For a more about “Free to Be You and Me,’ read the excerpt below from Suzanne Venker’s book, How to Choose a Husband.
If you’re old enough, or if you have older siblings, you may recall the album ‘Free to Be You and Me’ and its accompanying illustrated book. It was produced in 1972 by Marlo Thomas and her like-minded friends in Hollywood. It was a hugely successful album, in part because the songs were so much fun to sing and the characters were too cute for words.
But ‘Free to Be You and Me’ was more than a record album. It was a project with a name: the Free to Be Foundation. This foundation is a subsidiary of the Ms. Foundation for Women, which was founded by Thomas’s dear friend and feminist icon Gloria Steinem. The seemingly benign Free to Be album was part and parcel of the feminist movement, or what you probably refer to as the “women’s movement.”
The album’s creators had a specific goal in mind: to eradicate any sem- blance of sexual stereotyping. In the song/skit “Boy Meets Girl,” writers Carl Reiner and Peter Stone were asked to counteract “conventional myths about the differences between boys and girls.” So they came up with this: Two babies, a male and a female, have just been born and are “sitting” side by side in their respective cribs. They each note that they look and feel the same, particularly since their heads are bald. Then the baby boy announces he wants to be a cocktail waitress when he grows up, and the baby girl says she wants to be a fireman. It isn’t until the nurse changes each baby’s diaper that the babies realize which gender they really are. The moral of the story is that the only thing separating males and females is their private parts.
The message of every song on the Free to Be album is some variation of this same theme. The implication is that for a man to be a real man, he should drop the macho behavior and get in touch with his feminine side. As for women, there’s no such thing as a biological desire to be cared for by a man, or even to procreate.
Besides, marriage and motherhood hold women back. (Remember Princess Atalanta?) They keep women from realizing their true potential. ‘Free to Be You and Me’ wasn’t some innocuous album; it was a tool feminists used to reach American families.
And it worked.
For more than four decades, feminist ideology has become an integral part of life for Western women. Girls in America and across the ocean are raised differently than any other generation of women. They’re taught to never rely on a man; that their lives should be “me-centered” rather than “others-centered”; and that enlightened women are career-driven and should, at the very least, be ambivalent about becoming wives and mothers.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting feminism is solely to blame for the changes that have occurred in courtship and marriage. Rampant materialism certainly plays a role, as do the decline in religion and the rise of a one-click culture—none of which foster the patience and sacrifice that is a staple of married life. They also make it difficult for young people to see beyond tomorrow, which is imperative for making good decisions. The self-esteem movement is another culprit.
But of all the changes that have occurred in the last half century, it is feminism—with its relentless talk of hapless housewives, female empowerment, and gender role reversal—that has severed the bond between the sexes, making it almost impossible for young people to navigate the dating scene and wind up happily married.