Feminism in Mulan

Tori Varney
AP English
1st period
September 4th, 2015
In Disney’s production Mulan, directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, feminism plays
a huge role. Set in Ancient China it tells the story of a young girl, Mulan, who must disguise
herself as a man and join the army to save her country; however, Mulan comes from a time
when gender conformity was more relevant than it is in today’s society, making this choice very
controversial. In the movie, Mulan's choice to defy gender stereotypes reflects battles for
gender equality, proving a woman can do anything a man can with strong will, determination,
and dedication.
Mulan, being the main character, is the living embodiment of feminism from the very
beginning of the movie. Mulan’s first act of feminism comes very early in the movie when she
angers the match-maker. She disappoints the match-maker by not being able to conform to
the standards society has set for women to strive to obtain. The first example of feminism in
Mulan is far from her greatest or last portrayal of feminism.
Mulan’s next act of feminism is bizarre and quite literally a crime in her time period.
Mulan, in an effort to protect her father, steals his armor horse and sword to go pose as a man
and attempt to join the army in his place. She clearly possesses no fear in taking actions no
other woman in her era would even dare to imagine. Mulan repeatedly breaks down social
barriers, not in a conventional way by in a social standing fighting for woman to have more
rights, but by literally sneaking in and proving that women are capable of anything that a man
can achieve.
The protagonist in this movie stops at nothing to achieve her goals. She actually
manages to infiltrate the training camp for the new recruits of the army. Shortly after her rocky
transition into the military camp the training begins. Although Mulan, now known as Ping,
struggles greatly, her spirit is not broken. Mulan, despite failing at being a soldier, is still
making leaps and bounds for women just by surviving in what was until now only a man’s
Mulan, clearly the worst soldier out of the rag tag bunch of recruits, does not lag behind
her peers for long. After being dismissed by her commander, which would likely bring great
dishonor to her family, she manages to defeat a trial the other recruits have yet to conquer.
This event quickly leads to Mulan seeming to be the top recruit as she far outshines the others
in the rest of the training. Mulan appears to bring the women in Ancient Chinese society
hundreds of years forward with every step she takes, and the young girl is far from the
completion of her story.
The next conquest for women comes on the battlefield. Although Mulan failed to
actually kill the Huns she saves her small group of comrades from the enemy and should be
viewed as a hero for her quick thinking during the altercation. Mulan, being a hero seems like a
foregone conclusion until she loses consciousness on the battlefield. Her wounds had to be
treated immediately, this leads to the discovery that she is a woman that has infiltrated the
military ranks. Mulan’s actions would traditionally lead to her execution, but in this case her
commander lets her live because she had just saved his life. The fact she was not killed should
be viewed as a win for women throughout Ancient China.
Mulan’s next and finale act of feminism comes very late in the movie but may be the
greatest example of all. She risks her life in an attempt to save the emperor from the Huns.
That act, even though it ended in success, far from exemplifies feminism. The true reason this
final endeavor by Mulan puts women further towards being viewed as equals to men is the
recognition she receives. After helping her former military companions gain victory over the
Huns she is offered a position on the emperors’ council, and given both the crest of the
emperor and the sword that belonged to, Shan Yu, the leader of the Huns.
Disney’s movie Mulan uses feminism as one of the main themes for the entire film. If
Mulan, the main character, were an actual person she would likely go down in history as the
greatest feminist to ever live. She not only walked into a man’s world and became a hero, but
she shatters the stereotype regarding what was thought of as attractive in a woman. She in no
way has any trait the match-maker would say is desirable for a wife, however she has gained
the interest of Li Shang, a man of great honor and position in society. Mulan, with every
decision she makes, is feminism personified.