Free to Be… You and Me: For Woke Toddlers OnlyBy Maddie Haines | 14/11/17 11:58am
The past few days I’ve been making plans for Thanksgiving break, which is only ten sleeps away! The closer it gets, the more I start to think about seeing my family, and the more one specific album has started popping up in my mind and in my headphones. Free to Be… You and Me was one of the most important records in my upbringing and to this day remains one of the only things my family can listen to in the car without wanting to be at each other’s throats.
Free to Be…You and Me is the brainchild of actress Marlo Thomas and the Ms. Foundation for Women, born in 1972. Tracks include songs, audio skits, and stories performed by a star-studded cast, including some of the biggest celebrities of the time, such as Harry Belafonte, Diana Ross, Alan Alda, and Marlo Thomas herself. The Free to Be… You and Me franchise also grew to include a book, a television special, and live shows. The true significance, though, lies in its themes of defying gender stereotypes, embracing individuality, and caring for others. The intention is to encourage children to understand these lessons through a simple, relatable, and easily digestible medium.
The first (and titular) track envisions a beautiful, picturesque land in which children are free to be themselves and love one another (I’ll grant it can get a bit campy at times), and imagines that that land is just beyond the horizon and within reach. The second, “Boy Meets Girl”, is an imagined back and forth between two newborn babies, trying to figure out what gender they are. It functions as a silly way to call attention to the faults with the gender stereotypes so pervasive in media at the time. The spoken “Housework” playfully cautions children not to buy into everything they see on TV and to help others. The songs “It’s Alright to Cry” and “William Wants a Doll” debunk commonly held misconceptions that boys shouldn’t show their emotions or play with the toys they want to. The second to last, “Glad to Have a Friend Like You” simply celebrates the happiness found in being oneself and the genuine friendships that result.
Like I said, it can get a little silly, and it’s marketed towards kids. Plus, I’m definitely biased, as I was made into its biggest fan as a kid, but I think as a project for children, it’s pretty freakin delightful. Definitely worth a listen if you ever plan on having kids. And I’ll be jamming it for the next week and a half until I’m reunited with the people who shared it with me first.