Mulan reflects on her journey as a woman warrior.
I am Fa Mulan. Everybody knows me as the girl who took her father’s place in the imperial army to fight against the Huns. Yes, I freed the emperor and China but there is way more than that. You are lucky, I have a little bit of time today. To be honest, there is not much to do in Heaven except watching you guys and watching movies. I am glad I am not a saint, my days would be even longer if I had to grant your (sometimes annoying, sometimes impossible) wishes. My ancestors already know each other. They’ve been here for thousand and thousands of years but for me who just arrived 1500 years ago, the mingling is a bit trickier. Mushu is not even by my side, as he has to be the guardian of the rest of our family on Earth. He’s currently protecting my grandson’s daughters.
As usual, he is doing a poor job. I prayed for my ancestors’ protection before going to war and for whatever reason, they sent me Mushu. To this day, I still don’t understand why my family’s emblem is the red dragon, a powerful and legendary creature, while Mushu is nothing more than a very talkative lizard.
But that is not the point. I have always felt a bit different. While girls would play house with dolls and mahjong, I would climb up trees and watch boys train. I could never understand why they taught us girls to be calm, docile with sharp minds so we can marry well, while boys had to become strong and fearless. It just did not feel right to me. What if our village was attacked and our men were abroad? How would we defend ourselves? Sharp minds do not protect from sharp blades, do they? Sometimes and without my mother knowing, my dad would show me how to hold and swing his sword, the one that had been transmitted from generations to generations in our family. I knew I was better than all the boys who trained daily. My dad knew it as well. I could run faster and longer and although I was pretty thin, my body could take blows as violent as theirs could. I was gifted, he said.
When I came of age to marry, my mom told me that if I wanted to marry a decent man and honor the family, I would have to behave like a woman. Behave like a woman… What did she even mean by that? I was just me, Mulan! And I did not want to change. Each year, in my village, everybody waited for the day the matchmaker would come. It meant a lot in our tradition. Only the matchmaker decided if you were about to be a good wife and she was not even married. I thought it did not make any sense. Anyway long story short, I was declared unfit. You want to know why? Because I was unable to pour tea in a “distinguished” manner. If I had to show my ability to be a good wife (through hunting for eg.) with an archery contest, believe me, the outcome would have been different.
My mom cried and did not talk to me for three days straight. I had dishonored the whole family. Our neighbors talked behind our backs and smiled to our faces. My dad and I did not really care, I mean, it was not a surprise. I DID NOT WANT TO MARRY, let alone a stranger. I wanted to be different. I wanted to leave my village and show that a woman could be so much more than a wife. She could be a hero.
Our emperor was a wise leader. Also, when his councilmen told him that Huns warriors were getting closer to the empire, he immediately called for the draft of one man from each family to go to war. My dad was the only man in our family. He had already fought in the previous war and was still having terrible nightmares. He was old and proud, slow and weak. He would die in the first battle; he could even die while training. I had to replace him. I had to become his son.
I thought being a man would be harder than what I had imagined. I mean, acting like one. Before I left home to the training camp, I had cut my hair short and put on my father’s armor. And at that very moment, I had felt… different. All my life I had been tired of being introduced as the “daughter of”. And on top of that, people expected me to become the “wife of”, as if my identity as a woman had no importance.
With this armor on, I was a soldier fighting for the sake of our empire. I was someone. I was powerful. I was a man. Mulan was a part of me, of course, but I could not be her on the battlefield. Over time, I had learned that my gender was problematic and weak. The training camp was full of scared young men. Ping is the first name that came to my mind. I would now be Fa Ping, my father’s son. I observed them in order to act like them. It was a success. I quickly became the talented cool “guy” of the camp and a few months later, I was saving our beloved dynasty.
I have been watching you guys a lot from above and it made me reflect on the way my story had been transformed. I would like to make some precisions. I am not a transgender person. I am not a cross dresser either. I did it once to save my father and because I knew women could not join the army. When I came back from the war, children from my village called me the “female” warrior and praised my abilities to fight like men. There is no such thing as a “male” warrior. It is part of “male” gender characteristics’ so it does not have to be specified. Despite what I had just done, I realize that there was still a long way to go before people forget about the clichés related to genres.
I was a hero, not because of my skills as a woman but because I looked like men and fought my enemies like they did. Once again, patriarchy had sneak its way into my life. I thought I was showing women that they could be whoever they wanted. I thought I had made a difference but in reality, I had to become a man for people to see me as a soldier. I had to dress and to act in a masculine way to feel powerful when in fact, it did not empower my gender. I could not conform to the rules and had just flee my village to deconstruct the idea of marriage as the center piece of a woman’s life. And fighting was a part of me, I was born to be a soldier. It was impossible for me to even think about becoming a housewife. Ugh. Look up how I actually died, it will give you an idea.
There are so many things that I’d like to mention but it’s getting late. I hope you know more about the real me than you did before.