Opinion: Redefining scouting without gender

Emily Unruh

For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America have been exclusively male. As of now, however, Boy Scouts will be allowing girls to join Cub Scouts starting next year.

This divisive decision isn’t the only instance of push back that Boy Scouts has faced in recent years. In 2013, the organization put an end to the ban of gay scouts and in January 2017, formally announced that they would allow transgender children who identified as male to enroll as Boy Scouts.

Allowing girls to join Cub Scouts continues the cycle of inclusion that Boy Scouts is working to improve upon. However, the question that this decision brings to my mind is what this means for Girl Scouts. Two years after Boy Scouts began in 1910, Juliette Garden “Daisy” Low formed Girl Scouts. In a time when society allowed women very few rights, the mission of Girl Scouts was to prepare girls for the world through development of practical skills and outdoor activities.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have always existed in a sort of separate world, both more or less isolated from one another. Allowing girls to now cross that divide into Boy Scouts forces the two to redefine and update their relationship. What does combining the two mean for the separate organizations? If you were to ask Girl Scouts, they are less than happy about the decision.

Lisa Margosian, a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts, said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that she believes the decision will do harm to Girl Scouts.

“So much of a girl’s life is a life where she is in a coed environment, Margosian said. “And we have so much research and data that suggests that girls really thrive in an environment where they can experiment, take risks and stretch themselves in the company of other girls.”

I was unhappy in my own Girl Scout troop because we only learned how to do traditionally feminine skills, such as knitting and cooking. Meanwhile, my little brother learned survival skills and how to camp. Simply combining the two, however, fails to look at the deeper problem within society: Female groups are made to conform to outdated patriarchal ideals of what women should be. It seems only in the presence of men do we have the ability to teach women strength.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have coed scout groups, or that the two organizations shouldn’t update their relationship, but I think that we first have to fix the deeper problem of why we segregate activities and skill building based on gender. If girls are unsatisfied in Girl Scouts, we should seek to understand why girls feel unhappy within their preexisting groups, not bash  attempts to make children’s scouting experiences more enjoyable and fulfilling.