Trafficking, Sex Work, ... and Purim?
Purim starts in a few hours, and while the holiday is considered by many to be the most joyous in the Jewish calendar, there is a somber side as well. American Jewish World Service (AJWS) gives us pause to consider more than masquerading, giddy imbibing, festive noise-making, and identity-play in our Purim experience. In its text study Trafficking, Sex Work and Power in Megillat Esther, AJWS explains:
"As we read of the rounding up of women for King Ahashverosh's review, we hear echoes of people rounded up into servitude, whether Africans to labor in the New World or Korean 'comfort women' to serve the sexual demands of Japanese soldiers in World War II. Likewise, women, especially in the Global South, are often exploited due to unequal power relations, lack of access to resources and pervasive sexism. Women who become involved in sex work regularly cite lack of alternative employment options as motivation for their decision. The story of Esther gives us the opportunity to reflect on the circumstances that propel women into sex work and the tension between agency and sexual exploitation in the Megillah and in our time."
The questions posed in this text study are timely and compelling, and have given me some contemporary food for thought as I re-hear the Purim story told this year. Check it out.
For another take on Purim and the fight for liberation, check out JWA's Go & Learn lesson plan Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity, which explores the similarities between the struggles, risks, obstacles, and personae of Queen Esther and feminist activist Bella Abzug in effecting courageous change.