My friend and I are having a friendly running argument over whether Free to Be, You and Me “succeeded” or “failed”. I claim it failed, she disagrees. It may be that her POV is influenced by the fact that she’s a few years younger than I, which when speaking of the 1960s and 1970s, may have a significant impact on one’s growing up and memories thereof.
I suppose she’s right in the sense that we wouldn’t claim that the civil rights movement failed because there’s still bigotry; and we wouldn’t say the anti-war movement failed because here we are in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of Vietnam and Cambodia. Those movements did have an impact, if only to call into question established assumptions.
So by the same token, even though I would venture that the message “girls and women can do and be anything, including boxers and doctors” has been internalized, some of the more nuanced messages have not. I’m specifically thinking of William’s Doll, about a boy who wants a doll to the dismay of his father; and Ladies First, about a dainty, princess-like girl who doesn’t believe in running, as it will soil her dress, resulting in her getting eaten by a tiger.
These two examples are what cause me to ask: If Free to Be succeeded, then why do I regularly hear boys call each other “faggot”?; and why does the Princess Consumer Thing seem to have grown even more widespread and tidal-wavelike in its utter permeation of All Things Girl? Why are today’s moms absently humming the title track tune to Free to Be while picking out their daughters’ pink sparkle-drenched princess backpacks? Is there not a collosal disconnect here somewhere?