In the midst of countless actors, politicians and other public figures being revealed for misconduct against women, other acts of unfairness are going unnoticed. In mid-October, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they would soon be allowing girls to join their program. While this is advantageous for young girls who feel they do not fit in with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) community, this decision is problematic for many reasons including the BSA’s motive and implementation of this decision.
Supported by the fact that the GSUSA has been welcome to young girls of the LGBT community, many activities that the Girl Scouts host are tailored to nontraditional activities, but tend to favor gender-roles and stereotypes. This is not to say that the BSA is inclusive. Boy Scouts do not include as many communicative and domestic activities as they should, as are important to a well-rounded, inclusive community. The BSA has structured its organization around conservative views of how men should act. These two organizations are very different, each with their own issues. The GSUSA, however successful, attempts to go against gender norms by pushing its girls out of their comfort zones, while the BSA sticks with the norms for masculinity.
With this information, it is easier to understand why some girls might not find their place in the GSUSA: Girls may not fit in with the other Girl Scouts or may be more interested in the outdoorsy perspective that the Boy Scouts offer. At a first glance, the BSA’s recent announcement seems to be a solution to the displaced girls looking for an accepting community. With closer investigation though, it’s easy to see that the BSA’s motive is all wrong.
It has been known that the BSA’s enrollment rate has been having trouble. This would explain their recent inclusive efforts of allowing LGBT community members — and now allowing girls — as it would increase their enrollment numbers. However, the GSUSA has many problems with this recent decision, blaming the BSA for “undercutting” its program.
GSUSA President Kathy Hannan said, “It is inherently dishonest to claim to be a single gender organization while simultaneously endeavoring upon a coed model.” This is partially supported by the fact that the BSA does not intend to change its name once it accepts girls into its program.
One BSA executive, Mike Surbaugh, played a key role in revealing the BSA’s potential advantages in this inclusivity effort. He said that this effort, “requires no more work on our part to create. No additional infrastructure.” This is where the question of motive comes in. If the BSA cared about the well-being of girls as part of the Boy Scout community, it would have made an active preemptive effort and plan of how exactly to integrate young girls, who are easily influenced, into a vast community of boys who are taught traditional values of masculinity.
According to Slate, “GSUSA thinks that’s exactly the problem. ‘It’s well-known, well-documented: Boys and girls learn in different ways,’ Mike Lopes, a GSUSA communications director, said in a phone interview. ‘Our concern is for girls. We really feel that to take a program that the Boy Scouts have … we know that it will not simply translate easily into girls. It seems more like kind of a quick fix rather than something that is really in the best interest of girls, helping them actually develop and become leaders.’ There is some evidence that single-gender education may benefit girls even more than boys: A girl-only environment means girls are more likely to volunteer for — and be called upon to take — leadership positions because there aren’t boys to fill them. From a very young age, girls are attuned to stereotypes that cast men as more intelligent and capable than women. For several generations, GSUSA has been refining its programs to combat that hard-to-avoid sexist socialization.”
The BSA has made no clear plan on how they will combat the obvious grouping and excluding of girls. Integrating two so famously separated organizations requires foreshadowing the inherent conflicts that will emerge.
If BSA was to properly implement its inclusivity efforts, its attempt would be more convincing. If its motive was to enhance the experiences of young girls as well as enrich the perspectives of diversity and gender roles for Boy Scouts, maybe the BSA’s decision to include girls would be perceived more positively. But its convenient lack of acknowledging the GSUSA, its seemingly fiscally driven motive, and its plan for implementation makes it clear that girls are not in the fundamental interest of the BSA.
Priyanka Bansal is a Rutgers Business School first-year double majoring in business and journalism and media studies. Her column, “Call for Change,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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