Free to Be…You and Me: Life Stories that Inspire Girl Possible
Our Girl Possible adventure has been an incredible journey so far. As we work to tell as many people as possible about our program and work hard to bring it to as many girls as possible we have met a lot of interesting people along the way. When we talk about teaching young girls things such as how to be a good friend or what it means to get out of your comfort zone or the importance of role models, many people respond by telling us how they would have liked to participate in a program like Girl Possible when they were young.
This often leads to hearing stories about their childhood and how it shaped them. We have enjoyed hearing about the journeys they have taken and learning about what they do today and how they got there. It didn’t take long to realize that these fabulous people were very interesting and their stories were too inspiring to keep quiet about.
This led us to create a new Girl Possible feature called Free to Be…You and Me: Life Stories that Inspire Girl Possible. We will get to know a variety of different individuals through a series of questions that ask about how they grew up, what they did in early adulthood, their passions and hobbies and their thoughts on some of the topics we cover in Girl Possible. It is also structured so that parents and children can read all these stories together and hopefully it will lead to more questions and interesting discussions.
The title of our new feature is inspired by the memories of listening to the Free to Be…You and Me album as a child. For me and many women of a certain age, listening to the Marlo Thomas and Friends album Free to Be…You and Me, had a huge impact on my understanding of equality, acceptance, diversity and the idea that dreams could become a reality.
For those not of a certain age, Free to Be…You and Me was an album, a book and later a TV special that were all released in the mid 1970s. Marlo Thomas was looking for a book for her young niece and found the bookstores filled with stereotypical stories of what boys and girls should be. This experience inspired her to create something that told children a different story.
I remember listening to the album as a young child and feeling the messages resonate with me. Some of my favourite tracks include the title song, which really sums up all the messages in the album. Atalanta, a story about a young princess who breaks family tradition and refuses to submit to an arranged marriage. Instead of watching the boys compete to see who wins her hand in marriage, she enters the contest and, in the end, ties for first place with a young boy, whom she becomes friends with. It shows that girls do not have to abide by the constraints of old stereotypes but it also highlights how if we treat each other as equals our gender is irrelevant and it’s who we are as a person that matters.
Now more than 40 years later, if I’ve a rough day I’ll play a couple of the songs from the album on my ride home in car. Listening to the music will generally lift my spirits and make me smile. I have also started listening to the songs with our children. The messages in the songs don’t have the same impact on them as they did on me, and I think that’s a good thing.
Our younger children think Boy Meets Girl is hilarious. It tells the story of two newborn babies trying figure out if they are boys or girls based on old fashioned gender stereotypes. One baby is a boy and the other is a girl. The boy assumes he is a girl because he's patient, can't keep a secret and is afraid of mice. This is based on his understanding that out in the world girls are patient and boys are impatient, boys keep secrets and girls don't, and girls are afraid of mice and boys aren't. In the end he’s wrong.
It’s interesting and reassuring that our children simply find this story funny and don’t find any truth in the pre-conceived notions described in the story. I believe they have a more evolved understanding of equality, acceptance and diversity from both their school environment and positive paternal role models, if I do say so myself. In addition to being entertaining, the songs serve more to reinforce what they already hear in their daily lives.
It’s imperative that both children and adults keep hearing stories that remind us all that we can do anything, and regardless of what path we choose in life, our choices should be respected and accepted. Our goal, at Girl Possible is to feature everyone’s story, from CEOs to stay at home parents and everyone in between.
Stay tuned for our first feature…coming soon.