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Turns out Girl Scouts are just fine, thanks

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Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 2:30 am

This column is written as a response to Wednesday’s guest column “Gender inequality is rampant in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America Organizations.”

Last week’s column on how the separation of genders in girl and boy scout troops is leading to “sexual discrimination and stereotyping that run rampant throughout the U.S.” hit a little too close to home for me.

As a former Girl Scout for 10 years myself — I graduated out at 18 — to see someone else say the only thing I had been taught by the organization was domestic skills was a real slap in the face.

The column talked about how even though the Girl Scouts organization tries to uphold the ideal of strong, confident women, the “requirements for the majority of their badges tend to teach a feminized skill set.”

Whoa, hold up now.

In Girl Scouts, there is a badge or resource for almost any interest you would want to explore. Just because there are arts-and-crafty badges doesn’t mean there aren’t badges for car maintenance, geocaching, building good credit, website design — you name it.

The column also compared how Boy Scouts activities are more rugged and outdoors oriented than Girl Scouts.

Even if Boy Scouts do those types of activities more often, that doesn’t inherently make the two organizations discriminatory. If Girl Scouts didn’t put the funding or resources toward providing rugged and outdoors things to girls, that would be unfortunate and largely discriminatory.

But, of course, that isn’t the case.

Just because the first mental picture of Girl Scouts that comes to mind is sweet little girls selling cookies doesn’t mean they don’t camp, lead hikes, learn archery, go kayaking, climb rope courses and so on. I say that because I did all of those above activities while I was in Girl Scouts, strangely enough.

And if some little girl has an interest in baking or fashion design, who is anyone to wave a finger and say, “You are reinforcing stereotypes by learning a feminized skill set”?

With all the love in my heart, screw those people.

Girl Scouts has done a fantastic job of putting out resources for any interest girls have growing up, so let other people read the social commentary into it if they wish.

The examples of badges the author thought were “feminized and borderline sexist” were misconstrued.

It turns out all scientific and technological badges don’t teach the “science of happiness.” Upon further research, it turns out the example was one badge, aptly titled “the science of happiness.” Girl Scouts doesn’t shirk science and technology; it funds STEM projects like its nobody’s business, especially in the last few years

And for the “babysitting badge,” just because it is more useful to 12- to 14-year-old girls than boys doesn’t automatically make it gender stereotyping.

Babysitting was the first paid job I ever had, and I’m sure that goes for a lot of girls. That badge was how I became CPR certified at 13, so go ahead and call that not worth my time.

Lastly, the column made the case that to truly equalize Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, they should be combined into one organization. For anyone who is interested, they have that; it is called Venture Scouts, which is really more like a co-ed Boy Scouts.

Otherwise, Girl Scouts are doing fine on their own.

The important part is both organizations teach children to be hardworking, honest, loving and ambitious. That is true equality between the genders. The rest is details.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cookies that need eating. Scout pride.

Lauren Flannery is a business administration sophomore at UF. Her column runs on Tuesdays. You can contact her via opinions@alligator.org.

Welcome to the discussion.

5 comments:

  • cactus posted at 1:25 pm on Wed, Jun 12, 2013.

    cactus Posts: 1

    I love the article, Lauren! I know I’m coming a little late to the party, but I wanted to address SLK’s comments. SLK, I’m sad that your experience as a Girl Scout leader is less than what you think it should be. I’m disappointed that you have a negative view of the program. The one thing that I know about Girl Scouting is the limitation come from within, not from the program. It’s a “Girl-Led” program, so if a spa day is something on their list, why not make it a goal after the big weekend of camping? Yes, we do outdoor activities. My girls have done everything mentioned and then some. How many 10 years olds do you know are CPR certified (for adults, children and animals), have taken basic self-defense courses and can start a fire without matches? Mine can. When my first years Daisies were earning the petal for be courageous and strong, we could have gone with some of the suggestions in the Handbook, but we went rock wall climbing. It was an incredible event to watch some of the 5 year olds scramble to the top and see the look of accomplishment on their face. Those that couldn’t make it all the way were supported and encouraged by their peers and still left with a feeling of achievement.
    I am a current leader for my Daisy (about to Bridge to Brownie) and I actively participate in my other daughter’s troop, she is Bridging to Cadette. It sounds as if your Council may be lacking some resources for you as a leader . An unexpected benefit for me as a leader was the relationships that I have developed with other women in my Council. The connection with the other women and the hugs that I get from the girls each week provide me with what I need to put in the time and effort.
    In regard to some of your other comments, our Council may have sold some buildings, but not camps. In fact they have been investing in improving the properties throughout the Council. Our Service Unit alone has almost 200 girls on the waiting list, we are in desperate need of leaders, so whatever the Council has to do to attract them is alright by me. I’ve learned that partnering with the right leader makes all the difference and plays to one another’s strengths.
    Maybe it’s a good that you are “finishing up” your time as a leader. You seem to need a break. [unsure]

     
  • mudbone posted at 11:35 pm on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    mudbone Posts: 177

    Way to slaughter that bigoted feminist maniac, Lauren.

    Also, way to have a useful major, unlike her.

     
  • Former GS posted at 5:36 pm on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Former GS Posts: 1

    Hi, as a former Girl Scout and mother of a 13 year old daughter in Girl Scouts I absolutely agree with Lauren's posting. Our council offers badges in digital photography, first aid, science and nature, civics, and outdoor skills. The Journeys mentioned in a previous comment are also great for the girls. They take around 6 weeks to complete and should involve field trips, talks by experts, a community project, and other activities that interest the girls. They also work well for giving girls ideas about projects like the gold award or the silver award. I've seen girls in our area successfully lobby their school board to add a wind turbine to help energy consumption at their school. Another girl developed a junior park ranger program for a nearby state park. These are time consuming projects that involving work with many in the community that make a lasting impact on where girls live. I would argue as a parent and a leader that in people are only finding a program that enforces gender stereotypes or that doesn't involve enough badges and outdoor activities that perhaps they haven't spent time looking through the new Girl Guide or opened the leader manual sold with the journeys. Many local leaders had trouble adjusting to the new curriculum but once they did now like it even better then old.

     
  • Rowdy posted at 10:07 am on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Rowdy Posts: 22

    This article was great. Thank you for representing the organization from the inside, not as an outsider with an agenda. And to SLK, I am inclined to believe you from what I saw at my sisters troop that my mom lead. Although, she was just a Brownie, so they weren't quite old enough perhaps to do the more rugged things? I don't know. Either way, the issue is not that we need to merge them, they have Venture Scouts for that. It's that we need to cherish and build each organization to make them both better, independently.

     
  • SLK posted at 8:29 am on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    SLK Posts: 1

    Well, Lauren, your experience as a kid is vastly different from the Girl Scouts of today. There *used* to be badges for just about anything - not anymore. I am finishing up my 10th year as a leader and the fact is - I use Boy Scout materials for my girls about half the time. The badges we have now are completely watered down. The outdoors stuff - research for yourself how many councils are selling off their camps to pad their bottom lines. And girls are more likely to do spa days and glamour girl stuff than hiking and camping. GSUSA (not GSA) has opened up the program to just about anyone who wants to do whatever so that they can attract leaders - not leaders who are interested in scouting skills. It's all about the numbers. I wish you were right but, as a mom who has 2 Girl Scouts and 1 Boy Scout, I think I've got a pretty good handle on both organizations and while I don't know about gender inequality, I do know that things like First Aid, CPR, Babysitting are no longer regular programming for girls. Amazing that a girl can earn her Gold Award with never having taken First Aid/CPR or learned other useful life skills. Do a Journey, do a project, done. You should reexamine - things today are not as they once were. :(