Thursday, August 13, 2015

You Know: For Kids

When I was a kid, in another time, another place, my parents brought a record into our house called "Free To Be You And Me." Somewhat abruptly, it became a part of my record collection. I was ten years old. It was 1972. It was full of feel-good stories and songs about gender neutrality. This was the dawning, not of the Age of Aquarius, but the age of Aphrodite. This is when Ms. Magazine first hit the stands, and consequently a lot of other things hit the fan.
But not at our house. There was a pretty free and easy sense of how this whole women's lib thing was going to go down. The apocryphal tale told about my mother's awakening to feminism is when she uttered the immortal cry, "I'm going to get a subscription to Ms. Magazine," and with a comic beat that will live forever in our family's legacy, "Can I?" In a household filled with male energy, my mother dealt with three sons, a husband and a male dachshund and their demands. We all agreed that this Women's Movement was a great thing and we were all in favor of it as long as there were still cookies in the cookie jar and dinner on the table.
Maybe that's a little simple, but like so much else about living in the liberal enclave that was Boulder, Colorado in the early seventies. As a fourth grader in that corner of the world, I was fertile ground for this new ideal: Boys and girls are equal. We would grow up in a world where there would not be dividing lines between the games boys and girls played or the toys with which they played. Free to be you and me. To wit we ended up with sensitive guy and feminist hero Alan Alda singing a song, "William Wants A Doll." No less a persona than Hawkeye Pierce was telling me that it was okay for me, a boy, to want a doll. I wouldn't be a sissy if I did. And someday, when I became a dad, I would be a better man for the experience.
Well, as it turns out, I had some dolls. Only they were action figures: GI Joe, Captain Action, Major Matt Mason. None of my dolls needed to be fed or have their diapers changed, but I was assured that if I chose to have one of those kind of dolls that ate and wet and so on that Alan and his good friend Marlo Thomas would back me up.
I never did get one, but now that it is 2015, I am pleased and happy to report that Target stores have finally caught up to Mr. Alda and Ms. Thomas. They are "moving away" from making gender assignments to products in their home, toy and entertainment sections. Pink sheets, blue sheets? Doesn't matter. For Target, they are just "for kids." At this same moment in time, my wife has been interested in getting herself a Black Widow action figure. They are not easy to find. What's a girl or boy to do?
Make it yourself. Free to be you and me, barring certain legal and copyright entanglements.

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