What Makes a Swordswoman?

December 3, 2010

I found it most interesting when the parallel was brought up in class to the Disney movie Mulan.  I’d always suspected that there was some fable the story came from, since Disney rarely does anything creative or original any more.  At the same time, Mulan was an awe inspiring story to me as a child.  I can’t take that away from it, but I did take away my view of gender roles from it and these same views are presented in the text.

Women throughout history have often been said to have a place as homemakers and caretakers.  These gentler qualities are said to be “feminine,” while violence and work are “masculine.”  Mulan and Maxine both want to embrace their masculine side and be the kinds of courageous heroes that society claims only men can be.  I don’t see how androgyny can hurt society, to be frank.  After all, in the animal kingdom gender roles that humans claim to be the norm are sometimes subverted.  We look at the lioness who hunts or the pregnant male seahorses for no better examples.

At their core, swordsmen are defined better by the phallic object they wield to cut down their opponent instead of their actual penis.  Agility, precision, and grace are all essential to swordsmanship, though, and are also common “feminine” attributes.  Certainly the qualification for female heroes can be met.  The other thing that swordsmen have is honor, which is an androgynous trait.  Stereotypically speaking, men have their honor that they must fight to keep and so do women, but in more subtle ways such as virginity and homemaking.  The truth is that while everyone is constantly seeking heroes, sometimes one can be a hero in their own small way by leading the life they live normally on their own terms.

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