By Kara Bell, University of Wisconsin YAF
Girls and boys are inherently different. Baffling, right? But the decision to include girls in Boy Scouts of America, an organization founded to train young boys in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance, is now ‘Scouts BSA,’ in an attempt to blur the line even more between sexes. Progressive and feminist organizations, critics of BSA in the past, are now heralding the end of single-sex scouting, assuming teen development to be one in the same.
However, this transition from ‘only boys’ to ‘boys and girls’ stifles female empowerment by attracting membership from Girl Scouts, neutralizing the unique differences of the two scouting organizations, and minimizing the direct support needed for female empowerment. Girl Scouts of the USA, an alternative to Boy Scouts, released a statement on Wednesday saying, “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today – and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.”
The GSA has objected to the BSA’s decision to include girls. “Girl Scouts offers a one-of-a-kind experience for girls with a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs. We believe strongly in the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a free space for girls to learn and thrive.” But what about the boys? Feminists have always celebrated the leftist progressiveness of the GSA, but now their leftist ploys have gone too far, sticking female empowerment in the mud.
In 1912, in response to the creation of the Boy Scouts of America, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of the USA, envisioning an organization that would advance young women in public and political spheres of life with the opportunity to develop “self-reliance and resourcefulness” – a mission statement similar to their for-boys counterpart. Yet the same modern day feminists who’ve turned GSA into a vehicle for leftist causes also criticize the BSA for being a single-sex organization, publically shaming them for excluding young girls.This is in part due to the double-standards of the Left’s ‘war on culture.’ The original fight for female equality is now flipped, contradicting the mission to truly empower women.
In May of 2015, the BSA fell under intense scrutiny from both the left and right for both accepting homosexuals to participate as scouts and scout leaders, and for not allowing it sooner. Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, wrote the book On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts are Worth Fighting For, and within it he wrote, “The so-called ‘War on the Scouts’ is a microcosm of a larger phenomenon, a ‘culture war’ that has been tearing at the seams of our society for forty years, and that pits traditional values such as service, selflessness, and sacrifice for the common good against a newer doctrine that elevates the self above society and regulates morality to a shapeless form of relativity.” It is this very ‘War on Scouts’ that has forced a total reform of the organization’s founding mission and values.
The wave of female interest in the soon-to-be Scouting BSA has haunted the Girl Scouts. Criticism surrounding outdated badges and activities for young girls, the ‘pyramid scheme’ for cookie selling, and the indoctrination of ultra-progressive values have led girls to consider the Boy Scouts instead. However, the answer is not to infiltrate the BSA, but to reform the GSA to embody more of the enthusiasm for BSA-like activities. Female empowerment does not revolve around taking away from others, but using resources to build and improve.
To draw a thick line between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would be to preserve the original values cemented into their mission statements. Both organizations defend youth and teen development, a unifying mentorship program, and the construction of a strong future generation. But as we’ve seen these institutions are not immune to cultural pressures. The uniqueness of both GSA and BSA is something to be celebrated – not changed. The single-sex organizations dedicated to the character development of their participating youth foster an inclusive atmosphere special and distinct from any co-ed organization. It is a treasure that is disappearing quickly in the United States – a treasure worth fighting for.