Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are the same things, right? Don’t they both learn camping, hiking and survival skills? Don’t they both build fires, tie knots, climb rocks and shoot bows and arrows? Doesn’t it stand to reason that the only difference between them is that one is for boys and one is for girls?
As it turns out, no. While Boy Scouts certainly do engage in more rugged survival activities, Girl Scouts have a far different experience. While the boys are out starting fires in the wilderness, the girls are too often safely inside learning how to knit, cook or sell cookies.
Should girls join the boy scouts?
What is the solution? Is it to break down the barriers of gender and allow girls to join the Boy Scouts and boys to join the Girl Scouts — or maybe to just create one unified scouting organization anyone can join? Teenager Sydney Ireland, who has been involved in scouting since age 4, is now pushing to become an Eagle Scout as she fights for the right to wear the many badges and ranks she has already unofficially earned.
Of course, the argument most traditionalists often give is simple. It’s right there in the words — only a boy can be a Boy Scout, and only a girl can be a Girl Scout. Of course, this argument would make a lot more sense if the two programs were equal. As it is, there’s a vast disparity between what the girls and boys in those two programs do.
Allowing girls to join the Boy Scouts would certainly be a step in the right direction, and would be better than what we have now. But this solution is no more than a Band-Aid. It’s a belated attempt to treat a symptom, while ignoring the disease as a whole. In this case, the disease is intrinsic to the society we live in, which still sees women and girls as second-class citizens.
We’ve reached the point where, every once in a while, we recognize an exceptional girl who proves what we should all already know — women are just as strong as men. However, girls like Sydney Ireland are seen as the exception, rather than the rule.
Think about the implications of recognizing a handful of girls who are “good enough” to move beyond the ranks of their fellow girls to join the boys. Doesn’t that seem like a statement to the world that there’s something wrong with being a girl and that everyone should aspire to be a boy? Should we laud the rare girl who demands recognition as being “better” than the rest of her gender, or should we change the way we think about traditional gender roles?
What if, instead of letting a handful of girls join the Boy Scouts, we took the time to revisit what it means to be a Girl Scout?
What does it mean to be a girl scout?
Why shouldn’t Girl Scouts learn outdoor survival skills? Why shouldn’t they learn how to pitch a tent in the dark, to start a fire without matches and to tie 15 different knots in as many minutes? Why shouldn’t they practice archery, climb rock walls and help their neighbors get safely across the street? Who decided these were things girls were incapable of doing, and that their time was better spent learning how to do safe, “proper” indoor activities?
And, most importantly, why should girls have to give up being a girl to learn these things? Girls shouldn’t have to join the boys to learn these basic survival skills. They should be able to learn these skills in the company of their sisters and friends, from their mothers, their friends’ mothers and other strong women from the community. They should have positive and empowered female role models to look up to.
Women are pioneering in stereotypically male fields all over the country and world. 2017 saw a record number of women CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. Women are also making huge strides in the traditionally male-dominated fields of technology and science. While we still have tons of progress to make, these women are out here thriving and changing the dynamic of what it means to be a female all on their own — and they don’t need to kiss up to guys to get there.
There’s nothing wrong with girls and boys doing things together, and there’s nothing wrong with girls having strong male role models to look up to. That isn’t the point. The point is that girls shouldn’t have to give up being a girl to find a challenge in the organizations they join.
So while it’s great that one or two girls may be allowed to join the Boy Scouts, it isn’t enough. The problem runs deeper than that, and nothing short of deep structural attitude adjustments will bring about the change that is sorely needed in the fabric of our society.