KUKOSKI: The Boy Scouts of America take a stance for equality

The acceptance of girls presents the opportunity for gender inclusive programing

op-BoyScouts-CourtesyWikimediaCommons

The Boy Scouts of America recently welcomed girls to their membership.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In a landmark decision on the International Day of the Girl, the Boy Scouts of America welcomed girls to their membership of 2.4 million youth across America. This announcement was met with both praise from busy parents and rebuttal from the Girl Scouts of America, who were completely blindsided by the announcement. For over 100 years, the Girl Scouts of America has strived to build strong leaders, while the Boy Scouts of America has done the same with young boys. With the addition of girls to the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs, the Boy Scouts of America pledge to “shape the next generation of leaders,” — the Boy Scouts already expanded their membership to include openly gay youth and transgender youth in recent years. This move towards inclusivity will only be a mark of success if equal opportunities within the Boy Scout programs are afforded to both boys and girls. 

The addition of girls to Boy Scouts of America does not fundamentally change the organization of the group — the individual Cub Scout troops, for children ages seven to ten, will remain single-sex with the option of co-ed packs. Moreover, a sister program to the Boy Scout program for children ages 11 to 17 will be unveiled in 2019, allowing girls to reach the ranks of Eagle Scout. These additions come after the implementation of the co-ed Venturers, Exploring and Sea Scouts programs for teens. While it is admirable that the Boy Scouts of America have opened membership to include all future leaders regardless of gender, it is still up to the individual packs to decide whether to remain single-sex or go co-ed. This could potentially leave eager girls without a Cub Scout troop in some places, and inconsistencies could arise for those families who move frequently.

With the creation of female troops, the Boy Scouts of America have a pioneering opportunity to create gender-inclusive activities. Girls are often driven away from Girl Scouts as many troops, which are run by volunteers — usually parents — focus on crafts, homemaking and other traditional female activities. Although some Girl Scout troops are more outdoor activity oriented, many girls do not feel included in Girl Scouts and would rather participate in the adventure-oriented activities of the Boy Scouts. As the Boy Scouts create their new scouting programs to include girls, it is imperative that they create gender-inclusive activities, and avoid gender stereotyping. It is not enough to create an alternative program for girls which consists of crafts, cooking and other female-stereotyped activities. This only serves to perpetuate hegemonic gender norms. The Boy Scouts of America must create a flexible program that is filled with many options in order to better serve the diverse interests of boys and girls alike. 

Not all boys like archery — just as not all girls like crafting. With the creation of girls programs at the Cub Scout and Boy Scout levels, the Boy Scouts of America is in a unique position to create gender-inclusive activities. Many young girls are eager about the acceptance of girls into the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs, but have voiced concerns about the content and caliber of the activities. Potential inequalities in programing could serve to further gender norms — for instance, if the boy troops were to go fishing while girl troops stayed back and made jewelry for a local charity. This ignores the fact that not all boys enjoy fishing and not all girls enjoy making crafts. If the Boy Scouts of America are to include girls, they must include them on an equal level. Female troops must be afforded the same opportunities as male troops. The inverse is also true — male troops should be given the option of craft making if they wish.  

By opening their programs to girls, the Boy Scouts of America are making an important step toward breaking down hegemonic gender norms if they create gender inclusive programing. These new programs should provide challenges and diverse opportunities for both girls and boys alike. All eyes will be on the Boy Scouts of America as they begin to enact these new programs which will shape the next generation of leaders. 

Mary Alice Kukoski is a Viewpoint writer for the Cavalier Daily. She may be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

related stories