US VP hopeful Mike Pence used 'Mulan' to explain why women should not serve in the military

The Indiana Governor likened the Chinese Disney princess falling for her superior to two separate cases of sexual assault in the US armed forces

Mike Pence, Mulan, Sexual Assault, Donald Trump, Republican, US Presidential election

A scene from the 1999 family film 'Mulan', in which a Chinese girl pretends to be a man in order to fight in a war [Disney]

When Donald Trump announced Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate last Friday, a lot was already known about his potential vice president. During his time in office, Pence has not shied away from a number of controversial acts; he signed into law Indiana’s Religious Freedom Bill, allowing business owners the legal protection to refuse serving LGBTQ customers. He campaigned and voted against increasing the minimum wage and expanding health coverage for low-income children. Pence also slashed Planned Parenthood’s budget and brought in unprecedentedly strict abortion laws.

But it’s his critical take on a Disney Princess™ that has really ruffled feathers, after an essay Pence wrote about a visit to the cinema to see Mulan in 1999. Despite being a staunch opponent of marriage equality and supporting the deportation of undocumented children, his op-ed on how the Disney film attempts to indoctrinate a generation of women into thinking they could possibly serve in the military has offered an interesting insight into the governor’s political frame of mind.

The article, published when Pence was a radio talk show host, was uncovered by Buzzfeed, which republished the text in its entirety. In it, Pence describes the eponymous Mulan as a “delicate girl [...] who surreptitiously takes her father’s place in the Chinese army in one of their ancient wars against the Huns.”

Pence draws a parallel between Mulan and the politically correct American media’s efforts to argue for women to serve more roles in the army at the end of the 20th century.

“Despite her delicate features and voice, Disney expects us to believe that Mulan’s ingenuity and courage were enough to carry her to military success on an equal basis with her cloddish cohorts. Obviously, this is Walt Disney’s attempts to add childhood expectation to the cultural debate over the role of women in the military. I suspect that Mulan’s story will cause a quiet change in the next generation’s attitude about women in combat and they just might be right. Just think about how often we think of Bambi every time the subject of deer hunting comes into the mainstream media debate.)”

Pence also argues that the scene in which Mulan falls in love with her superior misses the irony of two separate US military scandals which resulted in a string of convictions for sexual assault of female army personnel. Essentially describing these assaults as unavoidable, not because of pervasive rape culture and stigmatisation of female officers who came forward, but because boys will be boys when sharing accommodation with “nubile” young women.

“You see, now stay with me on this, many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually. Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting. Just like they eventually did for young Mulan,” Pence writes.

At a time when more women than ever are serving in the US military, and when women may legally be required to register for the draft, how the US defence forces deal with sexual assault cases is still coming in for considerable criticism. According to the DOD, there are an estimated 20,000 sexual assaults on service members every year, most of which are never reported because of fear of retaliation.

While Pence’s op-ed is 17 years old, combined with his recent gubernatorial efforts it demonstrates many reasons why makes for a troublesome running mate for an already divisive candidate.

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