“Reflections” on Mulan: Teenage Feminism

Morgan is a 16-year-old from Goddard, KS. She enjoys writing, volunteering, acting as a positive voice for youth, and being politically aware. She loves History and aspires to be a lawyer in her future.


As a little girl, I was constantly bombarded with the message that I could do anything a boy could do. Everyone and everything I was surrounded by was telling me so, -deliberately , through advice columns in magazines like American Girl that were teaching me how to get boys to play with me, and though female role models who earned my full admiration by fulfilling typical masculine positions.

Like most little girls, I grew up watching Disney movies, so it comes as no surprise that I admired the typical princess roles of Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Snow White, and even Ariel. But surprisingly enough, I admired most the one female who didn’t fit the typical mold set by Disney and the standards to be considered a “Disney Princess”: Mulan.

She had the strength of love and the guts to secretly take her father’s place in the Chinese Emperor’s Army against the Huns. She was independent, strong, brave, intelligent, confident, and hardworking. And, as the cherry on top, she did it while incognito.

As the story progressed, Mulan realized she could determine her own fate and she wasn’t about to let these boys push her around. She defeated the odds, while her strength and courage shined through.

Some may argue that Disney appears sexist in the princess movies where there is a damsel in distress and some hunky hero will come to the rescue, thus saving the day. The movie Mulan breaks all of those assumptions, seeing as SHE was the one who ultimately saved the day.

Feminists might screech at the thought that there is a new, more moderate wave of feminism: teenage feminism, or more accurately, female empowerment. It is time for teenage girls to take back the word feminist and change its meaning; it’s already started to happen!

This pure ambition, as expressed in Mulan, is the backbone to this new wave female empowerment. The idea of fitting in and being ‘one of the guys’ is continuously becoming more and more popular, especially among young women.

While females are leveling the playing field in many ways, they are also leveling the front line. In 1983 women accounted for only 9.8 percent of the total Army, whereas 26 years later, in 2009, that number jumped to 15.5 percent.* Women are out on the front lines fighting for our freedom, just like the guys are. (And for that, I applaud and salute them. It is truly an inspiration and I thank you for your service!)

Although  Mulan served in the Chinese Army posed as a man, there is a point in the movie where she says, “Just because I look like a man doesn’t mean I have to smell like one.” I think that line in and out of itself shows the simple difference between females and males, which is an important aspect of this new wave of feminism.

One doesn’t necessarily have to bring honor to her family by impressing the matchmaker and marrying a certain person in today’s world, but there are gender attributes that simple ideology won’t change.

I do, however, want equal opportunities because there is equal ability and availability. Just as Mulan pressed the limits to get what she wanted, some of those boundaries have yet to be broke through, such as, having a female as a president or vice president.

Who an individual is and what they do in life won’t simply be decided by their sex. If someone was put here to be a firefighter, then they should be a firefighter if they are male or female, and if someone’s life purpose was to be a lawyer then they should be a lawyer regardless of their sex.

I think this wave of female empowerment is a firm launch towards breaking through those glass ceilings like having a female holding the highest office in the land, and I’m proud to be supporting it.

After all, if they can’t make a man out of me, I will be a girl worth fighting for.

Photo by “Freefotouk” via Flickr.
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