After 40 Years 'Free To Be You' And Me Is Still Changing The World
I can't imagine my childhood without Free To Be You And Me. I can still recite most of the songs from the album and the purple cover is ingrained in my memory as clearly as my brown gingham bedspread.
It's hard to believe that Free To Be You and Me came out 40 years ago (which makes me the perfect demographic for it's feminist messages). I thought everyone must have soaked in the progressive Free To Be You and Me messages. Imagine my horror when I met people at university who did not know what I was talking about when I mentioned Atalantis or William wants a doll! Let alone the talking babies who needed a diaper change.
Marlo Thomas set out to change a generation with her album and book -- and she did. Thomas says that she wanted to create stories for young kids that were a little different; stories where the blond princess did not get married at the end of the book, where it is all right to cry and where no one likes housework.
Much to the surprise of those involved, the album went platinum and spawned a book and TV special.
When I played the album for my kids, they looked at me like I was crazy. Of course, boys can play with dolls and dads do housework. For a moment, it seemed dated. But two professors recently looked back at the phenomenon in a book: When We Were Free To Be. In an interview on CBC radio's The Current, they reminded me why the book is still relevant.
The feminist movement has ensured that women can work outside of the home, that men now share the parenting duties. Free To Be You And Me aimed to teach media literacy, and we need that now more than ever. The music and TV shows our kids are tuned into are laced with consumer messages. Our blue and pink toy stores are even more gendered than ever. The princesses are still getting married at the end of the fairy tales.
We may have made two steps forward since the days of Free To Be You And Me, but we may have also taken a step backwards.
I love the retrospective Marlo (in my head we are on a first name basis) posted on her blog. She asked contributors what they would add to a new version of Free to Be You And Me. Many of them said that they would add a song about bullying and being comfortable with who you are, as well as a song about protecting the earth.
In today's cultural climate, a new album probably wouldn't have the same influence. But we can still dream can't we?
Did you grow up with Free To Be You And Me? What would you add to a new version?
Want more chaos? Last year, I reminded parents that no one likes to fly with kids. (Because we need a reminder.)