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Revisiting Free To Be…You and Me
Judith Stadtman Tucker


1. F2BY&M has previously been subjected to scholarly analysis, including a personal reflection by Kara Lynn Braun in Volume 1, Number 1 of the Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering. "If we really want a world where boys and girls can be equal," Braun writes, "…they should be told that the world and particularly our culture as it stands today is not equally accommodating for boys and girls, men and women, just as it was not in 1974." Braun also notes that in F2BY&M and other feminist-informed children's literature of the early 70s, "women's roles as mothers are not accurately reflected." For example, there are many stories about mothers who work outside the home from that era, when in fact nearly two-thirds of all married mothers in the U.S. were non-employed.

2. There are interesting variations between the original recording and the follow-up projects in terms of material that is excluded from or added to the book and television special. In addition to the song "Girl Land," the stories "Grandma" and "Dudley Pippin and His No-Friend" appear only on the LP. The book and television special include the friendship story "Three Wishes," and the book includes several other stories that respond to the day-to-day doubts and worries of small children (such as sibling rivalry, divorce and the tensions of becoming more self-sufficient), including Judy Blume's "The Pain and The Great One" and Herb Gardner's short play "How I Crossed the Street for the First Time All By Myself." The book, which is by far the richest iteration of Free To Be…You and Me, also contains an anti-war fable by Ann Riophe ("The Field"), and several original poems, including Elaine Laron's "The Sun and the Moon." The TV special includes the poem "The Sun and the Moon" set to music, plus an all-new production number, "You Were Once a Baby." Regarding heavy-handed attempts to discourage the development of false, romantic consciousness in little girls, the LP is by far the strongest, and least balanced, version of the text.

3. I find it fascinating that the negative stereotype of "being ladylike" has been emptied of most of its original meaning for feminists in my age group, perhaps because popular conventions of dress, comportment and communication have become much less formal over time. The era when it was unthinkable for a professional woman (or any woman) to wear pants in public seems part of a remote past -- although when I was in grade school, girls were required to wear dresses, and the same was undoubtedly true for the creative minds behind F2BY&M. And by the way, wearing a dress everyday was uncomfortable and did restrict active play. But our dresses weren't the problem -- it was the fact that we had to wear them.

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