After reading a great blog post on female attire, I was inspired to delve deeper into the topic of women needing to masculinize themselves in order to gain respect. In her post, Emily Tess raises the question of why Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean must cast away her femininity in order to, "feel free to fight and exhibit superheroine like qualities while still gaining respect from her peers". Perhaps this change just emphasizes her escape from her old life, attached to material needs and stereotypes, to a new limitless world where she can be whomever she wants, but perhaps it applies to a more general gender issue.
In many examples in popular media, whenever a respected female character is introduced, she is not a steretypical girl. A great example of this is in the classic movie Mulan. Mulan, a tomboy at the start, literally trasforms herself into a man in order to be able to accomplish her goals and be a strong human being. When I was younger, I remember looking up to Mulan and thinking she was an awesome, powerful girl, but now I am beginning to question whether she really strengthens the female gender at all. I found this really interesting article on a blog which examines feminism (good blog, you should check it out!) that claims that Mulan is really not a feminist movie at all. While Mulan does accomplish so much, it is all while she is disguised as a man, and at the end, she returns to her previous feminine role. The author of the blog post believes that Mulan "seems to have less of a rhetoric of 'Look girls you can do anything' and more so 'Yes girls can do anything but eventually they will recognize their true womanhood and conform'." Does the fact that Mulan becomes a much stronger character when she is disguised as a man diminish the fact that she is a powerful, independent female character?
Is the movie saying that women cannot be strong on their own, and must change themselves in order to gain respect? Or is it actually trying to give the opposite message: that women can do anything, but because of the society in which they are trapped, must change themselves in order to gain the necessary respect?
"Look at me
I will never pass for a perfect bride
Or a perfect daughter
Can it be
I'm not meant to play this part?
Now I see
That if I were truly
To be myself
I would break my family's heart "