Taking the Boy out of Boy Scouts

Amaris E. Rodriguez, Opinions Editor

Girl Scout graphic by Brandi Nevarez

When The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced earlier this month that it would be changing its Boy Scouts program name to Scouts BSA starting February 2019 as girls are now able to join the programs, controversy arose throughout the nation as many people believed it was unnecessary. 

The news became a nationwide topic and prompted its own Snapchat story with reactions of primarily young adults. Reactions seemed to be split between people who believe the change is unnecessary and others who see it as long overdue.

Since only a name change was revealed earlier this month and so much controversy was sparked, it was crucial for me to understand why there would be outrage over girls joining in the first place.

The decision to let girls join was announced in October 2017 and was highly opposed by many groups, including the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Girl Scouts of USA addressed the decision by commenting to ABC News that, The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire. 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.”

A big issue that has come up in the debate, and one that the Girl Scouts of USA addresses, is the idea of a single-gender environment.

“Girl Scouts is the best girl leadership organization in the world, created with and for girls,” said the organization on their blog post. “We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a free space for girls to learn and thrive. The benefit of the single-gender environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, other girl- and youth-serving organizations, and Girl Scouts and their families. Girl Scouts offers a one-of-a-kind experience for girls with a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs.”

A part of me agrees that it is important to have single-gender environments. However if a scout’s needs are being fulfilled better in a particular organization, I see no harm for them in joining the other.

Sydney Ireland, a sixteen-year-old from Manhattan, had been petitioning the Boy Scout organization to allow her, and other girls, to join and earn their badges. Ireland created a movement using national letters and even a Change.org petition for her cause, gaining the support of the National Organization for Women.

“I just want to see a change,” Ireland said. “Right now they’re discriminating against girls, and I’m just calling it as it is,” she said.

As the BSA announce the name change to their Boy Scouts program, many argued that Girl Scouts already existed so there was no need for girls to want to join Boy Scouts. With this argument, it is important to keep in mind that the programs are not the same and they do not offer the same experiences.

“No, we’re not meant to be the girl equivalent of the Boy Scouts,” said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, who serves as the “Chief Girl Expert” at Girl Scouts of the USA.

If the Girl Scouts are able to recognize that they are not the equivalent of the Boy Scouts, that they do not offer the same activities and experiences, there should be no reason for either boys or girls to not be able to participate in the opposite group.

The decision was made after the Boy Scouts had received many requests from families and girls asking them to change their regulations to allow girls to fully join their programs. The Boy Scouts also address this decision as a way to try to reach out and include more minorities, such as Hispanics and Asian communities, who they believe are “currently underserved” and “prefer to participate in activities as a family.”

This was a great call on behalf of the Boy Scouts. I do believe that the Hispanic community is highly under represented in programs such as the Boy Scouts and even the Girl Scouts. They are organizations that do not perform much outreach into Hispanic communities, making it hard for parents to enroll their children in these programs that can be greatly beneficial in developing leadership skills from a young age. Allowing for the Boy Scouts to be an activity that families are able to do together would allow for growth within the Hispanic community.

The controversy surrounding this decision, and the more recent name change, is frankly ridiculous as I believe children should be allowed to join whichever group they want without it being a nationwide scandal. Unfortunately it seems to be only catching more fire as the Mormon Church has ended their 105 year partnership with the Boy Scouts in order to create their own programs that maintain boys and girls separate as the church has no scouting programs for girls.

While the Mormon church continues to preach inequality, as their church-based programs for girls are centered around cooking, grooming and making handcrafts, I am pleased that other girls will be able to earn badges in whatever skills they seek to learn.

The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts had unofficially maintained an idea of separate but equal, which should not have been tolerated. As girls are able to join the newly named Scouts BSA program, I only hope that the Girl Scouts jump onboard and work with the BSA to form a union that will teach all children valuable life lessons about gender equality.