The headline fell by the wayside a few months ago, that the Boy Scouts of America will be allowing young women to join their local troops. A creator on Odyssey wrote a more timely piece, describing the overall reaction to the news and his own understanding of the Scout Oath and Law.
I agree with his stance on the decision, that girls should be welcomed and encouraged to reach the rank of Eagle Scout and serve their communities. As an Eagle Scout myself (with twelve years of involvement in the association), I have my own beef and struggles with the organization that are tangential to the topic at hand. I want to just clear the air, I do not write this in praise of the organization.
In fact, I intend to issue a challenge, a thought experiment for those within the organization:
Should we take the word Boy out of Boy Scouts?
After a century of building tradition and bettering American communities, this proposal may seem downright preposterous to some. But one should ask, what is a Boy Scout? The association itself answers this question with the “Scout Law,” a list recited during every meeting alongside its oath. “A Scout is: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Nowhere in the language of the Scout Oath or Law is it described that one must identify with the male gender or should be expected to take on any societal roles as men. This was clear to the association back in 1997, allowing female inductees into Venture Crews, one of the more outdoors-focused branches of Scouting.
I went to twelve consecutive summer camps as well as a few separate leadership camps, each one having at least one woman on staff. So perhaps in hindsight, this change seems inevitable.
There are the obvious changes to be made, like shower and sleeping arrangements at camp, but these are non-issues with hundreds of co-ed summer camps already in operation. It is the culture of scouting that will require adjustment. We saw this happen when the organization publicly allowed the enlisting of homosexual Scouts and troop leaders.
The B.S.A. is strolling into the 21st century, acknowledging that hard working citizens come from all walks of life, countries of origin, and orientation. Does the association still instruct rifle and gun safety to kids? Sure. Are there still exclusive groups of Scouting that dance the line between appreciation and appropriation of native culture? Maybe. I’m not at liberty to speak on that much further, but I can tell you that it is often referred to as a brotherhood.
Many have taken the opportunity to incite rivalry between the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. The most common example people will offer when comparing the two, is that the B.S.A. is more active in the outdoors, offering more in the way of high adventure.
However, I have a difficult time accepting this offer. The national association does not provide these outdoor opportunities, they are planned and financed through the troop’s adult and Scout leadership. Unless there are rules against going on hikes in the rain or digging caves in snow within the Girl Scouts, then it is ultimately up to the leadership to organize campouts.
What the Girl Scouts do offer is their foundation. It is an association built by women, for young women. It is an environment in which girls can experience some of a person’s most formative years, with other girls.
Starting February 2019, girls will be able to begin the journey of Scouting with local Boy Scout troops, starting the path to Eagle. Surprisingly, there has been little public discussion on the naming of the Boy Scouts since the announcement late last year. It would make sense, on a branding level, to change nothing in the nomenclature.
Perhaps, I am the one who is hung up on the taxonomy of Scouting. This could be nothing more than a “liberal knee-jerk reaction” on my part. All I do know is that I led and was led by extraordinary women who identified themselves as Scouts, the rock wall instructor, the blacksmithing instructor, the lifeguard, impromptu triage, and Americans.