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What's with the name?

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Oh My Stars and Garters

Are the Girl Scouts Really a Bunch of Radical Pinkos? Maybe Compared to the Boy Scouts…


There has been a lot of hullabaloo (as the kids call it) surrounding the Girl Scouts these days, and a lot of conservative politicians and citizens are boycotting them because they’re considered a “liberal” or even a “radicalized” organization. But you never hear this kind of protest over the good ol’ Boy Scouts. Why is that? Are the two youth-oriented groups really that different? The Atlantic has a closer look, and you might be surprised at what they found.

While they both share similar origin stories (with Robert Baden-Powell and his adventurer’s spirit at the root of both), at some point, the Girl and Boy Scouts veered in different directions completely. One of those points was during the fight for civil rights and equality, specifically, desegregation. While both groups started out as segregated, it was the Girl Scouts — with support from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — who first made the move to integrate their troops in 1956. The Girl Scouts also added a focus on social justice to their mission. A few decades later, while the Boy Scouts continued to embrace their ties to religious institutions, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Girl Scouts started telling their troops that they could replace the word “God” with any term for whatever beliefs they held while reciting the Girl Scout Promise (“On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country …”). The Boy Scouts, to this day, don’t officially allow openly atheist or agnostic scouts to join.

So, there’s that. There’s also the whole “Boy Scout leaders being caught abusing their underage scouts and, like the Catholic Church, just brushing it under the rug so no one notices” thing, and how they ban gay troop leaders and have received support from the U.S. Supreme Court to do so. The Atlantic points out that both the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church are both “male-led, gay-unfriendly hierarch[ies] that sheltered pedophiles.” Where is the political uproar over that?

Meanwhile, when the Girl Scouts takes steps to provide information to girls on how to protect and care for themselves by partnering with Planned Parenthood, they have state representatives in Indiana refusing to recognize the Girl Scouts on their centennial, foolishly calling them “a group that has been subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics” with “surprisingly radical policies” — and “a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood.” (And then more enlightened representatives go ahead and sell Thin Mints on the floor of the legislature as a protest to the “protest.”) Girl Scouts are also subjected to people slamming doors in their faces while selling cookies, telling 10-year old girls that their organization “supports abortion” and “kills babies.” (An incident which prompted the scout in question to tell her mom that “something creepy happened to [her].”)

Of course, the Boy Scouts don’t sell cookies. So they wouldn’t have to deal with that.

But how could their core philosophies have veered so far off course when scouting was supposed to be all about being resourceful, respectful, and curious? While the Girl Scouts became about activism, tolerance, and independence, the Boy Scouts stayed in the 1950s — respect authority, bow to tradition, and live by the Bible.

Of course, we don’t always stay the same person we were when we were scouts, do we?

(via The Atlantic)

Previously in Girl Scouts

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  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t say that GS are on the forefront of “activism, tolerance, and independence.” They allow a far more decentralized structure; individual troops have more leeway (however, there are plenty of BS troops that are just as activist, tolerant, and independent, for the same reason). This means that, if your troop leader prefers it, you’ll learn about housekeeping more than you’ll ever learn about knot-tying.

    And Boy Scouts sell either popcorn or fertilizer. Neither product is as popular as the cookies, but then, BS are heavily supported by private donors and foundations while GS don’t get the same support.

    I say that as a GS Gold Award honoree and sister of a BS Eagle.

  • Anonymous

    The Atlantic points out that both the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church
    are both “male-led, gay-unfriendly hierarch[ies] that sheltered
    pedophiles.” Where is the political uproar over that?

    It’s pretty much constant and ongoing. It’s just not new, or exciting enough at this point for the media to report on. But there are always protests of the anti-atheist and anti-gay policies of the boy scouts both from current members and leaders as well as from outside groups.

    Penn & Teller Bullshit had a nice episode about it.

  • http://robot23.blogspot.com/ Jinxy Blastwave

    That Penn and Teller episode was great.  They kind of laid the blame at the feet of the Mormon Church, who is one of the biggest supporters of the Boy Scouts of America, which goes a long way to explaining the anti-gay stuff.  It wasn’t all crapping on Mormons though, there was a very sweet bit where they had an older scout leader show a group of young men how to be scouts, and one of them was gay, and at the end the scout master got all nice and was like “I’d be proud to have you as a scout any day” something like that. 

  • http://twitter.com/chemrebel N J Mix

    First off, I would like to apologize for the ass-clown Republican rep from my city that decided to use his daughters as political capital when he pulled them from Girl Scouts to American Heritage Girls and then decided to make a spectacle of himself.  Believe me, not all of us here think like him.  Even the house Republican leader mocked him.

    But my main point is that my oldest daughter is a Brownie and I am a former Scout and now a Scout Mom and am damn proud to help her sell her cookies.  We’ve had one run-in at a cookie booth with someone over the whole PP/gay rights thing.  The troop leader was there and honestly, I don’t know how she managed to be so civil because I was ready to rip this person to shreds right in front of my kid and her troopmates.  No one messes with my kid; that’s my job (and also her ex-Mormon Eagle Scout dad’s).       

  • http://twitter.com/antiavenger Mike Perry

    People above me clearly have more elegant and interesting stories about the Girl Scouts. And since my town doesn’t even have their own Girl Scout troop anymore (for reasons I can’t fathom), I’ll refrain from that end of the discussion for lack of experience and know-how.

    But I will say that I WOULD like Girl Scouts in Fallout 3/NV-like propaganda posters. It seems to fit the theme going here. Or at least, I’m nuts.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mcolleen206 Monica Norton

    I was just shelving a book this morning about the creator of the Girl Scouts and reading through it, they were a bit subversive from the start.  Also, one of the early badges had to do with curing ham :-)

  • https://twitter.com/ZenPoseur ZenPoseur

     Wait, you mean they don’t have the ham curing badge anymore?

    Then where are the kids supposed to learn to cure ham?

  • Nick Gaston

    You know…I wonder if the Girl Scouts might be willing to do a boy’s spinoff branch in the future, or at least go co-ed.

  • Anonymous

    There is already some overlap! A bunch of girls in my troop (when we were all Seniors, of course, meaning “young-ish teenagers”) actually became Boy Scouts for a while (in addition to being Girl Scouts), because the Venture Scouts program thing, which they were in, is technically a BSA program. (I don’t know much about it; I was kind of…an auxiliary member of my troop.) I think doing the reverse would be excellent, the Girl Scouts are awesome, and I am SO for more people being involved in that sweetness.

  • Adam Whitley

    “are the girl scouts really a bunch of radical pinkos?”

    one can only hope

  • http://www.facebook.com/captaintita Eleanor Stevens

    It’s funny back when I was a teenager and in Girl Scouts, I always joked that “yeah, Boy Scouts teaches you how to clean a fish and start a fire, but I learned how to make a hostile company takeover go smoothly thanks to Girl Scouts!” My leader was very into us learning real life corporate skills, making out job applications, and occasionally battling bee’s in our campsite. My years in Girl Scouts lead to many friends, and many connections with young an old alike. So regardless of what every idiot who decides to do ten minutes of internet research says the organization itself, while not perfect is a often a good starting ground for young women (and some young men) to start thinking critically. 

    Ps:
    I wish they still had a Ham curing badge when I was in Girl Scouts, I would have freshly cured ham to this day if they did!

  • http://www.facebook.com/1shewolf JoAnna Luffman

    “Of course, the Boy Scouts don’t sell cookies. So they wouldn’t have to deal with that.”

    They sell popcorn, actually.
     I had a son in the boy scouts ( pulled him because he wasn’t doing any of the badge stuff, as it required him to do something) and even here in the Bible Belt, it wasn’t that bad. My daughter is/was a scout (she isn’t allowed to go until she cleans her room. I’m STILL waiting) and the girls are more religious than average.  It’s very regional. I wish my eldest was more interested. :(

  • Terence Ng

    Won’t someone PLEASE think of the ham, I mean, CHILDREN!

  • Barefoot Savage

    Grew up in Fiji and NZ. Can’t speak for anyone else but when I was in Brownies we said for Queen and country despite my school in Fiji being extremely religious. We even had religious (bible) studies every morning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gorillazfan Emily Hill

    and this is why women are smarter than men XD

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gorillazfan Emily Hill

    I like you wish you lived where I did because I tried to get my sister to put my niece her daughter in scouts but because of this fiasco my sister is worried the catholic school Avery goes too will throw her out

  • Anonymous

    I’m still waiting for the Pawnee Rangers to become a real thing!

  • Shelly Nuessle

    As a LifeTime Girl Scout, leader, instructor in climbing, I relish the difference in Girl Scouting.  Although National does not support PP, local councils can.  And in reality, we have always been subversive.  The very first Girl Scout Manual – in 1913 – explained how to subdue and hogtie a burglar.  And learn about women in countries like CHina, India & Eqypt.  And to use some of that cookie money to send supplies to Haiti and books to women’s school in Iraq.

    I am not a girl anymore – but I am a GIRL SCOUT.  The organization that told me how to not just prepared, but to be a woman of courage, confidence & character.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=607464418 Rusty Patti

    I might have to stay off the Interwebs today because I doubt I’ll read anything as good as your comment. Thanks, from a former Scout.

  • Tristan Zimmerman

    As an Eagle Scout (and regular reader), I’m wondering how much research you did in writing this piece. I’ll address your points on the boy scouts one by one:
    1. “…the Boy Scouts continued to embrace their ties to religious institutions, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…” This part is unquestionably true. The biggest tie is that most troop meeting halls are donated by churches, meaning that almost every boy scout troop is affiliated with a troop. The second-biggest is that LDS has decreed that the BSA is their official youth activity for boys, and pours a whole ton of money into it. In both cases, the BSA kind of *has* to stay religiously affiliated for practical reasons. If we weren’t, where would our troops meet, and where would our funding come from? The fact that the BSA *doesn’t* have to devote so much of its energy to fundraising like the GSA does is one of the reasons we can do so many awesome activities on such a regular basis.

    2. “The Boy Scouts, to this day, don’t officially allow openly atheist or agnostic scouts to join.” This is technically true (and we technically don’t allow gays in either).  However, the BSA’s national mandates can be easily ignored on the ground. Most of the power lies in the hand of the scoutmasters; if they want to ignore what National has to say, National will never find out about it. My troop had numerous atheist scouts in it, who openly discussed their atheism. It was never a secret; we knew the scoutmasters had our backs.

    3. “Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church are both “male-led, gay-unfriendly hierarch[ies] that sheltered pedophiles.”” This is… misleading. Sure, the BSA is male-led. To call it a hierarchy is questionable (see 2: the hierarchy technically exists, but is commonly ignored). And while the BSA has sheltered pedophiles in the past, it was a huge wake-up call for the organization. At this point, the BSA probably does a better job rooting out pedophiles than the public schools.

    4. ‘girl scouts get negative attention; implying boy scouts do not.’ I would say that the GSA gets more negative attention than the BSA, but when I was a scout, we had to put up with folks thinking we were all neoconservative little fascists. It’s not as bad, but it’s there.

    5. “While the Girl Scouts became about activism, tolerance, and independence, the Boy Scouts stayed in the 1950s — respect authority, bow to tradition, and live by the Bible.” Yeah, that’s just straight up bullshit. Boy scouts are taught to respect authority, but they are also taught how to change things for the better (the usual interpretation of the word ‘obedient’ in the Scout Law is, “A scout respects and follows authority, and if the authority is unjust, works within the system to change it.”). The BSA bows to tradition in that it glorifies its roots, but that’s about it. And as for ‘live by the bible,’ you realize that there are Muslim scout troops out there, right? And plenty of troops, like mine, full of atheists and agnostics? And that even National has acknowledged that the scouts are religiously neutral, and that in the phrase “Do my duty to God and my country,” the word “God” can refer to any supernatural higher power(s), not necessarily the Christian God. In all my time in the Scouts, I never had a single adult leader ever tell me that I should get in right with God, or cite the Bible at me, or any such nonsense. 

    Usually these sorts of posts on the Mary Sue seem well-researched. I was disappointed by this one.

  • http://twitter.com/nothingsmonstrd nothingsmonstered

    The Boy Scouts saved my life — literally, I’d be dead if it hadn’t been taught how to make a tourniquet back in troop 128. And this is what makes me most upset about the BSA. The Scouts are not a trivial or unimportant organization; scouting improves boys’ lives. So excluding gay and atheist boys from the chance to take part in scouting is harming boys, for no good reason. It’s cruel, unfair, and, as far as I’m concerned, a betrayal of the moral code that I learned from the scouts.

  • http://twitter.com/AlainaRachelle Alaina

    As a former Boy Scouts of America employee (yes, I am female), Venturing Silver and Leadership Award recipient, sister of both an Eagle and Life scout and current Cub Scout leader I too am disappointed in this article. It is one thing to take an editorial slant on something (which is how this article seems to be written) but another to perpetuate mis-information.

    I don’t want to just repeat what Tristan said, but there are a few things that I wanted to reiterate. For one, yes there are a lot of Mormons in Scouting and a lot of churches act as sponsors for packs, troops and crews. There are also Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Meher Baba Scouts. That’s just considering the ones who have religious awards available to be earned. From my personal experience I can add atheists, agnostics, Wiccans and Pagans as well.

    As to the sheltering of pedophiles, there is a zero tolerance policy for anything anywhere near that nature. A leader isn’t even allowed to give a child a ride to or from a meeting or event without at least one other adult present unless they have express permission from that child’s parent and they are required to go through youth protection training at least every two years. Does that mean there aren’t sick people out there? No, but the Boy Scouts do actively work to train their staff and leaders in the signs to watch for and how to report concerns of abuse. 

    Since I know leaving the ‘homophobic’ portion of that comment untouched could very easily be taken as evasion, yes the Supreme Court said that the Boy Scouts had the right as a private organization to the ‘freedom of expressive association’. To pull further from the syllabus of the case, the Supreme Court concluded that ‘public of judicial disapproval of an organization’s expression does not justify the State’s effort to compel the organization to accept members in derogation of the organization’s expressive message’. In specifics the case did center around homosexuality and leader who was gay and an activist, but the case really had more to do with the rights of a private organization. In action, if an issue arises due to something to do with sexual orientation, religion, etc. that cannot be resolved locally then it goes to the local Scout Executive. I have as yet to meet any leaders either volunteer or professional that would toss a boy out strictly on the matter of his sexual orientation or religious beliefs. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are more than million volunteers out there. Organizations are made up of people and those people that make up the Boy Scouts of America represent a lot of different ideas, ideals and values just like any other.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R7GVNIKWG3S2UTHEQOMSZXT4M4 Anna B

    That seriously gave me chills. You guys are awesome.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R7GVNIKWG3S2UTHEQOMSZXT4M4 Anna B

    Thank you, this was an informative reply. I appreciate how you covered it point by point, and in a very positive way. Honestly, I might have thought badly of the BSA if it were not for your reply.

    I still think that the way the GSA was targeted for today’s hot button topics is still atrocious, but it’s good to know that the GSA and BSA have progressed side by side.

  • Anonymous

    That may be a troop-by-troop thing, because I learned the same “making a hostile company takeover go smoothly” in my boy scout troop.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QXWLF6RKGTJPYAVMFSDUQAVGFY Lynn

    The Boys Scouts… It’s no wonder their initials are BS. There have been more than 2,000 cases of molestation in the Boy Scouts since its creation. Considering they don’t let “homosexuals and atheists” join their group, I guess that means that the “heterosexual Christians” are the ones molesting boys. Homosexuality and atheism are against your values but you’re fine with raping children? The BSA needs to be shut down or revamped. All it does is brainwash children to live in the Dark Ages.

  • Anonymous

    What a shame this article came at the top of my search results. Boys are in peril in the country these days. There is little support for boys, and I credit the Boy Scouts with providing what little support is available.

    You can find perverts in any organization. You pointed out the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts. But perverts and molesters exist in civil society outside of these organizations, sometimes in higher percentages.

    There should be things that hold true to Christian values. It is shameful what is happening to the BOY Scouts, and to American boys nowadays. Fatherhood is trivialized, and men who want to love and support our boys are ridiculed by society. Shameful. All at a time when boys/young men commit suicide at rates higher than girls, fail to complete high school, and fail to graduate college at an equal rate. Time for more support for young men and fatherhood…lest our society continue to crumble.

  • Anonymous

    As a new Catholic (convert) I always find it interesting how people love to bring the Catholic church into the discussion (“discussion”) about pedophilia and harming minors. The actual rate of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church is less than what we find in society at large…particularly in modern times.