On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, Boy Scouts of America announced their decision to allow young girls to join at the Cub Scout stage, the lowest level of Boy Scouts. The previously boys only organization, founded in 1910 by William Boyce, also stated that it is making preparations to create pathways for girls to rise through the ranks to eventually earn the coveted Eagle Scout Award. According to CNN, BSA made this decision in response to the many requests from families with girls who wanted to be a part of the organization. Small Cub scout troops (known as “dens”) will consist of one gender, either male or female, while larger troops will make the decision themselves whether or not to be co-ed.
Upon hearing the announcement, some rejoiced at the idea of girls and boys participating side by side in Boy Scouts, saying that it is a big step towards equality and progress. Others had a similar reaction to Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted “Strange, I thought that was what Girl Scouts was for??”
The Girl Scouts of America, the feminine counterpart to BSA, is an organization formed in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low to provide an inclusive environment for girls to develop their own talents and skills independently. Currently, it boasts 1.8 million members in the United States. But now, with girls able to join Boy Scouts, many are wondering where that leaves Girl Scouts.
On paper, GSA should be excited for this new development. Girl Scouts’ main goal is female empowerment– proving to the world that women and girls are equal to males. Allowing girls to join the previously all-boy organization exemplifies that idea. However, the organization isn’t so happy. The official Girl Scouts council has made it very clear that they do not believe that such an action is in the best interests of young girls.
“The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” they said in an official statement to ABC news on October 12. “Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.” They went on to say that BSA is just frightened by its declining membership, which is at the lowest it has been in a decade, and that their decision to let girls in is just a desperate attempt to get numbers back up.
GSA is also firm in their belief that they remain the better option for young girls to join, saying in a post on their website that their organization is tailor made for girls and by girls. They also cited evidence that both boys and girls learn better in “a single gender environment.”
There are a few reasons why GSA doesn’t like the idea of girls becoming Boy Scouts. One is membership. Just like BSA, the Girl Scouts organization has been experiencing a fall in girls joining, with a 6% drop in the last year. That percentage could increase if girls now start joining Boy Scouts instead.
Another reason is the history. Boy Scouts was founded in agreement with gender stereotypes of the past; Girl Scouts was founded to challenge them. Some scouts worry that by letting girls into Boy Scouts, the values which the Girl Scouts stand for will be lost.
Girl scouts themselves seem a bit on the fence about decision.
“I feel like they have the right idea, but that they should’ve talked to people before they just went out and did it,” said girl scout Sara Haleblian (11).
“I don’t see why a girl should have to join Boy Scouts when there’s Girl Scouts,” added Stephanie Kiang (10), another scout. “It just seems kind of pointless.”
Information for this article came from CNN, ABC, and girlscouts.org
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