CONTROVERSY: The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) made the momentous decision to allow girls to join its troops, in order to boost membership numbers.
By Isabel Morehead, Staff Writer
On October 11, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that starting in 2018, the organization will allow girls to join their troops and earn the honorable title of Eagle Scout. The decision was controversial, receiving negative responses from both traditional republican groups and women’s rights groups. While this decision seems forward-thinking and a step in the right direction for equality, the Boy Scouts’ motive for this decision has been questioned: is this really about equality?
For hundreds of years, the Boy Scouts of America has been exclusively male, and until only recently, only biologically male. The Boy Scouts have been involved in many controversies over the years because of their lack of diversity, including their policies on homosexuality and transgender applicants. In 2016, an 8 year old boy in a New Jersey Boy Scout pack who was born a female was asked to leave the pack, sparking debate over the dated policies of the Scouts. Aside from not allowing transgender boys into their organization, BSA had previously discriminated against homosexuals. The Boy Scouts condemned homosexuality in their association, saying that homosexual scout leaders didn’t reflect traditional family values that the group stood for. In 2015, the association made moves towards inclusiveness by rescinding their bans on homosexuals in the group. The Boy Scouts have not always been associated with diversity, but in recent years the group has made strides to become more diverse and inclusive, which now includes allowing girls in the association. But with the Boy Scouts’ history of rigid, anti-inclusion rules and values, people are asking, why do they suddenly want to include girls?
Women’s groups, including the Girl Scouts, are opposed to the integration of girls into the Boy Scouts, saying that the separation of the groups is better for the girls. Women’s groups say that their programs are best for young women: “We are unparalleled in our ability to build great female leaders who contribute to society at every level,” Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a psychologist who helps guide the Girl Scouts, said. Research has shown that females learn best in an all-female environment, meaning that females being incorporated into the Boy Scouts is a bad idea. Aside from the learning benefits for girls being in an all-female environment, the Girl Scouts are historically more diverse and inclusive than the Boy Scouts, especially in regards to women’s rights and female empowerment. Neither group has specifically defined political views, but the Boy Scouts have traditionally conservative values and ideas of masculinity, while the Girl Scouts have more liberal and open-minded views. The Girl Scouts have been committed to diversity and empowerment among women since its conception. Now, the Boy Scouts seem to have only become concerned with women’s issues since it is now dangerous for their group not to be.
In 2016, BSA reported 2.3 million youth members, a decrease from 2.8 million in 2012. The group’s’ membership has been declining for years, so the program’s sudden decision to go against what they’ve stood for for hundreds of years is perhaps to increase membership.
Even with the so-called inclusive policy, dens will still be separated into female and male, showing a lack of commitment to the cause of co-gender education. Now that the Boy Scouts are allowing girls in its organization, the Girl Scout’s membership is now in jeopardy. Parents who had no interest in scouting have more interest in allowing their children to be in Boy Scouts as opposed to Girl Scouts. If the Boy Scouts truly cared about what was best for young girls, they would leave the groups separate, meaning that this decision isn’t about advancements for womankind, but further profit for an already flawed organization.
When people think of the Boy Scouts, they think of upstanding citizens and morally upright, independent young men – the very best representation of traditional American values. In some ways, this is what the organization stands for: freedom, independence, honesty, and purity of morals. But the Boy Scouts also has a long history of discrimination and the perpetuation of toxic male characteristics that is damaging to both boys and, ultimately, girls. The move to incorporate girls into the Boy Scout program seems like a revolutionary development for women’s rights because of girls finally being able to participate in traditionally male tasks like scouting. But there is already a program for girls interested in scouting, and it has proven to be incredibly helpful in the development of young girls. Allowing girls to be a part of the BSA takes the focus away from an incredibly useful women’s empowerment group, the Girl Scouts, and is ultimately detrimental to young girls, only succeeding in boosting the numbers of members to the BSA. The Boy Scouts have made some good strides to become more equal and diverse, but this is one issue they should leave well enough alone.