Should the Boy Scouts of America Officially Admit Girls?
A group of Santa Rosa, California girls calling themselves “The Unicorns” are campaigning to become official Boy Scouts of America.
The ten girls first became interested in Boy Scouts programming after participating in “Learning for Life,” a co-ed program affiliated with the Boy Scouts. The New York Times explains,
[..] the Unicorns moved quickly from the course lessons to more formal Boy Scout activities: earning badges, hiking alongside boy groups and buying uniforms that mimicked those worn by boys.
In the spring, the Unicorns placed second in a major scouting competition called camporee, where they went up against dozens of Boy Scout groups judged for grit and spirit.
Danelle Jacobs, a mother of one of the Unicorns, told ABC that Boy Scout parents began to complain about the girls’ participation: “They said things like it was completely inappropriate and girls would take over all the leadership positions.” Other parents expressed concern over the possibility of “a girl sleeping in my son’s tent.” After at least one complaint was filed, the girls were barred from further participation in a statement sent by the Boy Scouts of America:
We understand that the values and the lessons of Scouting are attractive to the entire family. However, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are year-round programs for boys and young men in the first grade through age 18.
Many of the Unicorns have also participated in Girl Scouts; 10-year-old Ella Jacobs explained to ABC that she tried Girl Scouts, but was jealous of the active ways she saw her brother spend his time in Boy Scouts. However, a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Northern California told The New York Times that “outdoor experience has really always been a hallmark of what we do. If they want to come back to join us, we’re thrilled to have them.”
The Unicorns have met with local Boy Scout leaders and asked for permission to be official Scouts, but were told that only national headquarters could approve the decision.
To be honest, I’m not sure what I would do if it was my job to decide the Unicorns’ fates. It seems from many of the interviews the girls are giving that they’re disappointed with the programming offered to their gender, so hopefully, even if the Boy and Girl Scouts remain gender exclusive, the two groups can move towards more gender-neutral activities. It’s also troublesome that so many of the comments from Boy Scout parents shame the girls rather than blaming the boys themselves (if boys get their asses kicked in Scout activities, or can’t handle a co-ed sleeping situation, that’s not entirely the girls’ faults), so hopefully that will be addressed going forward.
Although the Unicorns aren’t alone in their desire to join the Boy Scouts–women began campaigning for entry into the organization back in the 1970s–I do think that admitting kids who identify as girls into the Boy Scouts might not address the larger problem. It’s important to continue to make both groups as inclusive as possible, but I wish Girl Scouts also had some of the cache that Boy Scouts seems to, and was perceived, not as a wimpy default for people barred from Boy Scouts, but as the definitive Scout group. There’s a lot Girl Scouts could do in terms of improving their programming, but I suspect that part of their image problem comes not from things that the Girl Scouts are doing ‘wrong,’ but from the fact that they’re an organization for girls, and therefore implicitly inferior and uncool.
As someone who grew up with a fair amount of internalized sexism, I personally benefited a lot from girls only groups–they forced me to hang out with and see the value in people of my own gender, and consequently myself. At the same time, I never want to see girls excluded from activities simply because of their gender, and I do think that admitting girls to the Boy Scouts (and vice versa) could help dispel some of the organizations’ toxic masculinity.
What do you think, gang?
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