Mike Pence’s 1999 Op-Ed Claiming ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda Was Actually Just Sexist
Now that hell is aflutter with the news that Donald Trump has officially picked Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate, it’s important the public becomes better acquainted with who Pence is and what he stands for. More specifically, it’s crucial people know about Pence’s sexist op-ed claiming Mulan was liberal propaganda aimed at normalizing the idea of women in combat.
The op-ed was originally published in 1999 on the website for his now-defunct radio show, The Mike Pence Show, but Buzzfeed News managed to unearth a screenshot of the gem in which Pence shows his cards as a grown man who has internalized so much sexism, he is unable to watch a Disney film without getting angry at the possibility of feminist undertones. Pence’s essay is titled “Women in the Mulan Military,” and he leads his charge with the dramatic statement: “For those who have not yet been victimized by the McDonald’s induced hysteria over this film, Mulan is a fictional account of a delicate girl of the same name who surreptitiously takes her fathers place in the Chinese army in one of their ancient wars against the Huns.”
Pence goes on to describe Mulan as “delicate” multiple times, while emphasizing the masculinity of her “cloddish” peers, who he thinks are clearly more equipped to fight than Mulan.
In his expression of paternalistic concern for women in the military, Pence didn’t only allege that Mulan’s a piece of propaganda pitched by “mischievous liberals,” but also managed to draw a confusing, yet somewhat artful, false equivalence between the effects of Bambi and Mulan.
I imagine him feverishly wiping the sweat from his forehead as he wrote the words:
“I suspect that some mischievous liberal at Disney assumes 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.)”
One of the most alarming aspects of Pence’s essay is his frustration towards an animated women who gains power and equality. During the unfurling his timeless white masculine knowledge, Pence stated:
“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.”
An obvious concern of Pence’s was the idea that femininity and strength could co-exist, at least in the context of high-stress military situations. The idea that being “cloddish” is equal to competence in a war zone, and “delicate features” automatically renders one unfit for combat (or any traditionally masculine position) marks Pence as a perfect fit for Trump, who has in the past blamed sexual assault in the military on the inclusion of women (which conveniently ignores men’s role in sexual assault against women).
Pence makes the ridiculous claim that a cartoon scenario where a women sneaks into combat disguised as her father without any prior experience is equivalent to the real-life military, where women undergo the same difficult training as men. If a woman (or man) in the military is unequal to their peers in training and combat abilities, they will not be thrown into a war-zone. The fact that Pence, who claims to have a grasp on the importance and danger of the military, ignores the real and excruciating training women are required to undergo because he perceives all women as “delicate” or “sexually attractive to men” shows his innate internalized bias towards anyone female-bodied.
The rambling essay manages to cover all the key points touted by those against women in the military — the idea of women in combat is a product of political correctness and it’s impossible to employ women and men together without sexual encounters or assault (which conveniently ignores the presence of those issues at every workplace).
The closing statement in his essay, goes as such:
“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. Moral of story: women in military, bad idea.”
Pence’s declaration that women and men working together for long periods of time is a recipe for danger would render most professions dangerous. If this was a matter of him having genuine concern for the safety of women in the workplace, perhaps he could tackle the statistics of women being sexually harassed across diverse professions.
This is obviously not about his paternalistic faux concerns of women being safe from the potential threat of sexual assault or violence, this is about perceived power and Pence’s threatened feelings at the concept of a woman who is considered as strong as and equal to a man.
His reference’s to Mulan’s romance in the movie are shoehorned in as proof that women are unable to work in high-stress situations without letting their feelings get in the way, and yet he off-handedly mentions men’s inability to keep control of their physical or romantic urges without indicting them as incompetent soldiers. While this particular context for his sexism feels in many ways humorous and benign, the glaring double standards and undertones of rape apologia are far from funny when coming from a potential vice president of the United States.
Moral of the story for the rest of us: Pence is the perfect match for Trump, in both the ridiculous expressions of his sexism and the insidious danger lying beneath.