DCIB Book Club: the Marvelous Land of Oz! Gender Issues Ahead of/Behind Their Times!

What an odd children’s book!!!! A transgender heroine, the only competent army is female, but also there is a weird feminist army of flibbertigibbets. Oh, and a lot of puns.

Let’s start with Baum, the author. Two important things to know going into this book. First, he wrote the Oz books in a time when children’s literature was all intended to have “morals”. Lessons about being good little girls and boys, about Christianity, about all kinds of blah blah blah. He wrote the Oz books saying “nope, NO MORALS!!!! Just fun silly fantasy adventures where nothing really bad happens.” So all our modern attempts to put “meaning” on the books are directly against his intentions. Sure, he pokes some harmless fun at silly adults and their silly ways, but no greater meaning than that.

Second thing, important for this book in particular, Baum was a very vocal super of the suffrage movement. His mother-in-law was one of the leading lights in the fight, his wife supported her, and Baum himself wrote loads of editorials and things in support of Votes for Women.

So, this book is FASCINATING!!!!! You think he is poking fun at suffragettes, but he can’t be, because he WAS a suffragette. So I guess he is poking fun at people who are poking fun at suffragettes? There are the silly fake feminists who just want to avoid household chores. And then the dignified “real” women who have an army and rule countries and are very wise and competent. And most of all, there is no moral, so don’t try to make your head hurt by looking for them.

What do you think about how Tip’s gender change was handled? Looking at it as an adult, I have lots of thoughts. But when I first read this book at age 7, I had no thoughts! Boy and girl were very firm identities in my mind, but I also had no issues with the idea of waking up one day and being the other one. Why not? It wasn’t confusing or scary to me. Made total logical sense.

What did you think about Jack Pumpkinhead calling Tip “Father”? Another bit that made total sense to me as a kid! A father is the person who is in charge of you/made you. So sure, the strange made up man Jack could call the little boy “father”.

Did you find the book overall dull or pleasant? When I was 7 I just gobbled up these books, totally addicted. Rereading it, I was surprised at how dull it was! There’s just no high stakes, it is all little jokes and little things happening. I suppose that is why I liked it as a kid, nothing scary, just burbling along and enjoying.

3 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: the Marvelous Land of Oz! Gender Issues Ahead of/Behind Their Times!

  1. See, I didn’t know Baum was a feminist, so I spent the whole book wondering whether his army of revolution was making fun of the idea that women could want actual political power, or making fun of those who belittle them. It seems really quite impossible to tell from the text itself. The only thing that was clear to me was that I was looking at a caricature. So much for no message. What did you think of that as a child?

    I have to admit that this puzzle was the most interesting thing about the book for me, not being a child anymore. I can imagine that a kid would love it much more, though.

    In the logic of this book, it made total sense for Jack to call Tip “father”. That’s very much along the same lines as a “highly magnified” bug.

    Somehow I had managed to spoil myself well in advance that Tip was the same person as Ozma. Probably during my “Wicked” phase. So I was mostly surprised by how quickly and wink-of-the-wand it happened. Really no kind of exploration of the repercussions at all.

    Speaking of “Wicked”, I think the musical has really ruined everything Oz related for me. I was definitely picturing Glinda the way she’s portrayed in the stage show – and maybe even as Kristin Chenoweth, even though I’ve only ever seen recordings of her in that role.


    • As a child, I thought the idea of using knitting needles to stab people was cool, and both the Scarecrow and General Jinjur were equally silly.

      Following kid logic, there is an issue with the Oz books in that Glinda (the “adult”) is endlessly wise and powerful. And yet, bad things still happen and people have to save themselves. It worked as a kid because I wanted to be able to have adventures and do stuff, but also I wanted an Adult to be able to come and fix all my mistakes as needed. As an adult, I look at Glinda and go “hey! why didn’t she do anything to help before now? Why did they have to go around having adventures and things?”

      On Sun, May 2, 2021 at 12:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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