*A group of girls in Santa Rosa, California have found the Girl Scouts of America to be lacking in providing the types of experiences they’d like to have. Instead of working to change the group’s curriculum, they’ve opted to petition the Boy Scouts to let them in.
“I want to be a Boy Scout,” said Allie Westover, 13. She made the statement to a panel of male representatives as she dropped off her scout application, as did her sister, Skyler, and three friends, Ella Jacobs, Daphne Mortenson and Taylor Alcozer.
They’ve named themselves the Unicorns and want to formally join the Boy Scouts of America, a organization that has positioned themselves as a male-only club since 1910. None of the girls want to be boys — they just want to learn and play like them.
“Because we’re girls we can’t participate with boys?” said Ella, 10. “When we get into the real world, we’re going to have to work with other people who are, like, not just girls.”
Ella makes a compelling case. But she and her friends face an uphill battle. For one thing Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination by sex, exempts the Boy Scouts and allows them to exclude girl members.
Many have preceded the Unicorns in petitioning the Boy Scouts to admit girls, going back to the 1970s. All prior efforts have failed. “The conflict about admitting girls goes back even further than the conflict over admitting gays,” said Richard Ellis, a professor of politics at Willamette University and the author of the book “Judging the Boy Scouts of America.”
I’m on the fence on this one.
As the proud father of two beautiful daughters, I am keenly aware of the inequities that exist between boys and girls groups and their experiences, particularly in public institutions. Also, society as a whole is becoming much more inclusive. The transgender community is enjoying increased visibility and acceptance, this year saw the national recognition of same-sex marriage, and even the Boy Scouts have reversed their stance of gay school leaders.
On the other hand, I think there should be a place for boys to be boys — and for parents like me to not have to worry about my little ones camping out with said boys.
I’m not alone. Scout leaders Jennifer Masterson and Randy Huffman have my back.
“I have sons,” Masterson told the New York Times. “Would I want a girl sleeping in my son’s tent? No.”
“Maybe their approach should have been to go to the Girl Scouts and say: Instead of painting our nails and clipping our — whatever they do — to do archery and climbing,” Huffman said.
Now, in the spirit of full and total disclosure, I was never a Boy Scout — and certainly was never a Girl Scout, nor was either of my girls. One of them started out with the Brownies and grew bored with the group very quickly. She didn’t stay with it long enough for me to see whether families of Girl Scouts got discounts on Thin Mints.
But generally speaking, I think most of the published articles on this story — including the one cited above from the Times — glorify the experiences of the Boy Scouts and offensively diminish experiences that the Girl Scouts of America offers. The Daily Beast’s Emily Shire, a former Girl Scout, agrees with me.
“Time and again [media] reports about the Unicorns feature snide, ignorant swipes that make the Girls Scouts seem like delicate debutant training,” Shire writes. “The New York Times described the Unicorns as a contingency of girls who ‘would rather be camping and tying knots than selling cookies.” Shire recalls many experiences with the Girl Scouts that included plenty of outdoor and leadership-building activities.
As I think this one out, I think I’m moving off of that proverbial fence.
I think boys will be boys — and should be allowed to camp, climb trees, and bake cookies (if they want to — hey! Why DOESN’T the Boy Scouts sell cookies of their own??) without the presence of girls. There’ll be plenty of time for the two “camps” to come together later in life. As the father of daughters, again, I know this to be true.
I also think the Unicorns should set about changing the Girl Scouts organization if they’re dissatisfied with the group — or start their own club. As Gayle King said on CBS This Morning, “I still like the Boys Scouts and I still like the Girl Scouts — just up the ante on the Girl Scouts!”
That said, at the end of the day “separate but equal” doesn’t have a history of success, so the Boys Scouts may have to cave on this one.
What do YOU think? Leave your comment on this story!