June 2, 2009

There's a land that I see, where the children are free...

When I was a kid, I listened to the "Free to Be... You and Me" album incessantly. We had it on vinyl (not 8-track!) and I probably came close to wearing it out. At the time, I didn't really care for the track "William's Doll". The chorus of "A doll! A doll! William wants a doll!" grated on my nerves--actually, it still does. But the song tells a story that I think is really important. William is a 5 year old boy who wants a doll. Unfortunately, everyone seems to think that this is a terrible thing for a little boy to want. His dad gets him all sorts of sports equipment instead, which he also enjoys, but he still craves that doll. Finally, Grandma hears about this and gives him a doll.

We have come pretty far since 1972 when the album came out. Girls do hear more that they can be tough or do "male" jobs. But I think we're still mostly ignoring the flip side of that, which is that it's okay for boys to show their nurturing side. What's wrong with a boy playing with a doll, really? Nothing. And yet so many people who happily let their daughters play with Tonka trucks are horrified at the thought of letting their sons push a baby doll in a toy stroller.

I play this song for my kids whenever possible. And my 3 year old son? He's way more into dolls than my 5 year old daughter has ever been.


calliaz said...

I had Free to Be on vinyl, too. I heard a lot of the songs over and over because my dad was in a play version in a touring company. I went to lots of rehersals and shows.

Many of the lessons are true today, but that one is very true. People are horrified I let my son have pink poodle plates and decorations for his 4th b-day because that's what he wanted. Pink backpack? He must be *whisper* gay. We really have not come very far with this aspect of gender neutrality.

Lissie said...

The story of William's Doll makes me cry at the end, every time.

We've definitely improved in opening possibilities for girls...much less so for boys.