But seriously though stop.
Yao is not a woman.
Okay do you realize how offensive it would be to him to call him that.
It’s nothing against WOMEN in general. It’s not being SEXIST. It’s not that he wouldn’t look GOOD as a woman.
It’s part of his fucking HISTORY okay— a man would not want to be dishonored — Yes I said it, DISHONORED — by being called a woman. I don’t care how much you watched Mulan as a kid and how much of a boner you get at the hair cutting scene— he probably really enjoys that fable, but that doesn’t mean he’d WANT to be or be called a woman.
I wouldn’t do this normally, but it miffed me that this was put into the public sphere and tagged, and so I feel that it is necessary to correct the logical fallacies which make up your opinion.
You assert, through implication in characterisation and through direct statement, that this character is not only male, but an unmistakably masculine male. By being an effeminate male, by the views you state, this character would become something ridiculous, not only by communal standards, but by those of Chinese society. Both of these are wrong.
The perceived absurdity as dictated by communal values is a premier example of transphobic rhetoric. If a character would like to be called by any sort of pronoun but does not present as a cisgender _____ it is not the business of anybody but the creator of that character to dictate how they identify or what their gender is, and it is certainly not anyone’s job to do this across the board. By maintaining that a character is of a certain sex and therefore must present as the same gender as their sex, you are promoting transphobia and the unwillingness to accept those who identify as something other than their morphological sex. The exact same argument is used to shame people and has lead to the murders of those who are something other than cisgender.
If in your opinion, this character is a male who likes to eat raw legs of cows and throw boulders at people and do, from what the Western perspective is, “manly” things, that is entirely your business, and nobody should push anything onto you.
But it is not your right to push anything onto others either, especially if it is factually incorrect to begin with.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of a masculine male in itself, particularly from the perspective of Western society and cultural norms/societal mores. However, when analysing the social and cultural psychologies of a non-Western society, it is imprudent to ignore the non-Western cultural norms and societal mores.
The conclusion this highly injudicious behaviour leads to is this: when speaking of China, it is essential that one writes from a Eastern perspective rather than one of the West. As the feminist Simone de Beauvoir put it, “One is not born a woman, one becomes a woman”— society creates the idea of womanhood, not simply being born as a woman, and so one must use society to contextualise gender-roles.
Approaching the subject of gender roles and divisions in traditional Chinese society, one must first understand the full scope of the divisions of gender in traditional China. Since the very beginning of Chinese society, yes, women have been in a lesser position. China is patrilineal and patrilocal— women marry into their husband’s families, take their husband’s names, and since the time of the Zhou dynasty existed solely in relation to their husbands. This patriarchal norm was taken for granted by Confucius when he developed his own philosophy, which came to be known as Confucianism.
The incorporation of this philosophy into all parts of life truly began with the Han synthesis of the Confucian Dong Zhongshu, and this solidified the role of women as the lesser sex and men as the true core of the familial structure. To be able to keep oppressing women in China, men imposed the gender roles set by Confucianism (and the philosophies that Confucianism was bound with because of Dong Zhongshu), and so forced women into situations in which they had no recourse but to attempt to advance themselves in only one direction: within the family through their sons. The stereotype of the scheming, conniving woman comes from this trend— the stereotype which ultimately brought the loyalty of all women into question, allowing the men to be more severe in their subjugation of women.
It was not “dishonourable” to be a woman; that is a misunderstanding drawn from historically romanticised portraits of the Chinese woman deriving either from an ideal “helplessness” from which the Chinese people could be “civilised.” A woman had a very strictly dictated role, and that was one of kinship, where she was meant to give everything for the survival of the family and society run only by men. Her adherence to this role was honourable and expected. Being a woman was full of honour, but only for those who accepted and internalised their oppression, as it was dictated by Confucian duty.
You can read more on the role of women here, and about the Western slant on gender studies in China here.
Let me add, before I begin talking about the androgynous ideal, that the story of Hua Mulan (also known as Han Mulan, Wei Mulan, or Ren Mulan) is not unique to Disney, and that it is actually a Chinese ballad that emphasises certain Confucian ideals at the same time as it rejects them, and so is one of many curious examples in a tradition of folklore featuring female warriors (qi nüzi and nüzhong zhangfu). Other Chinese female warriors include women like Fu Hao, Sun Shangxiang, Lady Yue, and Princess Zhao of Pingyang. This genre of storytelling is one that has been heavily researched because of its somewhat paradoxical nature. It has nothing to do with arousal. —Oh, not to mention, the Disney movie is extremely inaccurate in regard to the various versions of the story of Hua Mulan, and does not have any serious place in an academic conversation about the female-warrior genre.
The next part of my argument is based primarily on Daoist philosophy and beliefs. I would like to make it clear, however, that the masculine ideal in traditional China was not totally the same across the board, as China is not a homogeneous country.
Dong Zhongshu did something besides unifying Confucian ideals with pre-established patriarchal norms. In Han synthesis, Dong Zhongshu also unified the concepts of Chinese cosmology and gender, attributing the Daoist concept of “yin” to the female and “yang” to the male. His metaphysical analysis of gendered human relations soon became incorporated into all aspects of Chinese life, ranging from literature to medicine, and through yin and yang, gender became an attribute of nature itself.
In the correlative thinking of Daoism, the ideal state is often presented in the image of the union between yin and yang. The taiji tu, the symbol of the Daoist supreme ultimate, depicts the presence of yin within yang and yang within yin, epitomising the perfect union and balance of yin and yang essences, and so is emblematic of the true Dao. Like the original Daoist “yin” and “yang,” male and female became mutable principles, and their ability to be changed— for women to adopt masculine traits and for men to adopt feminine traits —allowed for some flexibility along gender divides. Lao Zi himself remarked that the consummate person must embody a reconciliation of the masculine/feminine dichotomy. This was often interpreted to imply advice to the ruler to hold up virtuous principles and to be flexible in order to achieve a dominant status, they point to a typical gendered stand of Daoism: to accept the feminine is to affirm one’s own personal integrity and masculinity.
Confucianism too reveals inclinations towards androgyny notwithstanding its patriarchal orientation. Despite the fact that women were subordinate to men by the Confucian perspective, the woman was often given the dominant status within the household and a certain amount of power.In truth, the inclination towards one single gender is in utter violation of the quintessential Confucian creed of the Mean, as noted by a Song Dynasty neo-Confucian: “If yang predominates, he will be off-balance towards strength, and ifyin predominates, he will be off-balance towards weakness.” The Master himself embodied the affiliation of certain opposite gender attributes, as recorded in The Analects. ”Confucius was gentle yet firm, dignified but not harsh,” a perfect example of the integration of the yin-yang dichotomy.
Buddhism too, the third major Chinese philosophical discipline, shows an androgynous gender ideal in the image of the Bodhisattva. Spiritual enlightenment and ascendence, shown primarily through the figure of the bodhisattva, is frequently associated with a gender neutral, non-gendered, or androgynous ascendence. To be above the constraints of gender represents true enlightenment, from the perspective of Chinese buddhists. Like Daoism, Buddhism was also a religion that encouraged female participation. Buddhism opened the opportunity of Nirvana to all those determined enough to attempt to attain it, no matter what gender.
This is not even mentioning the abundance of references to androgyny in literature or the presence of androgyny created as a byproduct of the presence of eunuchs— or even the development of the androgynous ideal in scholar-beauty romances or simply in the literati class on its own. Homosexuality became acceptable (and even lauded) in Ancient China in part because of the androgynous ideal. —But all have in common that they are in defiance of the masculine ideal in Western society.
This is an important part of his history. Don’t try to pass it off as something less than integral. Yes, it takes searching to find out these things, but it is not acceptable to make up something in lieu of finding out the true picture. If this character were androgynous in presentation, it would actually be quite reasonable or even acceptable because of the facts that I have just explained. It is not fair to state, across-the-board, that it is absolutely preposterous to make him feminine in a way that would defy the Western concept of a man.