Guest Post: Why Our Foundational Narrative is NOT SEXIST
Guest Post by Janeen
Our foundational narrative depicts an epic drama of good and evil that reveals truths about men, women, and their divine potential. While the literal meaning has great impact, too, there is much we can learn from the symbolism of this account. Much has been misinterpreted about it what it appears to be saying about gender and the inherent nature and roles of men and women, but I would like to set the record straight and show how, thanks to current light and knowledge, we can see divine patterns of partnership and equality.
The narrative begins in a spiritual staging, represented by a drab, black and white setting. There we find Dorothy, who represents us all. And by “us all” I, of course, mean “women”. Cosmic forces greater than she lead her to Oz, which is symbolic for Earth. The importance of family is stressed by the means in which she travels- a home. Truly, we all come to Earth through home and family. Although no men are depicted in this home as she travels, as she comes into Creation, it would be preposterous to assert that there were none. Men are an important part of creation. I mean, you cannot make a baby without a man- the thought makes reason stare!
Dorothy emerges in the lush and idyllic realm of Munchkin Land where she meets the Good Witch of the North (and the Wicked Witch of the East, deceased). Glinda, the Good Witch, is one of the witches who govern Oz. Thus, we see the divine mandate that gives women the authority to lead in our faith. This authority is passed on to Dorothy who becomes a leader to the men around her who look to her natural resourcefulness, bravery, and compassion. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are given to Dorothy to be her traveling companions and they learn to rely on Dorothy for the pieces of themselves they lack. Many faiths think this implies that all men are brainless, heartless, or spineless. Not so with our faith! We know that men are these things as a result of living in a fallen world, not merely because they are men! (In fact, once they return to Kansas at the end, we see them as whole beings with brains and hearts and spines taking their rightful places as farmhands on Dorothy’s farm). Dorothy, in turn, needs her companions to slow the plot down with their musical numbers. What a lovely pattern of complementarity! Consider the scene where they throw apples back at the trees- together they are defending the family! See how they compliment each other? And could Dorothy have defeated the Wicked Witch of the West without the Scarecrow’s help? No- his conflagration spurred Dorothy into action! Thus we see if men bear things in patience, pretty soon the women will notice and take action!
And while they are not the star of the story, men do have an equally valuable and important part to play. It is important to note how the Scarecrow governs Oz for a time in later books in the absence of a worthy female, and steps aside when one returns. It is not that men can’t lead, it just is not their role. Let’s look at Oz, the Great and Terrible. He usurps authority for himself, having rejected female authority, as seen in his dispute with the Wicked Witch of the West, and has unwittingly lead Oz down a dangerous path. He is revealed to be a bumbling charlatan. We see righteous models of male equality and partnership in in Dorothy’s supportive traveling companions and in the flying monkeys who submit to the will of their water-sensitive mistress. (Interesting tidbit- Dorothy’s traveling companions provide the model for the principle of polyandry practiced in the early days of our faith where individual women would wed three men).
This account blesses us with other righteous models of male leadership, too, such as the Lollipop Guild. As all-male auxiliary to the Lullaby League, they displayed excellent leadership skills over other men. Look at how their singing and dancing was an influence for good! (How nice of the Lullaby League to babysit their children so they could practice!)
Now, many meninists, who have no joy in their lives, complain because they feel like all this beautiful symbolism is a misuse of The Wizard of Oz- they claim that gender roles aren’t what it’s about and we shouldn’t use this account to proscribe them. Instead, they say, it’s a story about a girl who wishes for adventure, has one in a magical world, and then returns home more grateful for what she had. They also urge that, as we recognize the inherent divinity of all as image bearers of the Divine, we should allow men more leadership opportunities. But my husband and father don’t have a problem with any of this so clearly the meninists are wrong, and if they would repent they’d be happier.
I in no way see the divine role of men diminished just because they are supposed to be supportive traveling companions to their Dorothies. This is a glorious truth. And I have no doubt, that at some later date, it will be revealed that Glinda had a male companion traveling with her.