This piece was published in the Pasadena Star News on May 20, 2018.
The Boy Scouts have rolled out their new organization called Scouts BSA. Shout the good news – girls can hang out with boys! As a professional Girl Scout for ten years in the San Gabriel Valley, I predict this poaching of girls will not succeed. In all the years I worked for Girl Scouts, there was a mutual respect between the two organizations. Indeed, it was Robert Baden-Powell who inspired Juliette Gordon Low to start Girl Scouts so the young women could participate in the same activities as the boys, but separately.
Over the years, Boy Scouts didn’t permit atheist boys to join. Girl Scouts didn’t do that. Instead they told atheist girls that when they recited the Girl Scout Promise, they didn’t have to say “God.” Otherwise they were free to join. Then Boy Scouts kicked out gay Scout leaders. They felt strongly enough to take it to the Supreme Court, who ruled in their favor, thus upholding their bigotry.Girl Scouts took a “don’t ask - don’t tell,” approach. If a leader did a good job with her troop, Girl Scouts did not exclude her due to her sexual preference.
I watched hundreds of girlslearn and growin the all-girl environment provided by Girl Scouting. Their character was just as developed as boys, but also included an emphasis on inclusiveness, self-reliance, and team-work. Many girls went through the entire program together, from Daisy (ages 5-6) through Senior (ages 15-18), and remained life-long friends.
Juliette Gordon Low founded Girl Scouts in 1912. Before women could even vote, Low taught girls to strive to do more than society allowed at the time. Low had many more obstacles than Baden-Powell did in getting her organization going due to the inferior status of women early in the twentieth century.
I am a feminist, and deeply believe in equality for men and women. But I also believe in Girl Scouting, where girls and women work together in an all-female environment. This is especially true for tween girls – ages 13-15 –who have been known to act silly around boys so they can avoid threatening them with their intelligence and drive. In their Girl Scout meetings, young women can hone their leadership skills with each other, minus any drama, and then broaden out to the larger community.
The Boy Scouts proudly claim the Eagle Award as Boy Scout’s highest achievement. Most people are unaware that there is an equivalent award for Girl Scouts called the Gold Award. Girls earn the same type of badges that the boys do to earn the Gold Award. You can call it the Eagle, or you can call it the Gold – it’s an equal achievement, period.
I don’t think Scouts BSA are aware of the fierce devotion of Girl Scout volunteers. My job at Girl Scouts was to train the leaders. Young moms came to the training sessions, exhausted after a full day at work, but determined to become a Girl Scout leader. I am certain that a well-trained Girl Scout Leader will not step aside and let a man lead her troop. Why should she? There is nothing to be gained by putting a thriving Girl Scout troop in with a bunch of boys.
My young granddaughter came to visit last summer from Brooklyn. I sent her to Girl Scout camp in Altadena for four weeks. Each week had a theme. The first theme was: “Who is in Charge? Girls!” She loved her PA (Program Assistant) who was a few years older than her and was a volunteer at the camp. Having older girls work with younger girls to provide a positive role model has been very effective in Girl Scouting.
In a troop with boys and girls together, the special bond between girls and women will be lost. Young girls need strong female role models. If all they see are male leaders, feminism will suffer a setback. Women have come too far to give up their power and autonomy.
When my granddaughter sat on the “singing steps” every afternoon as she waited for me to pick her up, the PA’s taught the campers Girl Scout songs. They sang Girl Scout songs. Get it, Boy Scouts. They sang Girl Scout songs.
Girl and Boy Scouting have taught both sexes many values, instilled discipline and created life-long friendships. They have done this successfully for 107 years, with mutual respect for one another. Now the Boy Scouts seem to think they can offer their brand of scouting to everyone. They can’t. Girl Scouts has an equally valuable organization in every way, and they always have.
Boy Scouts, keep your mitts off our girls.
Kathleen Vallee Stein