even anger - and deal with them productively.

    As you mentioned, both the Vashti and Esther approaches you described have their uses and I think if you look at historical movements (women's suffrage, abolitionism, civil rights, etc.) you'll see they both have their place; neither one is automatically "better" than the other and I'm not convinced that either one would work in the long run without the other.

    Also, I'd see interested to know what evidence you see that Esther and king Ahasuerus have a relationship built on love and trust. That's not my impression from reading the scriptural text at all. They hadn't even seen each other for a month at the time she approaches him. She is his consort, there for his convenience; this is no relationship of equals.

    (Incidentally, the only anger mentioned in the story of Ahasuerus and Vashti is the *king's* anger because Vashti refused to debase herself in front of his drunk friends. The scriptural text doesn't say one word about Vashti's emotional state. I'm not sure that Vashti had any other options open to her than to refuse, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she did it angrily.)

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    1. Emily, I think what you said was brilliant. I didn't like this post because Vashti is my scripture hero. Most of the women in the scriptures are secondary characters to the men, and many are very passive. From what I remember of this story, Esther lied to her husband, who really only chose her because she was beautiful (Hollywood versions aside). Esther was brave, but I personally prefer Vashti's unwavering boldness. We live in a world where women's voices are constantly being quieted in some way - with that in mind, I need Vashti's example much more than Esther's.

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    2. Also, I've learned from Biblical scholars that we understand in historical context that King Ahasuerus was asking Vashti to come parade naked for his dude bro friends. I think that's even more reason to admire Vashti standing up for herself.

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    3. There is truly no evidence that the King meant to have his queen parade naked before his honored royal guests. But, those who would incite anger might throw out such opinions.

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    4. Grannieannie, it's actually not an uncommon interpretation that the king - who was completely sloshed - summoned Vashti to parade before his drunken friends wearing the "crown royal" and *only* the crown royal. It's found among the Jewish midrash, so it's not a new twist on the story, either; it's been around a very long time. (It's mentioned on wikipedia and several Jewish websites I saw in a quick google search. You're welcome to look them up yourself, of course.)

      As with many stories from the Bible, we don't know all the details and there are many interpretations that are just as likely as others. Many of the descriptions of the Esther story in the original post are suppositions with just as little evidence from the scriptural text as this, and maybe even less.

      Perhaps before accusing others of inciting anger by throwing out opinions, it would be best to do a little more research and recognize that more than one interpretation is possible.

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    5. Emily,

      I think you bring up some interesting points about anger. I agree that feeling anger is not in itself a bad thing. None of our emotions are a bad thing. Our ability to feel ALL emotions is what helps us recognize and discern between them. Everyone will feel anger on this earth, just like everyone will feel lust, and that in itself is not what is destructive. What is destructive is when people's actions are motivated by anger, or lust, or greed or pride. Those are just emotions and all of us will feel them. They are not bad in and of themselves, they are part of our mortal experience, but we can't let them stay with us.

      President Monson gave a great talk in 2009 in the Priesthood session about anger. You can read it here

      Here is a bit of what he says.

      "The Apostle Paul asks in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 26 of the Joseph Smith Translation: “Can ye be angry, and not sin? let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” I ask, is it possible to feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry? I know of no instance where such would be the case.

      From 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, we read:

      “There shall be no disputations among you. …

      “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

      “Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” 4

      To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.

      Anger, Satan’s tool, is destructive in so many ways."

      Anger is an emotion, but it is also a choice. And when we choose to indulge our anger or let it dominate our feelings or our actions it is impossible for the spirit of God to be with us. I don't think we realize how literal it is that anger is satan's tool. In many ways it is a drug, just like heroin or cocaine, and he can use it to take away our agency and our happiness.

      That is what concerns me about so many "angry feminists". I don't think the anger is bad, but so often the core motivation (even if they don't realize it) is often anger. And anger is ALWAYS destructive. That doesn't mean it is bad to feel it, but anything motivated by anger destroys and not creates.

      Like President Monson said it IS POSSIBLE to never choose to be angry. I am no where near that, but I am finding that the more you turn that anger over to the Lord he fills you with love and it is SO Much more powerful. And perhaps I should clarify here and say "Charity" because you are right, sometimes people do bad things out of "love", but charity is a different creature all together.

      And you can totally still "rock the boat" without getting angry. I'd venture to say that women who "rock the boat" with love are some of the most influential women who have ever lived.

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    6. Ally,

      I sure hope I didn't come across as vilifying Vashti. I really think she was an incredible woman as well. It is true that one of the interpretations of the scripture can be that Vashti was asked to come naked before the men. Really, I think anyone of us in Vashti's situation would have made the same choice. I don't think we should make Vashti out to be the bad guy and Esther the good guy, and I apologize if I wasn't eloquent enough to get that across. And it is interesting to think about how Vashti's actions might have paved the way for Esther to be more sucessful.

      What I did want to illustrate was the different outcomes in their approaches. One made long lasting changes and the other didn't. Though I am sure that Vashti did the best that she could under the circumstances. Esther was in a much different situation than vashti and so it is really isn't fair to compare them straight across. But still I think that there is ALOT to learn about how to make lasting change from studying Esther's story.

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    7. Opps, I forgot to link to the President Monson talk. Here it is

      https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/school-thy-feelings-o-my-brother?lang=eng

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    8. Hi Heather,

      I am a newish reader (about a month) and feel like your blog is wonderful. I appreciated this discussion though because I had some thoughts on this post. I believe you absolutely were not trying to vilify Vashti, but when you equate her with an angry feminist and then use wording like this "Yet over the years I have seen, that if you really want to make lasting change in the world, there is more wisdom in being an Esther than a Vashti." It's hard to feel that you hold Vashti in high regard.

      I think that being pessimistically critical in our frustrations is more of the attitude I have found to be destructive. Because the anger comes whether your a feminist or not on women's issues. Either you can get angry at the world for 'not seeing what you see' or you can be a non-feminist angry at feminists for questioning things you believe to be 'self-evident.' I feel like there are just as many angry non-feminists in regards to feminist issues, as there are feminists angry at feminist issues (I hope that makes sense). And so maybe I guess I was hoping for a bit more balance in your post ...

      You say that Esther's influence had much more influence ... but really, I am not sure that's a fair statement. It's true that Esther saved a women AND men with what she did, but maybe Vashti's story was just as influential on less known scale. Maybe there was a bit of a feminist revolution, and it just wasn't canonically recorded ...

      A flare up of anger (if it was that) like Vashti's is not the anger of an 'angry feminist.' I don't think Vashti had the time to pray about her response, and she would have certainly been caught completely off guard after feeling in her element celebrating with all ladies. I do not think it is about wisdom with these two, I think it is a matter of them both being an example of the most wonderful feminine traits... choosing to be like a Vashti is choosing to have self-respect, courage and to value our ability to be beautiful without being objectified for it. Choosing to ALSO be like an Esther is choosing to be thoughtful and careful when we are blessed with the circumstance to approach a problem that way, it is also about courage, and quiet strength. That's what I think anyway :).

      Thank you again for your blog, and for this post as it has been wonderful food for independent thought!

      Lauren

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  9. Hi Heather! Interesting blog. I am also a doula and a church friend of mine referred me here. I am a little confused about your feelings toward anger or any other feeling - being a fellow doula. I feel that it is healthy for someone to feel anger and it is counterproductive to hold those types of feelings inward. I know that as a doula, my job is to help hold someone's space, allowing them to have a safe place to feel anything they wish, including anger. I couldn't imagine telling someone that anger is of the devil, etc...Some folks need to let the anger out in order to heal and feel love again. Also, I could think of many instances that anger has made lasting change. Civil rights movement anyone? Yes, racism still exists but now a person of color can vote, use a public restroom, etc..Anyway, I don't have a lot of time to type all that I am thinking but I thought I would add my thoughts.

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  10. This is GREAT!! I LOVE it, I LOVE it, I LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D This is a wonderful gift to me and an answer to prayers. After all.....it is faith(love) that moves the mountains, not fear(anger). Thank you. I LOVE YOU!! :)

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  11. I love the points made in this, and it's a great reminder for me to keep my anger in check as I can run away with my emotions and thus become less effective in doing good personally and locally.
    However, as mentioned by several other posters, I am worried about the way anger is viewed as a tool of the devil and associated negatively. I have seen FAR more damage in an LDS context of women who have never acknowledged their own anger and then taking it out unconsciously or passive-aggressively because they can't or won't face it. Women hold grudges (against a person or institution), but still act "nice" so they never heal because they're not willing to even fully acknowledge what is happening inside them. I've seen it slowly wreck marriages and self-worth. I've seen an extreme relationship with anger in my family and myself. It was viewed as a terrible thing so everyone held it in until it exploded in really damaging ways...perpetuating the cycle that anger is terrible because the only time it's experienced is when it is out-of-control. It's only been in the last decade or so that I've learned how to experience anger in other more healthy ways and let myself be angry so I can learn from it instead of hiding from it because it's not "loving" or "kind." Sometimes anger is a short-term unpleasant fire to help mold and shift things into a better place for the long-term. I had to experience some anger with the church in order for me to change the way I was experiencing and viewing things, and I honestly feel like that anger was prompted by the Lord to get me to MOVE and explore the uncomfortable spaces where there aren't clear answers and I have to be more personally engaged.
    But I do agree that even if we are feeling justified in our anger, we cannot let that dominate our world-view as the most "correct" emotion to feel. We need some days in the heat, but too many and we'll get burned or forget what it's like to experience other temperatures and find ourselves cursing the world.

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  12. One last comment in reference to what anger is. My husband is a therapist and we've had many discussions about anger. I think it helps to know that anger is a secondary emotion. In some cases it serves as a protection. For example, if a woman is grabbed, or asked to dance naked in front of a group of men, she first will often feel fear. In such situations, that primary emotion quickly changes to anger. In such circumstances this anger serves as a protection. I think we'll all agree anger in such circumstances is justified, although I wish we'd call it something else (like boldness, but that doesn't quite cut it). So we can see Vashti likely was just as much a heroine as Esther in this story as mentioned earlier.

    Anger can also help us understand where our emotions are coming from. The more we ask ourselves why we're upset, the more we can dig up those primary emotions. That's when healing can begin because we start to understand why we react with anger in certain instances. When we start to understand we feel angry after we feel fear, sadness, or other negative emotions, we can begin to get to the root of emotional problems. I believe this is why the doula brought up how anger is a necessary emotion for people to feel. If we've been through injustices, we do need to feel anger so we can begin to see why we're hurting. Feeling this anger is a part of a healing process. I think this healing anger becomes more of a mourning.

    However, I think the anger that is unhealthy is more of the rage, or bitterness that can overcome us if we get in the habit of being quick to anger. So anytime we feel sad, or some other emotion we begin to not even recognize that we're sad or scared because we've gotten in the habit of responding with the secondary emotion of anger. When we respond in anger to incidences that aren't threatening it's difficult to think clearly. It's difficult think logically when you're mad. And lets face it, people also have a hard time seeing an angry woman (or man) as a leader, or with respect, rather they see them as crazy.

    If we find ourselves mad, frustrated, or bitter a lot about certain topics we likely need to dig deeper to not only heal, but to be a better voice for the injustices we find upsetting. That voice will be better received if it's spoken through the charity Heather mentioned mixed with those primary emotions because we'll express ourselves with more logic and in a more respectable manner.

    So, there is a time and place for anger, but if it's not healing anger, or anger like Vashti's, we can become consumed by it and our growth can be damned.

    Brittany

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  13. Just wanted to say thanks for this amazing post. There was a time I felt like I was going down this path of anger, and I felt like Heavenly Father was telling me, "I want to help you find the answers to your questions, but your anger is getting in the way of real progress." Thank again. This really resonated with me.

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  14. P.S. Some time ago I wrote a post along a similar idea, about how publicly counseling with love is so much more effective than trying to publicly shame others into change. I'd be interested to know if you agree. http://empoweringldswomen.blogspot.com/2013/02/private-counseling-vs-public.html

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  15. Vashti died at the hands of an abusive husband. She was not at fault. I love Esther as much as the next religious feminist, but let's not hold up one feminist by victim blaming against another.

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  16. Thank you Heather for holding space for this amazing conversation! How I wish every meeting in Relief Society and every Visiting Teaching visit could be so dynamic, free, honest and open.

    McKenzie - thank you for sharing your concerns. I share your feelings and often feel lonely in navigating them.

    I've been wondering about anger a lot, processing it within myself to the point I'll wake in the middle of the night from dreams of me on a soap box ranting and ranting. I talked with a wise woman about my anger and she reminded me that it is energy and can be transformed into enthusiasm. How? I don't know. We don't discuss such processes within the context of the church beyond the "basic Sunday school answers". What happens too often (in my experience at least) the anger is pushed under the mask of "being nice" . I believe that only makes one boil more.

    I am learning does take faith, focus and work to shift deep emotions, I am learning to utilize tools from the book Non Violent Communication and incorporating yoga practices in with my scripture and prayer. I feel it is helping and..............

    I wonder why 4,000 years later we are still dealing with the injustices of women! Yes, change happens on a individual basis - then what?

    I believe there is power in gathering with intent, focus, unity, love and imagination. I honestly believe great societal change for women (both within the church an outside the church) is upon us, and I believe it is time to gather, we don't need to rant, but we do need to be courageous in sharing the truth of our experiences and feelings.

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  17. Fabulous article! I agree entirely. I also used to be an angry feminist and only after letting go of the "natural woman" did I start to be happy.

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  18. To everybody above, this is McKenzie again. It took me a while to get back to read the responses and I just wanted to add my last follow up because this has been so helpful for me. Like I said at the beginning of this discussion, I haven't been making a lot of progress in my testimony because my intense anger that follows experiences that should be the most uplifting drowns out the spirit. I recognize that and I wanted to be able to eliminate the anger so I could get a move on with answers.

    I guess what I've learned is that the anger doesn't go away. It's not really a question of learning not to be rocked by unjust things. It's not even a question of being able to bury that anger when it comes. (Since the comments above seem to agree that burying the anger is just self-destructive.) I think what I need to learn to do is trust and have faith. I need to learn how to let the anger wash over me and then persist. It's hard because anger is such a negative emotion. (After being so angry for so long, I lean on the side of thinking anger is NOT helpful, ever. I guess I should clarify. Even in the instances mentioned above where anger seems to be a helpful emotion, it really just clouds your judgement. When the anger comes from fear, it makes it hard to react right. Your reflexes will be thrown off or you may try to take on a fight you can't win. So, no I don't think anger is helpful . . . ever. Even in instances of racial inequality, it took a cool headed person to get the ball rolling. A lot of angry people do more damage than good.

    However! Anger is natural and I don't think we should or ever will be able to get rid of it. (New opinion after reading everyone's thoughts.) So I guess the key is learning to move past the anger and make progress toward fixing the underlying cause. In my case, I guess the underlying cause is confusion. And sometimes I'm not going to be able to fix the confusion like I want to. So then I have to go to plan B. Just plain faith.

    That's all I've been holding onto recently. I have a list of the things I know and a list of talks and songs that help. And when I get so angry and confused and hurt, I just have to re-read the talks, and my testimony, and the songs. And my testimony seems small to me and it seems to leave out important things that seem to be in everyone else's testimony, but it includes the things I can't refute. The things that I know are true that I can never relinquish. And that stability is the only thing keeping me going right now.

    So thank you for your thoughts. Your posts have been a godsend for me during this difficult stage of life. And I really appreciate all the thoughts and advice from other commenters.

    McKenzie at http://divinenatureofwomen.blogspot.com.

    P.S. Mommymita, I also wish Relief Society and Visiting Teaching was open like we can be on the internet. One of the biggest obstacles to my progress has been feeling like nobody else ever has questions. (Since everyone always prefaces their comments with "Well, I never struggle with . . . .") It makes me feel like an idiot and unfaithful. Finding people on the internet who openly acknowledge their concerns was a huge turning point for my testimony.

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    1. So glad that this conversation helped!

      And Relief Society is everything that you make it out to be. I have been in some relief societies that were very open and where we discussed things like this (and even more) on Sunday meetings, but it was all because people were willing to open their hearts and share. I think you would be really really surprised how women will rally around you if you are willing to share your heart. Like we've talked about here, anything done with love can change people in powerful ways. I know that some of my best friends in RS have been people-- who after me sharing my questions and struggles-- were able to help me find the answers. Thinking that no one else doubts or has questions is the same thing as thinking that everyone else's life is perfect. But like you said sometimes we are too afraid to share... but as soon as someone gets the courage to... the walls tumble down.

      Like Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in Relief Society"

      or as JFK said, "Ask not what Relief Society can do for you, but what you can do for Relief Society."

      Or at least that is what they would have said if they had been a part of RS :)

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