Talia bat Pessi, at Ms. Magazine, finds a feminist hero in the Megilla and it’s not (only) Esther — it’s Vashti.
Vashti understood feminism thousands of years before it was given a name. Realizing the sexism of the fact that Ahasuerus made a party for only the men of Persia, she decided to level the playing field and make an equal party for the women. Vashti was an extremely proud, headstrong woman; there was no way that she would debase herself by dancing for Ahasuerus’ drunken friends.
This is not wholly original — I first read the same take in Ms. Magazine back in the early 1980s, when my then-boss at the laundromat that employed me was a subscriber.
I do like her kicker though — and I was not aware of the commentary on the origins of Vashti’s name:
There is a Jewish teaching that your name reveals the essence of your soul. In Persian, the name Vashti means goodness. A commentary explains that Vashti comes from the Hebrew word shtei, meaning two. While the commentary uses this to explain Vashti’s “twoness” in a negative light, it can also be seen positively. Esther is considered the only hero of the Purim story; Vashti can be counted as the second.