Mulan: Kickass Woman #1

Hua_Mulan_Goes_to_WarThis post is dedicated to my girls, who are gearing up
for a new school year. 

A little context: Kickass women are characters or actual people who do extraordinary things. They are the individuals I think of when I need a little something extra to motivate me to get out of bed, pop in the workout DVD, and push play. I’ve got a very subjective list of kickass women to feature on a semi-regular basis.

First up: Fa Mulan, the main character in the Disney animated film
Mulan.

Does This Uniform Make My Butt Look Fat?

The story isn’t exactly new: Young woman masquerades as a man and goes off to war. In fact, Disney apparently based Mulan in part on the legend of Hua Mulan*, who served as a soldier in place of her father in 1st-Century China.

In the Disney version, I like how Mulan fails miserably at being the dolled-up, marriage-eligible young woman she is expected to be to bring honor to her family. It’s just not who she is. I like that she excels when she is true to herself — smart, strong, collaborative, and compassionate — even though she is dressed like a man. She gets the man in the end, too, even though she wasn’t looking for one.

Did They Send Me Daughters When I Asked for Sons?

On the surface, the message of the girls’ fav song from the film (“I’ll Make a Man Out of You”) is not exactly a feminist treatise. (For a great critique of the movie, check out this blog from the The Body Pacifist.) I don’t care. I don’t even care that the song is sung by Donny Osmond. That’s because Mulan turns out to be the best man of the new recruits. She perseveres, blending brains with brawn. She saves the emperor with the help of her fellow soldiers.

When the song pops up on one of our MP3 players in the car, we turn up the volume and sing along. What woman does not want to be “Swift as a coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon… With all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon”?

The trick is becoming a swifter, stronger, mysterious you. Keep exercising, eating healthful foods, and accepting help from your friends to live your best life. I know… Just like the movie’s plot, this is an ancient message.

I’m going to try to do a better job heeding it. So I can be ready to take on whatever the world throws my way. Mulan-style.

*Hua Mulan image from Wikipedia — Artifact on loan courtesy of the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, Kansas.

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