“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”
– Chinese Proverb
A woman does not need anyone’s approval to lead a successful and happy life, especially not a man’s.
Ever since I was born, I was blessed to grow up with a once-in-a-universe mother who made sure to make a correct version of a man out of me. I got to learn more about that process with the help of my two sisters, who accompanied me every step of the way. I guess it does pay off to be the youngest sibling in a family. Growing up, I was often influenced – and sadly still am in a way today – by society’s male perception that a woman is weak. I remember how boys at school used to label each other as “girls” as a way to make fun of their weakness or lack of courage.
Today, I admit with confidence that women – or at least my mother and two sisters – possess an inner strength that I could never reach. For the last six months, I was surrounded at work by four women colleagues who helped me confirm that earlier statement as well. If I had to write one sentence to describe the common link between them all, it would be the following title: The Ballad of Mulan. More commonly through the Disney franchise movie, the legend of Mulan is actually a poem describing a female warrior (Huā Mùlán) who disguises herself as a man in order to save her aged father from joining the army when the emperor drafted all eligible men to war. According to ancient Mandarin, Huā Mùlán means “magnolia flower”, which is recognised as one of the symbols of China since ancient times.
“The true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.”
– Audrey Hepburn
It is no coincidence that I decided to quote Audrey Hepburn here, as she is one of many other women who have been done wrong by the way history remembers them. Indeed, whenever her name is brought up, the first link is generally made with her beauty or her role in the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s, whereas in reality there is so much more to her story. For example, Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron and the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer. She spent her childhood and teenage years doing ballet in order to secretly raise money for the Dutch resistance against the Nazis during World War II. After she had put an end to her acting career in 1988, she became a UNICEF spokesperson and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.
I find it insulting and disrespectful that children – especially girls – are not taught to look at women with that lens. Coming from a Middle Eastern country, I have often heard that a woman’s rightful place is as a housewife, in charge of caring of the house and the children. That is also a man’s rightful place. A woman’s rightful purpose is to also go out, have a job and make this world a better place. We saw it in the way New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic in her country with no active cases anymore (the country had a total 1,504 cases which led to 22 deaths with the first case declared on March 27).
I could not be more thankful today to be surrounded by Mulans, Audrey Hepburns and Jacinda Ardens. It is sad to say that we still live in a society where women are not always given equal opportunities or salaries than men. However, women still strive to reach the peak of the mountain in spite of the odds. Society strongly underestimates a woman’s iron will as she deserves more credit and recognition for everything she is capable of achieving and being. A woman can do anything a man does, and sometimes even more.
Coming back to the movie Mulan, the famous soundtrack I’ll Make A Man Out Of You takes about what it means to be a man, and how Mulan “became one”. The chorus states specifically:
Be a man
We must be swift as a coursing river
With all the force of a great typhoon
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon
In conclusion, it is time for me to publicly say that I am a feminist and I am proud to call myself one. To follow in the logic of the song, I say that the ten women I mentioned throughout this article are men, and even more than men; they are superheroes for defying the odds every day. Gender equality is an issue, and we need to make it happen. Aired on February 28, 2019, episode 8 in Season 6 of the series Brooklyn Nine-Nine shows that the problems discussed are still very much present today.