Word Collage

Found In: Pursuing Justice, Purim

By Erika Katske and Tamara Cohen | Poem

photo by Ruth Silverman

I.
The King merry with wine ordered
Bring Queen Vashti wearing a royal crown
to display her beauty to the peoples and the officials

For she was a beautiful woman.

Every woman is a beautiful woman.
And yet beauty is everything no living woman can ever be.
Twenty-five-year-old breasts, no sweat, no wrinkles.
Ready to be displayed, never tired of being judged.
ever ready to please, always smiling, always sexually available.

And Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command.

II.
The king's officals advised
send beauty scouts bring pretty, unmarried girls
The harem keeper will dress them and beautify them.
let the girl who pleases Your Majesty be queen

and Esther was taken into the palace

What is the possible point of a beauty contest?
To judge who is most loyal to an imposed definition of womanhood and beauty
To find the ideal female, who is rewarded for altering her natural appearance completely,
who is rewarded if she shows the considerable lengths she is prepared to go to,
to please men's aesthetic sense, to mold herself into someone else's Dream Girl.

And Esther arose and stood before the king and said, "How can I look on while my people are being destroyed?"

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All bolded words from the Megillat Esther; other text excerpted from a speech delivered in 1983 at the Myth California Beauty Pageant in Santa Cruz, CA. by activist D.A. Clarke (copyright 1983 D.A. Clarke). Published in Ma'yan's Journey, Winter, 2001.