Girls Scouts President Penned a Scathing Letter Accusing Boy Scouts of Sneakily Recruiting Girls, Badmouthing Their Organization

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According to a letter obtained by Buzzfeed News, the Boy Scouts are running a “covert campaign” to recruit girls into their organization, and the Girl Scouts are not happy about it. The letter, written by Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the President of GSUSA, and sent to the BSA President, Randall Stephensen, accuses the group of betraying their 100-year relationship and sneakily trying to recruit girls as part of what sounds like some sort of millennial fad.

The idea of allowing girls to join the Boy Scouts is not a new debate. Many people–including the National Organization for Women–call the group’s exclusion of girls discrimination. However, even if you support making the BSA a co-ed organization, everyone should be able to agree that the way this letter describes them going about it is pretty appalling.

Apparently, the groups have been in talks for a while to open up more Boy Scout programs to girls. (There are already a few available to girls, but they don’t have access to the organization’s full offerings, including the prestigious Eagle Scout title.) And then, according to the letter, the Boy Scouts just went ahead and moved forward alone, “surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents.”

In the letter, Hannan calls the secret move “reckless,” maintaining that single-gender programs benefit everyone far more than co-ed ones, especially when both organizations are not on board. She writes, “the inevitable reality will be that the experience is either co-ed, or one in which one gender is relegated to the sidelines. To be clear this is not a statement on the work that BSA has done and continues to do. Rather, it is a statement on the short-sightedness of thinking that running a program specifically tailored to boys can simply be translated to girls.”

Even worse than dropping out of the conversation and doing all this in secret, is the behavior Hannan describes hearing the BSA exhibit at these co-ed gatherings.

“I am also deeply concerned about reports of aggressive posturing by Boy Scout leaders towards Girl Scout leaders at recent “family meetings” outlining the proposed girls program,” she writes. “This includes everything from disparaging and untrue remarks about Girl Scout programming, to subtle implications about the weakness of Girl Scouts’ long term market strength. Starting off any program when people are feeling bullied is not in keeping with the founding ideals of either Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. I implore you to condemn this behavior within your organization and to create consequences for these actions.”

This is terrible. Girls and grown women alike are told so often, so constantly, that anything designed for them is inferior to its male equivalent. If the Boy Scouts–even individual Boy Scout leaders–are exploiting that ingrained insecurity to lure girls away from the Girl Scouts and into their ranks due to their “declining membership,” that’s horrible.

Leslie Knope wouldn’t stand for this crap.

In her letter, Hannan suggests, “Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys.”

The Girl Scouts have certainly been expanding the scope of their own programming lately, with their new wave of STEM field badges, including a space badge journey designed in partnership with NASA and the SETI Institute. As for the question of creating co-ed spaces within the organizations, that debate will continue. But who does it serve to exclude one side from that conversation? Certainly not the children at its center.

(via Buzzfeed, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.