Mulan and Feminist Criticism Disney undermines their own objective What is Feminist Theory? Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women.” This school of theory looks at how aspects of our culture are inherently patriarchal and "...this critique strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male writing about women.” OWL Purdue Basic tenants of Feminist Criticism Women are oppressed by patriarchy economically, politically, socially, and psychologically; patriarchal ideology is the primary means by which they are kept suppressed In every domain where patriarchy reigns, woman is “other”: she is marginalized, defined only by her difference from male norms and values All of western (Anglo-European) civilization is deeply rooted in patriarchal ideology, for example, in the biblical portrayal of Eve as the origin of sin and death in the world OWL Purdue Basic tenants of Feminist Criticism While biology determines our sex (male or female), culture determines our gender (masculine or feminine) All feminist activity, including feminist theory and literary criticism, has as its ultimate goal to change the world by prompting gender equality Gender issues play a part in every aspect of human production and experience, including the production and experience of literature, whether we are consciously aware of these issues or not. OWL Purdue How do we analyze a text using this theory? How is the relationship between men and women portrayed? What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)? How are male and female roles defined? What constitutes masculinity and femininity? How do characters embody these traits? OWL Purdue How do we analyze a text using this theory? Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others’ reactions to them? What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially, or psychologically) of patriarchy? What does the work say about women's creativity? What does the history of the work's reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the operation of patriarchy? OWL Purdue Mulan: Disclaimer While the theory is based on the idea that “All of western (AngloEuropean) civilization is deeply rooted in patriarchal ideology” and Mulan is an Eastern story, it is still told through the eyes of Disney, which is western. Mulan through a Feminist Lens Disney’s overt objective is to undermine the patriarchal Chinese society they portray by creating a female character that breaks all the patriarchal rules. However, they instead manage to uphold patriarchal dominance by making her dependent on a male dragon for success, need to prove herself to her father, and the fact that no one wants to acknowledge her until after she is successful. Gender Roles in Mulan Women Bear sons “Fulfill duties calmly and respectfully” “Reflect before you act” Finding a “good match” Perform the tea ceremony “dignified and poised” Make men want to go to war for you Men Serve the emperor Protect the family Fight for women Success or die Behavioral Expectations Women Don’t speak without permission Good taste, calm, obedient Work quickly Tiny waist Don’t contradict a man Men Brave, strength, tough, fearless, quick, intelligent, disciplined, dedicated, courageous obedient to rank structure Cunning/strategic Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How does this change others’ reactions to them? Cross dressing is illegal Ancestors argue over whether or not to help her because of what she’s done Captain does not let her actions speak for themselves; he leaves her behind when he discovers she is a woman Soldiers dress as concubines to save the Emperor In the end… Value is based on compliance to societal norms and expectations, not accomplishments They bow to her, but she would not have been successful without Mushu She chooses to go home instead of serve as the Emperor’s Counsul She bows and presents gifts to her father to prove her worth Family only values her after she is successful Works Cited Bancroft, Tony, dir. Mulan. Dir. Barry Cook. Walt Disney, 1998. Film. 23 Oct 2013. Purdue OWL. "OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab."Feminist Criticism (1960s-present). Purdue University, 04 Oct 2010. Web. 23 Oct 2013. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/reso urce/722/11/>.