Dalrock thoughts from a happily married father on a post feminist world.

No one is saying women should formally propose to men. What Cane and I are responding to is the nearly universal false belief that the Bible teaches that men should follow the rules of Courtly Love regarding finding a wife. The Trad Con claim is that a man must pick a woman and boldly declare his intention to court her for marriage. The woman, who heretofore hasn’t considered the man one way or another, then proceeds to judge the man’s performance as he endeavors to win her heart* with acts of chivalry (like helping her move).

This is a highly unnatural way for men and women to pair off. It artificially raises the stakes and makes it harder for both men and women to assess their own marriage market value. A much more natural way is for women to first signal interest to the man by subtle (and therefore deniable) indicators of interest (IOIs).

If the man gets the hint, and if he is interested, the path is open for the couple to get to know each other. This doesn’t mean men should never initiate contact or lead, but men should know how to read the signals and not waste their time on a woman who (given the chance) isn’t indicating interest. Ironically the Courtly Love model is presented as the man leading, but in fact it is all about the man chasing. Chasing isn’t leading, it is following. Moreover the rigid and artificial Courtly Love model is not only not effective, it is not (as widely believed) a biblical model.

*Winning her heart is considered the lifetime role of a Christian husband, including after the wedding. While the Bible teaches us that wives should win over their husbands, Courtly Love teaches us that a husband must forever re-win his wife’s heart. This is especially important for Christian husbands to do when their wives get bored of being married and start affairs with high status men at work. For the definitive guide on this, see the movie Fireproof.

I have to disagree with the Esther example, at least as an example of a woman pursuing a man for marriage. She didn’t pursue Ahasuerus for marriage; his “talent scouts” picked her out for his harem and she had no choice in the matter. She later pursued him to solicit his favor for her people, but that illustrates a different point than the one you’re going for here.

This encouraged me to go back and read the beginning of the Book of Esther again. He is right that we aren’t told that Esther wanted to become the queen of the land. We also aren’t told that her “uncle” Mordecai instructed her to try to become queen of Persia. All we know is that she was found to be one of the most beautiful virgins in all of Persia, and was therefore brought to the palace to compete with all of the other beautiful virgins for the king’s favor.

What happens next depends on your worldview. Imagine the story from the perspective of a Hebrew woman. Right off the bat, Esther is declared one of the most beautiful women in the ancient world. Esther is then forced to undergo a full year of luxurious beauty treatments & pampering in order to compete in something similar to the reality series “The Bachelor”. She also has no choice but to wear the best fashion in the world and have sex with the most powerful (and therefore sexiest) man in the ancient world. Esther, the nobody from nowhere, beats all of the Persian bitches and becomes revered throughout the land. She was the it woman in the ancient world. Her status was so high that when she threw a dinner party, everyone wanted to be invited.

If you are familiar with the story you will remember Haman, the man who was so powerful he was able to have it decreed that the Jews would be killed and their wealth plundered. At the height of Haman’s power and prestige his greatest boast was that Esther selected him and only him for the honor of attending her dinner party (Esther 5:10-13, NIV):

Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow . 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”

Either way, we aren’t told in the Book of Esther whether Esther wanted to have sex with the sexiest man in the world and become queen of all Persia. While I think it is fair to assume that the original audience of the book would expect that she did want this, the Bible is silent on the question. But regardless of how you answer the question, it doesn’t change the fact that it was Esther who had to win over the king, not the other way around. This is true not only when she has to beat the other women to become queen. It is also true (as Robin Munn notes) when she has to save the Jews. In fact, in order to even speak to the king Esther has to first risk death to win his favor. Where the Courtly Love rewrite of the story would have King Ahasuerus submitting to Esther in an effort to win a sign of her favor, Esther has to demonstrate her submission to King Ahasuerus in the hope that he will point his scepter in her direction. If she fails to win his favor, she and all of the Jews will die. Esther is so submissive that she tells the king she wouldn’t have even bothered asking him to intervene if she and her people were merely sold into slavery (Esther 7:2-4, NIV):

3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. 4 For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.[a]”

But even the question of whether Esther wanted to become queen of all Persia has a feminist root. In many ways Esther is like Daniel, another Jew who ended up in Persia after the Jews were carried away. Both Esther and Daniel found themselves and their people on the wrong end of a death decree by the king as a result of trickery by Persian enemies. Both found favor with the king, glorified God, and saved their people. We don’t ask if Daniel wanted to become an adviser to the king, because either way it was a tremendous honor, and more importantly it was a required part of God’s plan. Daniel was faithful to God and played the cards he was dealt. So did Esther. In Esther’s case this meant first winning the competition to become queen, and then winning the king over again to save the Jews.