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'Free To Be' Anything You Want To Be (Almost)

Part two of our three-part series on "Free to Be... You and Me" looks at the album's non-sexist messaging and its limitations.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

William and his doll, from the 1974 TV adaptation of "Free to Be... You and Me" (YouTube)

In this second installment of our series about the groundbreaking children's album Free To Be... You And Me we look back at the record's attempt to challenge gender stereotypes and promote tolerance. We explore the impact those now-40-year-old messages had on a generation of children and their parents, as well as the album's limitations. We also examine what child psychologists now believe -- and promote -- when it comes to children and gender. 

Soundcheck contributor, Free To Be fan, and new mom Faith Salie joins us to talk about the impact that the album had on her as a child and how she's approached gender as a new parent of a little boy.

Plus, developmental psychologist and founder of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center Dr. Diane Ehrensaft joins to weigh in how both science and society's views regarding gender have changed since the release of the album. 

We heard from a lot of listeners this week about their "Free to Be... You and Me" memories. Listen to some of them below. 

Did you or your kids listen to Free To Be... You and Me? What did you think of it then? What do you think of it now? Tell us on Twitter at @Soundcheck, leave us a voicemail at 866-939-1612 or post a comment on Soundcheck.org.

Guests:

Diane Ehrensaft and Faith Salie

Comments [8]

Max from New York

Katie Bishop,

Thanks so much for the information about the link and thanks to Megan from Brooklyn or I wouldn't have known to look. This was an awesome series, so well done. Thanks to you and John - I always wanted to sing on Soundcheck - you made a dream come true!

Nov. 15 2012 09:52 PM
Producer Katie Bishop

Max -- thanks so much for your contribution and for your comment! You're absolutely right, the callers are an important part of this story. You can actually find the ENTIRE show (with callers included) on the full episode page, which is here: http://soundcheck.wnyc.org/2012/nov/14/. The full episode is also in iTunes, called "'Free to Be...' Part Two, And Two Gallants In Studio." Thanks again! -Katie Bishop

Nov. 15 2012 09:28 AM
Max from New York

Is it possible for you to include the part of the broadcast with the callers? I missed this and I really wanted to hear what people had to say, but it doesn't seem to be in the podcast. Maybe you could run the entire 3 parts in one podcast with the callers comments? That's part of sharing the history and I think asking for feedback was a great idea - I sent one in and I love the idea of us all sharing this experience together.

Nov. 15 2012 04:30 AM
Meghan from Brooklyn

I applaud the caller who asked us all to sing our favorite songs off the album. I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face as I remember the countless times I sang each and every one by memory. It had such an impact on my life. Always a tomboy (and now a law enforcement officer), every song resonated with me. Sadly though, even though I have played it for my 10-year old son, he does not seem to "need" it as much as me. As I look at it now from my adult self and how my child self interpreted it, I am trying to see it from his perspective growing up in Brooklyn, with many of those stereotypes from my day non-existent in his. Perhaps it is a good thing that the album does not resonate as much for him as it did for me . . .

Nov. 14 2012 09:53 PM
Illy Massey from Brooklyn

I listened to this album on vinyl growing up. To this day my siblings and I will sometimes say "Dudley Pippin" in a blaming tone like the teacher accusing him of knocking over the sand table.
One of my favorite parts is from Atalanta. I introduced this album to my husband, who is Israeli, and we often listen to it together. I still get chills when Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas simultaneously say, "Swifts as the wind, until he ran as her equal, side by side with her... Smiling with the pleasure of the race, Atalanta and Young John reached the finish line together, and together they broke through the golden ribbon that marked it."
And as a kindergarten teacher, I use the song "When We Grow Up" as the soundtrack in a video montage of my students for our end of the year party with the parents.
This album is such a great childhood memory and I will definitely listen to it with my children some day...

Nov. 14 2012 09:49 PM
megan from Brooklyn

I really appreciate this discussion of gender and child raising, development. It comforting to know we all stumble thru this and the process of thinking and discussing our identities with love and respect is the journey. What are present examples of music that engages children and families about gender.

Nov. 14 2012 09:34 PM
Rob

During your broadcast I could not miss the overwhelming and heavy handed theme that says something like...although a little girl might want to be a boy, all little boys REALLY WANT TO BE GIRLS!!!

Nov. 14 2012 09:34 PM
Andrea Singer from NYC

One thing I have not yet heard addressed in this segment is prejudice against those who DO adhere to gender norms. One particularly disturbing skit in the film is "Ladies First." Surely, we all dislike the character for being vain and self-centered, but the clear correlation drawn between her gender and her behavior is hard to miss and is very damaging. In fact, I saw this movie annually in grade school and to this day, as a woman, I suffer from prejudice against "girly girls." I cannot help but think that this is, in part, related to radicalism which, in its attempt to make room for aberrations from the norm, trampeled some of our respect for gender normative expression.

Nov. 14 2012 09:33 PM

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