Gender bending for freedom?

History gives us many examples of women dressing as men to go fight or escape life AS a woman.  Anne Bonny and Mary Read were famous women pirates who dressed as men many times in their lives.  The famous colonial story of Thomas/Thomasine Hall who was examined by men and women who still were unable to decide definitively on a sex.  In Shakespeare’s time only men were allowed to act, so they dressed as women for their parts in plays.


Many fictional tales feature a woman dressing as a man to follow their husband, or lover, into war.  Since women tend to be smaller in stature they can pass as young boys, and so do the work of squires.  Yet, women like Mary Read could be raised as boys.  Mary went to war and managed to emulate a male sailor until her sex was revealed though her piracy trial.  Of course, she had revealed her sex to Anne and Calico Jack, but remained a man to everyone else.  The world was safer if you were a man.  Yes, you could get in fights or brawls, but women always had to be afraid of rape.

Of course, the most known current version of gender bending is Disney’s MulanShe goes in her crippled father’s stead to fight the Mongol horde.  She has help from her horse, a little dragon, and a cricket (this is Disney after all).  She is a young girl, so she is weak and was never trained to use weapons so the training song is a lot of images of her doing extremely poorly.  Then she has a defining moment of choice and becomes the best of the group.  She kinda has the hots for the leader of her troop, but does her best to maintain her “Ping” male persona.  Mulan manages to save everyone with a well placed projectile that eliminates most of the invading horde.  Her sex is discovered and she is turned out in disgrace.  Predictibly, she sees that some bad guys survive and helps the hot leader save the Emperor and is publically acknowledged as a hero.

Now, cross dressing is used in another fashion, to show one’s sexual preference.  “Dikes” and “Drag Queens” are male oriented lesbians and female acting gay men.  By dressing this way these people are free to act in the fashion they feel is natural for them.  There is still a danger associated with dressing out of the norm, but the increasing acceptance of different lifestyles the danger is less than in historical instances.

Women have fought to allowed into the worlds of men.  Not just in working along side them, but in being able to wear slacks or even showing our ankles.  “Clothing makes the man,” is a common saying.  Now that women can wear the same type of clothing as men, they feel that their rights are closer to being equal.

About nikaspeitel

Student, wife, and pet mom.
This entry was posted in Gender Reversal, LGBTQ Issues, Sexuality, Transgender, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Gender bending for freedom?

  1. Bryce says:

    There are countless examples throughout history of women doing exactly, Joan of Arc being one not mentions, and its is a really interesting concept. I see an interesting message hidden within each of these accounts. Each one had a woman dressing as a man in order to be taken seriously and accomplish a task women are not suppose to be able to do. However these women not only do these task while disguised as men but often times do it better than there actual male counterparts, Mulan especially comes to mind in this regard. So clearly these tales have the message that women can do all the task men can accomplish if they are determined to challenge the cultural stigmas. This doesn’t seem that big of a deal in the modern context, Mulan, but when we look at the historical accounts such as Joan of Arc, where society was not as accepting of women having a equal status as men, it makes us wonder how these stories were regarded back then. Overall, your examination of men and women switching roles throughout history is well made. It really makes you think about the historical context of gender roles. Also I now have “I’ll make a man out of you” stuck in my head………Tranquil as a forest, but a fire within……

    • nikaspeitel says:

      Very true of Joan of Arc, but she had to specifically downplay her femaleness to be taken seriously. Her followers still knew her as a woman. And yes, I did rewatch Mulan after posting this…
      To be able to act in an independent manner, a woman had to BE a man. Even Victorian England allowed any male relative who wanted control of a widow’s money to take over all control through the courts. Most people in historical took people at face value. If you looked, dressed, and acted as a man, you were believed to be one.

  2. brianoshei says:

    This has been a really interesting concept to me that the idea that women dress up as men to get something done that they would not be able to do otherwise as a woman. You never see a man dressing up as a woman to be able to do something that they would not normally be able to do. And if you do see that it is normally viewed as comical and much less serious than if a woman dressed up as a man. This shows that it is much more dominant to be a man and that no one wants to be a woman and there is much less to do as a woman. But once a woman does dress up as a man, in many situations they come out on top and can do much of what the man can do and in most cases, much more. This also shows that there is not one true dominant sex besides the one that our culture believes is the most dominant. Until there are more instances where men dress up to be women to try and do things they would not be able to do, there will still be a dominant sex in our culture. Mulan is a great example and an awesome movie and now the song is in my head.

    • nikaspeitel says:

      I had not thought of the comical aspect. Women do feel that if they have to act as a man does, we have to do it even better to show that we should be allowed to do these things. It is also having a natural ability that happens to be a masculine pursuit. For example, I am an excellent archer and adore throwing knives. Most people think me odd for my interests, but it isn’t strange that I read romance novels.
      Culture does create the dominance of one gender over another, fortunately our current one is swiftly becoming more equal.

  3. Here’s an old folk song, “Canadee-I-O” which I know as a Bob Dylan song on one of his covers albums, Good as I’ve Been to You.

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