By ANA MEJIA
This is a time when society is all about inclusion and equality. One of the nation’s largest youth development organizations, the Boy Scouts of America, has announced they are accepting girls to join Cub Scouts. Older girls will be eligible to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.
The scouting board of directors took a unanimous vote to make the monumental change in the organization’s policy. Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts, said that the rationale behind this decision is to meet the needs of families interested in positive experiences for their children and also evolve the program.
The one question I can think of is, why now? What inspired the organization to make this huge change in their policies? The organization had previously made changes to its membership in 2013 when it lifted the ban on openly gay scouts and in 2015 when it ended its prohibition on gay leaders, and earlier this year when it opened its doors to transgender members. We live in a time when people are constantly trying to create a more inclusion. While some find it surprising, some find it was expected because of the times we live in that are focused on equality of the genders.
As with all matters in this country, everyone has an opinion, especially the Girl Scouts who accused the Boy Scouts of secretly trying to recruit girls to appeal to millennial parents in August. The Girl Scouts assure that “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.” I believe that this is a very sexist view from a female perspective. If I argue that girls are good enough to be in the Boy Scouts, then who am I to argue that males are not good enough to train girls? This view is completely contradictory with the premise of equality of the genders.
Historically, the relationship between the two organizations has not been friendly. They have had multiple disagreements and even legal battles regarding the names of the organizations. Tammy Proctor, the head of the History department at Utah State University and author of the book Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts told The Atlantic that the reason the Boys Scouts opened its doors to girls is that they are losing members and had to do something to attract more. She also explained the reason why the Boys Scouts opening its doors to girls is more controversial than Girls Scouts opening the doors to boys. She said, “I think for girls joining a boy’s movement there’s a bit of a forbidden fruit factor that they can do anything boys can do which doesn’t exist in the same way for boys wanting to join a girl’s movement.”
As an avid advocate for gender equality, I see how this point makes sense. Historically, the fight has been one-sided, women trying to get the rights men always had. The right to learn, vote and even work. Males are not actively fighting to be able to have the same rights as females. Nowadays, there is the notion that a girl is capable of doing anything a boy can do. As an international student, the perception I have regarding Boy Scouts is from what I have seen in movies or heard from my friends. While we have Scouts Associations in my country, they are co-ed and not very common. I see the Boy Scouts and I think of outdoor activities like camping and I also think of badges. When I think of Girl Scouts, I think of girls going door to door selling Thin Mints. While my perceptions are definitely not accurate I think they say a lot about how the two organizations are portrayed to society, boys being more outdoorsy than girls.
Even the President’s son took it upon himself to make a comment regarding the announcement. On a Tweet, Donald Trump Jr., wrote, “Strange, I thought that’s what the Girl Scouts was for???” His tweet awarded him both criticism and agreement. I think this tweet was uncalled for and downright sexist because it shows that the President’s son believes that the education of boys and girls should be separate.
One of the main reasons why girls would want to join the Boy Scouts over the Girl Scouts is the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout. Among the people who have reached the rank of Eagle Scout are Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Neil Armstrong. The Girl Scouts have a similar award called the Gold Award but it is not nearly as recognized as the Eagle Scout distinction which can go a long way in academic, professional and military spheres.
Regardless of the criticisms that the decision provoked, some people saying that girls and boys should be taught differently, I think these divides and the idea that boys and girls should be taught separately are all created by us. Just think back to times when education was divided by sex. Boys were taught how to work and girls were taught domestic abilities. The stereotypes and the ideas of what a girl can or cannot do are all created by us and we should work towards bridging that divide. If the Boy Scouts are a way to do so, then coed groups are probably a good thing.
Ana Mejia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org