Free to Be . . . You and Me!

Today I heard a broadcast on the radio about the impact of the book, television show, and recording (record, CD, Cassette, and now downloadable), Free To Be You and Me! This featured numerous artists, and friends of Marlo Thomas, of That Girl! fame. I know I am dating myself by saying how much I admired that program!

While I was studying at McGill University in Education, this program and book gave us a great awareness of our role as teachers in how we use language and demonstrate attitudes that promote inclusion. We had a long way to go in the early '70's! And we haven't reached the destination, yet.

In fact, because Harry Belefonte and Marlo Thomas appeared together pushing baby carriages and sang about Mommies and Daddies being People, Too, Marlo had to threaten to take the show to a different network, because there was some worry that there was an inference of a mixed race couple and the station was worried about getting some viewers upset!

Free to Be . . . was a compilation of art, stories, poems and songs that celebrated the fact that girls and boys could feel, dream, and act as they wanted, not as defined roles, but as human beings. It included the story by Charlotte Zolotow, William's Doll, about a little boy who, among other interests like sports and trains, really wanted a doll. The ending of the story, re-written into a song, sung by Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda, said that one day, William would grow up to be a daddy, too.

Of course there was a backlash about promoting 'non-traditional' gender roles. Despite the variety of gains and awareness of the diversity of roles men and women live out today, I know the battle for equality and tolerance is not over, especially for acceptance of the spectrum of genders in the world.

We seem to have come a long way since the 1970's, but when I look at the number of "frilly, pink princess" clothes, or "blue, combat, truck and basketball oriented" male baby clothing I have to choose from for my yet to be born grandchild, I wonder if we have really come that far?

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