Menís Voices, Men as Allies
If Ever Oh Ever a Counterstory There Was...
by Pat McGann, Communications Director of Men Can Stop Rape.
Like most children since the 1950s, I saw The Wizard of Oz at the age of four or five, and then again on television just before entering my teen years. In the second viewing, I found the end of the movie completely and utterly befuddling; I would have sworn on my entire collection of Monkees 45 records that in the black-and-white return to Kansas scene where Dorothy wakes up to find everyone crowded around her bed, she also found the ruby slippers. Or if she didn't find them, we the viewers did, the camera zeroing in on their glittery, color-laden surface on the floor just to the side of the bed. This memory of the shoes was so distinctive, so intact, that I believed the film had been changed.
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I learned, of course, that it hadn't. My assumption now is that I so wanted to hold onto some of the magic of the Emerald City and Oz that I inserted an overt link with Kansas. The movie still holds a special place in my overall list of favorite flicks; in fact, I usually place it at the top since I have seen it more than any other film and could keep on viewing it for some time to come. Watching it with my three-year-old niece, who lives in Maine and has her own Dorothy dress and ruby slippers, was a special event I had been looking forward to for a while.
Now that I'm about to turn fifty, though, I'm attracted to the movie for different reasons than those I had as a child; or maybe I'm simply better able to explain why I'm drawn to The Wizard of Oz, why it's always held some magic for me. Much of it has to do with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and representations of masculinity. In my view the three of them step outside traditional masculinity in some significant ways and offer an alternative manhood that has always felt comfortable to me.
All three have an imperfection Ė a missing brain, no heart, an absence of courage, and these imperfections make them endearing, lovable, and even a little goofy. All of them have a good heart; all of them want to help Dorothy, and not in your typical He-Man, Die-Hard, Terminator kind of way. Yes, they travel into the very depths of the Wicked Witch of the West's castle to save Dorothy, but do so with trepidation, and in the end become trapped. It is Dorothy who helps them escape ultimately by trying to save the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are what we at Men Can Stop Rape would call allies. Dorothy helps them and they help her. Their journey is a mutually supportive one.
I can't convey my excitement at coming across some biographical information about L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz as well as a number of other Oz books, linking him to the women's suffrage movement in the late 1800s. His mother-in-law, Matilda Gage, a well known feminist of the times who wrote Woman, Church and State: A Historical Account of the Status of Woman Through the Christian Ages: with Reminiscences of the Matriarchate (1893), lived with her son-in-law's family while completing the book, which has been described as an impressive piece of research. While Gage completed her scholarship, Baum, as editor of a small weekly newspaper in Aberdeen, South Dakota, wrote numerous editorials in support of women's suffrage, especially women's right to vote.
Obviously, I don't know that Baum intended for the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion to be what we at MCSR would identify as counterstories to traditional masculinity, but I can't help but believe that his commitment to the women's suffrage movement had to have some influence on their creation. Maybe this connection is my own tall-tale, my fantastical reading into his life and the stories he created, another way of placing the ruby slippers by the bed in Kansas. And if so, that's okay. In this work, we all need a pair of ruby slippers, an Oz, or an Emerald City to keep us going.
Written by Pat McGann. Pat McGann is the Communications Director of Men Can Stop Rape.
Provided by: Men Can Stop Rape
Men Can Stop Rape mobilizes male youth to prevent men's violence against women. We build young men's capacity to challenge harmful aspects of traditional masculinity, to value alternative visions of male strength, and to embrace their vital role as allies with women and girls in fostering healthy relationships and gender equity.
Visit Men Can Stop Rape at www.mencanstoprape.org
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