Tag Archives: film

Amazons in Action – Part 2



Disney’s Mulan graced the big screen in 1998 – a young girl volunteers to join the Chinese army in place of her ailing father and ends up saving the nation from the invading Huns.  As a classic underdog story, the film succeeds on its merits.  Mulan is also the first Disney princess that’s not a “princess.”


The Trung sisters, Trac and Nhi, were from a powerful family among the Vietnamese.  At this time (the 1st century A.D.) Vietnamese culture was matriarchal, meaning property was inherited through the line of the mother and it wasn’t uncommon for women to become business owners, warriors, politicians, etc.  but Chinese culture was patriarchal, demanding that women be subservient to men.  In addition, the Chinese instituted new taxes.  All of this was a major source of contention.  Trung Trac‘s husband, among others, openly protested the new policies.  But overall, the Chinese domination of Vietnam was tolerated by the Vietnamese until a Chinese commander raped Trung Trac and murdered her husband.  The Chinese were hoping to solidify the Vietnamese’s submission but instead this one-act began the rebellion.

Legend has it that the sisters killed a tiger and used its skin as paper to write a letter encouraging the people to join them.  They trained 36 women to be generals, including their own mother.  These women were so committed that one of their closest allies went into battle pregnant, gave birth on the battlefield, and strapped her newborn to her back so she could continue fighting.

The Trung sisters organized and led an army of 80,000 men and women against Chinese forces and reclaimed most of Vietnam.  The people were so grateful that they raised Trung Trac to queen status.  She reversed all the Chinese mandates, in favor of a government that respected their cultural roots and ruled for 3 years until the Chinese reclaimed power.

Legend also claims that both sisters threw themselves into the river, rather than face dishonor.  Today, stories, poems, plays, postage stamps, posters and monuments still glorify the heroism of the Trung sisters.  In Vietnam, February 6th is the national holiday in honor of them.

“All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission;
Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.”
15th century Poem


Amazons in Action – Part 1



Avatar burst onto the scene in 2009 with visual effects that we had never seen before but the story was a familiar one.  With strong themes of nature and spirituality, I couldn’t help being reminded of Pocahontas.

With one major exception.  Neytiri did more than run through the forest singing.  Her spiritual bond to the land and devotion to her people was balanced by her knowledge of combat.  She was a princess and a warrior.  Unlike Pocahontas, she didn’t seek permission to be with Jake.  It was her decision and she was willing to spill blood to defend him. First against her own people and then again during the last fight scene.

Jake spends most of the film struggling to find his moral compass and assert his physical abilities so Neytiri actually comes across as the stronger hero between the two of them and that doesn’t happen every day!


Lozen was a spiritual leader and warrior of the Apache Nation during the U.S. occupation of their lands.  She was born around 1840 in what we now know as southern New Mexico.

Lozen never married; instead she devoted herself to becoming a warrior and master strategist.  She fought alongside men like Geronimo and was often photographed with him, although from looking at her most people didn’t think she was a woman.

Lozen’s abilities as a seer were well respected and usually enabled her to steer her people away from danger.  But one night she was unable to go with her troops into battle because she was attending to a woman in childbirth.  The troops were ambushed and her brother (the chief) was killed.  Many felt that if she had been there the battle would’ve been won.

Eventually, she was captured by the U.S. army and imprisoned first in Florida then Alabama where she died at the age of 50 from tubercolosis.

Before his death, her brother had this to say about his older sister: “Lozen is my right hand… strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”

A Brave Commentary


I loved this movie! Not only was it entertaining but the theme of female empowerment ran rapid, up and down, and all through it! A gutsy red-haired girl refuses to be sold into marriage, refusing to let others decide the path that her life should take and who she should be.  It’s not that she has some other destiny in mind she just wants the ability to find it, whatever it may be, for herself.

I recently read a comment about feminism being paramount to hating men or making all men out to be horrible human beings.  It is a sad but persistent point of view among non-feminists.  Well, this movie speaks to that and I know Disney didn’t intend for it to be that deep! Bear with me, I promise not to spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it but want to.

Merida, the gutsy red-haired girl, is a bit of a tom boy.  And guess which parent encourages her to be just as she is? Mother or father? Guess which parent desperately wants to make her into a “respectable lady?” Well, you’ve seen the preview now so you should know the answer to that.  Her father is the one that teaches her about archery and swordplay, which she has undeniable talent for, not to mention that both bring her such joy.  But, it is her mother that is determined to undermine all of that.  Her mother who insists that she wear a corset and do all these other things that princesses are expected to do.  This would be fine if that was what Merida wanted but Merida is abundantly clear – she does not want it.  And yet, her opinion, her feelings seem to mean nothing to her mother.  This is the central conflict of the movie.

Isn’t it perfectly realistic? For as many times as I’ve faced gender discrimination or generalizations at the hand (or mouth) of a man, I’ve also gotten it from a woman.  A woman who likely just doesn’t know any better but A WOMAN nonetheless.  How did this happen to us? How did we become pawns in the plot to undermine ourselves? I suspect it started with just one woman.  Maybe she was so desperate to be happy that the only way she saw to do this was to identify with her oppressor.  Or maybe she didn’t think what she truly felt mattered so she shut down that little voice inside her that was screaming to be heard.

How many women have told their daughters that they weren’t good enough just as they were? That they needed to lose weight or be popular to get through life? This link  leads to the next video which is a series of clips from the cable television show Weeds.

Now for one last example.  When I was growing up, every girl I knew had a mother that was concerned about her … innocence, shall we say.  This would show up in rules about dating, being alone with boys, or in my case … what I was wearing.  I’d always been a busty girl and by the time I was fifteen grown men had started to notice.  And they weren’t the least bit ashamed of themselves.  So, my  mother – as loving as she is, made a federal case out of my necklines.  If I wore anything that was not a turtleneck she was concerned.  She didn’t want boys/men to get the wrong impression.  What, that I’m a fifteen year old hooker? I’d say.  It couldn’t possibly have been their problem.  No, I needed to cover up to help boys/men keep their hormones in check.  It was my responsibility.  So, for years I hid underneath huge tee shirts and even wore jackets in eighty degree weather just to keep “the girls” out of sight.  But eventually, I had enough.  I wore what I wanted.  I didn’t conduct myself in a sleazy fashion.  I wasn’t flirty or even friendly usually.  But I did wear whatever I felt like myself in and it did not give anybody license to disrespect me.

Any of you have a similar experience?