“It's easy to be considered a misandrist when men are socialized to feel entitled to women and our time. So, if you ignore them, you're a misandrist. If you insist they leave you alone, you're a misandrist. If you focus on building healthy female-centered relationships over relationships with men, you're a misandrist. Misandry is basically, prioritizing your agency, autonomy and fellow women, over men in a society that teaches you that being feminine relies on giving into men's feelings of entitlement. ”—
“Violent or discriminatory sexism, called hostile sexism, is used by men in patriarchal societies to police women’s behavior. When women defy gender roles by acting in a way that is perceived as too “masculine,” men use violence to punish them and remind them of their feminine role. Benevolent sexism is simply the reverse of this; it isn’t the punishment for acting too masculine, it’s the reward for acting appropriately feminine. These two types of sexism often exist together and men (or societies) that use one will generally use the other.”—Research Blog: “I’ll get that for you”: Chivalry is alive and holding your boxes | SPARK Movement
Mulan: Rejecting Tradition
When Mulan came out in 1998, feminists rejoiced. It marked a high point in the feminist evolution of character during the Disney Renaissance: While previous heroines had been labeled “spunky” and “go-getters,” none had, to this point, achieved their goals without the help of a male love interest, and certainly, none had raised a sword to fight. Mulan’s praise often focused on her defiance of gender roles and her emanation of traditionally masculine traits—engaging in combat, donning pants, rejecting the look-pretty-and-make-babies formula her society had set out for her.
What makes Mulan truly revolutionary, as i have said before, is that it subverts both male and female traditional narratives. Mulan is not a man’s story that just happens to star a woman; Mulan herself isn’t even a masculine woman. She is a woman whose thoughts and behaviors do not align perfectly with the expectations in her society, which is to say, a normal woman. Unlike traditional narratives of male heroes, Mulan does not run away to the front lines for love of combat or desire for glory. She doesn’t do it out of a sense of obligation to her country. She doesn’t do it to prove her strength. She does it for one reason and one reason only: to save her father. Mulan knows that her aging and crippled father will die if he should fight. It is love, not obligation or bloodlust, that drives Mulan to take her father’s place.
Mulan’s success does not stem from her physical strength, nor from any traditionally masculine traits. She succeeds because of her wits and cunning. From the opening scenes, the movie establishes that Mulan is simply smarter than most people. During “Honor to Us All,” she looks at a checkers game that two men are playing, and spots a winning move within seconds that neither of them had noticed previously. During her military endeavors, it is her intelligence and quick thinking that allows her to succeed. Rather than directly fighting the Huns, who greatly outnumber the recruits, she uses her cannon to cause an avalanche, burying her enemies. Later, when fighting Shan Yu at the palace, she disarms him with a fan, a distinctly feminine object; the only other time we see her with one is during the matchmaker scenes. This is significant not only in the display of brains over brawn; symbolically, she disarms him of his phallic power with feminine cunning.
The irony of the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” is that Mulan is not, and will never be, a man, yet she achieves all the “criteria” that Shang sets down. The song itself is a parody, an inversion of expectations. Shang tells Mulan “pack up, go home, you’re through,” because he has failed to “make a man” of her. Immediately following these lines, Mulan climbs the pole using the “discipline and strength” weights, and goes from being the slowest and weakest to being at the front of the pack. The climbing of the pole—another phallic symbol—sums up the entire song. She rises to the traditionally masculine challenge with creativity and intelligence, not raw strength. Essentially, Mulan takes these concepts (discipline and strength), traditionally thought of as belonging to the masculine, and uses them to her advantage. Mulan does not become a man; she proves that manhood is not the only path to success.
In the end, Mulan denies the opportunity to join the emperor’s counsel, nor does she want to continue a military life. She chooses to return to her life at home as a daughter. It’s implied that a romance begins between her and Shang, not based on appearances or courting, but based on mutual admiration of each other’s achievements.
Mulan, in short, does almost everything right. It’s not about a princess who get rescued by a prince. It’s not about a battle-hungry hero in search of fame and glory. It’s about a person, a woman, who’s smart, resourceful, and who loves her family so much that she’s willing to die for them.