As I grew up in the 70s some of my early memories have the album as my backdrop and as the years went on there was a slew of specials that we saw on TV or portions shown in school. On reflection I'm realizing just how much they helped to anchor the mood of the time for me and gave context when my mom would challenge older relatives on their attitudes about gender and society, or at dinner time talking about complicated issues.
FTBYAM contributed to the framework my parents were teaching me for the kind of social change that was underway all around me. Over these last 40 years I've kind of looked at the world as "well, obviously we ought to live in a socially liberal world that embraces diversity, reevaluates our notions of gender, and doesn't cling to tradition as a matter of course" and I think part of that perspective comes from the early consumption of this media.
The article I linked to does raise some interesting questions:
And could an album like Free To Be ever be made today? Leaving aside the obvious problem that “albums” basically no longer exist, would a bunch of 2012-era celebrities—I’m talking Jay-Z and Beyoncé caliber stars—donate their talents to a project championing feminism, fighting gender essentialism, and telling boys that it’s all right to cry?
For that matter, how did it ever get made in 1972?
Things have changed a lot, but there is plenty of reactionary attitudes still in play today. I grew up vaguely thinking that everyone was going to be educated, cosmopolitan, rational and empathetic. That didn't happen though. Instead I eventually realized that most people were not all that reflective of their life and instead just soaked up what was around them. So the culture changed for the better in many ways, but it wasn't necessarily mindful and attentive to the changes.
It seems like all of these programs could be done in 1972 because the era had a lot of clear boundaries to cross. Today it is much harder to challenge people because we live in a very fragmented media environment, and when the message can be delivered there is a way to present a counterpoint before the first message could be digested. It's not that there shouldn't be a discussion, but it takes more energy these days to wade through the back and forth and keep things muddy and suspect.
I am of the same era. I was part of the first Sesame Street generation and think I saw the TV special version of this.
So after being brought up with notions of gender equality from the media and my parents, it was quite a shock when everything went into full reverse in the 80s.
The thing that struck me most was children's toys. When I was a kid, most toys were not gender-specific. Sure, girls tended to like dolls more and the primary users of toy weapons were boys, but most things were just sold for kids of either gender.
By the time I had my own kid, just about everything in the toy store was either purple and pink or black and green and aimed at a stereotype. Buying building blocks or a bicycle felt like I was enforcing gender roles.
My elementary school days were in the early to mid-1980's. While I appreciate the message and intent of FTBYAM then and now, I grew to HATE it - it seemed like every few months, they would trot out the film projector and we'd be subjected to yet another full or partial viewing of it.
"Okay, I get it - it's all right to cry, and for boys to play with dolls, and all that - I get it - can I play over here with my G.I.Joe's instead of watching this for the millionth time?"