All Thoughts Being Equal

A place for new ideas to settle.

11 October 2017

Scouting and gender... it's weird!


On 11 October 2017 the Board of Directors for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) did a thing:
Today, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its iconic Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
Cue the cries of "PC!" from the usual crowd, especially on the heels of more contentious votes:
Notably, the ban on homosexual Scouts and Scout leaders was lifted, in part, over fears that a court decision would also force them to let (gasp!) atheists and agnostics in, which simply will not do:
Because of its views concerning the duty to God, Boy Scouts of America believes that an atheist or agnostic is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys. Because of Scouting's methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult volunteer leaders.
Needless to say, the level to which this is enforced depends greatly on the local council and troop; nobody went full Torquemada on me to get me to accept any particular religion, and I was respectful of whatever vespers/chapel program was held at a particular camp, so that was that.

But on the particular topic of "why girls in Boy Scouts?" I found that pretty much everything else about Scouting and gender is more interesting than the latest decision.

First of all, you might be thinking of a certain organization called... the Girl Scouts. And it's a great organization! Oddly enough, it wasn't explicitly connected to the Boy Scouts of America, though it was definitely influenced by the early Scouting programs.

Girl Scouts of the USA is part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and a quick look at the list of member organizations shows that some of them admit boys and girls. GSUSA is still girls-only, but they do allow transgender girls.

You might be wondering what Girl Guides are. Well, they're the official sister organization to the original, British Boy Scouts, formed by the literal sister of Scouting's founder, Sir Robert Baden-Powell.

Now you might be wondering if Boy Scouts of America has an official sister organization. And they did, technically: it was called the Camp Fire Girls. Which is now Camp Fire USA, and has admitted both boys and girls since the 1970s, and is unaffiliated with the larger Scouting movement, and has a British offshoot. Also some really awkward use of Native American influences, which is saying something considering Scouting's awkward paramilitary aspect.

Even more confusing, BSA has already admitted girls for quite a while, as part of the Venturing (outdoors) and Exploring (work experience) programs for young adults. Apparently Venturing even has some partnership with the Girl Scouts, which, again, aren't actually related to the Boy Scouts except by theme. Young women have been Venturing since the late 1960s!

So people who are reflexively mad at this "change" are dumb, for very explicit reasons: girls have officially been part of the Boy Scouting experience for about half a century, now they can just be part of more of the program.

Of course, what should they do about the name? BSA is still (I think) the premier American get-outdoors-and-do-stuff-as-a-group organization, but GOADSAAGA doesn't really roll off the tongue. The whole "nonreligious need not apply" aspect is still problematic, too.

Well, I guess there's always Camp Quest...