The Boy Scouts of America recently voted to allow girls to join the Cub Scout program, and eventually earn the rank of Eagle Scout. This sounds like a progressive idea, but it’s not.
While the quality of a child’s experience in either the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts will vary by den or troop, Girl Scouts are in no way teaching their girls anything less valuable than what the Boy Scouts learn. In addition to teaching girls practical wildlife skills, the Girl Scout program offers young girls important lessons about feminism and gender issues that the Boy Scouts could not deliver in the same way. Growing up in a safe space for girls and women that is completely focused on empowerment, education, and progress is a meaningful and unique opportunity for members of the Girl Scouts in a way that will never be duplicated by the Boy Scouts.
Many people have stated their support for girls joining the Boy Scouts because they see no reason to separate children based on gender, and the idea of one co-ed organization seems more progressive than the current gender-separated system. While it is always worth discussing the value of binary gender divisions, in this case, the benefits provided by the Girl Scout program to young girls validate the system in place.
— Girl Scouts (@girlscouts) October 11, 2017
One article in support of the new policy, published by the Atlantic, states in regard to the two organizations: “the separate-but-equal approach casts women as a group to be respected and protected but understood as deeply other.” Despite the image of a perfect co-ed program where girls are finally able to learn practical skills alongside their brothers, the fact that girls can join Boy Scouts will not actually achieve anything for gender equality. According to the announcement, all dens will continue to be single-gender, meaning that the girls who join will still be separated from the boys. In fact, girls will gain none of the supposed benefits from being integrated with boys, and will only lose the empowerment and education offered by the Girl Scouts.
A common misconception about the Girl Scouts is that troops do ‘useless’ activities like knitting and selling cookies while Boy Scouts learn practical skills in the wilderness. Since my Girl Scout troop formed in first grade, we have gone camping twice a year, where we cooked our own food and pitched our own tents. We have completed multiple community service projects, which taught us how to identify a need in the community and execute a plan to satisfy that need in a lasting, effective way. I learned about entrepreneurship through the Cookie program, which is not actually a scam to make money. Instead, it is designed to teach young girls how to run a business and take initiative. All of the revenue from cookie sales goes back to local Girl Scout troop and organizations, allowing troops to control their own budget and fund their own future learning.
One final benefit to the new policy that is being discussed is that girls can finally earn the rank of Eagle Scout. While it is true that the Eagle Scout Award is more well-known, it is no more difficult or rewarding than earning the Girl Scout Gold Award. The requirements for each award differ slightly, but both require many hours of leadership and community improvement. The feeling of accomplishment from earning either of these awards should come from the knowledge of the impact the person has had on their community, rather than the attention they get after receiving the award; however the greater recognition for Boy Scouts and its associated ranks could be harmful to young girls who join Boy Scouts in search of prestige, sacrificing their chance at being part of the Girl Scout community.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have always been sibling organizations. Juliette Gordon Low was inspired by Robert Baden-Powell, the founders of the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts respectively, and they worked closely together to realize their visions for the children of America. Why the Boy Scouts have now decided to undermine the goals of the Girl Scouts and jeopardize the opportunities of many girls to grow up in a supportive environment is unclear. What is clear is that this decision is unnecessary and uncalled for, and girls should not support it.