Sunday, November 22, 2015

What if a Girl Wants to Become a Boy Scout?

       There is currently a group of girls in Santa Rosa, CA called the "Unicorns" who wish to become official members of Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Between the ages of 10 and 13, many were previously Girl Scouts, but disliked the non-adventurous and laid back atmosphere of girl scouting activities. The mother of one of the girls claims, "After lunch, you take a nap for an hour you sit on your bunk and you can read or color or write to a friend. You can't talk." These girls decided to take matters into their own hands.

       The idea all started when the "Unicorns" took part in a BSA-affiliated event that was open to both boys and girls. Since then, they have also participated in a "camporee", which is basically a series of friendly competitions in which many different Scout troops come and participate in outdoor challenges. The girls impressively earned 2nd place. In addition, the girls have formed a "companion council", which is a group loosely affiliated with BSA, in this case, a local den. The small group attends the same den meetings, participates in the same den activities, earns the same Cub Scout patches, and has even secured the support of several local BSA leaders. Unfortunately for the girls, BSA official policy is this: "The Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs are designed for boys and young men.", which means that the girls will never be able to become official Boy Scouts and perhaps more importantly, that the girls will be forced to disband their companion council group.

This brings up an interesting question: Should girls be allowed to join Boy Scouts?  Before I present the arguments for both sides, I know that some of you may have been wondering about Title IX. Hmmmm...If you can't discriminate based on sex, then the girls have a pretty good argument, right? Wrong. Section 1681 (a)(6)(B) of Title IX  grants exceptions to both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Just thought it would be good to clear that up!

       One side would argue "yes" for several reasons. The first being the fact that girls want to do more "Boy Scout-like" activities that are not available to them in Girl Scouts. The second being the fact that it is unreasonable to believe that girls would be unable to keep up with the boys' activities. The girls who won 2nd place in the camporee can testify to that. The third being that if local leaders support the measure, why are they still being hindered by the "higher" ranks of the BSA administration?

       The other side, arguing "no" would also have a compelling argument. They would argue that Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are organizations that , for over 100 years, have been devoted to the development of the young boys and young men in this world. Meetings should be a place where boys get to interact with other boys, which is a unique and valuable experience. They don't believe that girls are in any way inferior to the boys, they just believe that it is expected that Boy Scouts be for boys. If girls want to do more "Boy Scout-like" activities, then she should pressure her own Girl Scout troop or council to change, not attempt to gain entry in to an all-boys organization. Also, during camping outings, the possibility of boys and girls sharing tents could potentially be something to worry about. [Lastly, not all Girl Scout groups are like what was described in the first paragraph by one of the mothers. I know from experience that there is a significant amount of troops, at least in this area, that do participate in camping, hiking, and shooting activities. There are definitely some troops like the one the mother described, but don't go thinking all troops are like that.]

I should add that to BSA's credit, there are several coed programs that are offered. For example, "Venture Scouts" is basically the same thing as a traditional Boy Scout troop, except for two differences. The first difference is that Venturing is open to both boys and girls. The second is that there is even more of a focus on high adventure and outdoor activities. As another example, "Sea Scouts" is a program, like Venture Scouts, where both boys and girls are able to function similarly to a traditional Boy Scout troop, except with an emphasis on water activities, especially maritime and boating skills.

As a Boy Scout myself, when I saw this in the news, I thought it would be really interesting to explore and especially relevant to our last unit. What do you all think? Should girls be allowed in to Boy Scouts? If so, should boys be allowed in to Girl Scouts? Any other thoughts, questions?

**[bracketed statement is from my own observation. I am not taking sides on the issue here but rather adding a little bit of my own knowledge from experience teaching large groups of girls at Girl Scout camp]**



tonynater said...

It's common sense that separate is not equal, and you wonder why there is gender inequality...

The reason women are not as influential as men is because the upper echelons of life have been historically male dominated. Humans prefer those that are similar to themselves, whether they like to admit it or not. So men in power prefer those that are similar to themselves, who were raised in similar ways with similar outlooks on life. By raising girls and boys separately, you are encouraging the two groups to develop separate outlooks on life and see less eye-to-eye, which just perpetuates gender inequality.

I'm glad Boy Scouts decided to deny these girls entrance to their organization. I wouldn't want to be part of a organization that perpetuates inequality either. However, in the same way, girl scouts is no better. Maybe this incident will encourage people to support other non-discriminatory scout organizations.

Jeffrey Song said...

I think that the current system is in a good place. Firstly, the point about Boy Scouts being a unique experience for boys to interact and learn skills and techniques with other boys their age is valid and not as discriminatory as the opposition might make it out to be. Forcing Boy Scout troops to accept females into all of their activities and events is backwards to me; like you said and the articles mentions, there is a new initiative with the Venture Scouts and similar programs where boys and girls are already allowed to and even encouraged to participate in the same activities with one another. Even though I've never been a part of the Boy Scouts, it certainly has a distinguished reputation for training boys valuable life and survival skills while creating lasting bonds in an environment with other boys their age. In essence, it's a very specific program with a very specific purpose that is entirely optional. Changing the long-lasting tradition of the Boy Scouts because it's "discriminatory" even though there is already a separate organization specifically for girls with similar activities as well as co-ed troops is IMO not a good way of combating gender discrimination.
Instead, the group should focus its efforts on the point you mentioned with the "Unicorns" troops where girls are doing different activities from boys. They should work to equalize those activities and create a normalized environment for each organization while maintaining gender separation except in the case of the gender-neutral troops. A valid counter-point to my argument would be the "separate is inherently unequal" argument cited in Brown v. Board, but that point made sense in context because there was a clear socioeconomic divide at the time that was being perpetrated by the vastly different educational opportunities and facilities between the whites and blacks. Though that argument can still be applied here, it's certainly to a lesser extent and in part countered by the girl scout troops that do offer the same activities to girls as those of boy scout troops and the co-ed troops that do the same activities together regardless of gender.
Ultimately, there are other ways of combating gender inequality and the cycle that tony mentioned besides simply forcing the Boy Scouts, a program with significant history and tradition, to accept girls into their programs.

Horace He said...

I disagree heavily with Tony's point. Although, sure, "separate is not equal," the fact remains that boys and girls are not equal.

"It's common sense that separate is not equal, and you wonder why there is gender inequality."

Gender inequality will always exist. Guys tend to be stronger and bigger, and this will always create an inequality when it comes to manual labor. You won't find girls in the Navy SEALS, or the Green Berets, for the simple reason that girls are different from guys.

Similarly, the Boy Scouts are an organization that's targeted toward young boys, and the process that goes into raising a boy. There's a certain companionship between people of the same gender that is much harder to find among intermixed groups. Making Boy Scouts a mixed gender initiative is something that it was never intended or designed to be. Physical standards would have to have special exceptions for girls, competitions between troops might need to have special allowances for girls, etc.

Finally, your implied point that separating guys and girls is one that's simply not true. There's a reason that minority groups in larger groups will separate themselves from the pack. You'll find black student engineering organizations, or women only programming clubs, because being in a group free from negative stereotypes often helps, not hurts (a large part of the rationale behind girls or guys only schools).

It's easy to look down at any organization that discriminates based on gender, race, or religion. However, condemning these organizations for perpetuating gender inequality is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Gender inequality is an issue in America, but your indignation is misguided.

Daniel Jun said...

I've always been a stickler for tradition because tradition has had a chance to prove itself. So I don't see a point in changing the Boy Scouts to become much more... gender equal. I believe that, instead, a whole new organization should be made to cater to both genders equally. Oh, but one already exists, namely the Venture Scouts and more! If the parents who send their children to join these groups decide "I want my child to be with peers of both genders" then the Boy Scouts will diminish in popularity. But just because people cry out "oh, the sexism!" doesn't mean the Boy Scouts have to be changed. Just like how just because people want more equality doesn't mean creating same sex bathrooms is a good idea.

My main point is that at some point, people have to realize there ARE differences between the two genders (I'm ignoring transgenders for simplicity's sake) and creating one-gender organizations isn't necessarily good or bad. Instead, keeping the OPTION to join either an organization like the Boy Scouts or another organization like the Venture Scouts is a great way to create gradual change rather than the kind of change that creates an outcry.

Then again, just to show my bias, I've never joined any kind of organization like the Boy Scouts, so hopefully I was able to be more impartial than some...

Nicholas Tong1 said...

Jeffrey brought up the good point of the "separate is inherently unequal" ruling. However, under the Supreme Court ruling for the Equal Protection Clause, gender falls under an intermediate standard of review, and as such, gender discrimination is constitutional as long as it serves an important governmental objective. In this case, it can be argued that the "important objective" is, in the words of Nick J.'s article, to allow a meeting place "where boys get to interact with other boys, which is a unique and valuable experience." This segregation of sexes thus seems to be legally justifiable.

Furthermore, it seems that according to Nick's article, that the girl scouts want to join the boy scouts simply because the activities are too "passive." Isn't it thus a win-win if the girls can get the activities they want, while both parties achieve the founder's original intention of a "valuable experience" from interaction of the exclusively the same sex?

I agree with Jeffrey and Tony that there are other ways of combating gender inequality other than compromising a potentially beneficial experience of single sex scout organizations, like creating similar policies for the groups, as well as teaching the scouts similar ideals and skills (as opposed to teaching only boy scouts to shoot rifles and teaching only girl scouts to bake cookies).

Jonathan Liu said...

I came into this comment thread thinking that it should be open to both genders, but upon reading the comments I've been convinced that perhaps the gender separation is okay after all. The unicorns make a good case, but perhaps not enough to break tradition. It's not like the girl scouts don't exist -- the Unicorns have access to a scouts program just like the boy scouts, which focuses on different, arguably less rigorous activities. However, Boy Scouts programs are designed focused completely on the development of young boys. One foreseeable problem is if the girls that want to join encounter something that they find harder to do because of gender, they'll then start complaining about boy scouts being sexist, and the Boy Scouts institution will have to undergo continuous changes until it ends up losing the spirit of Boy Scouts. Sororities and Fraternities are separate. Boy's only and Girl's only schools exist too. If the Unicorns want to participate in more intense activities, they can push their own Girl Scout Den, or attend more of the coed Scouts events, or even go off and do all the things that the Boy Scouts do, just on their own. I think Boy Scouts (and Girl Scouts) are institutions that are designed for their own specific gender without the intent of being sexist but instead only focusing on one specific gender, so I don't believe that the Unicorns should be allowed in.

Anna Joshi said...

I was in Girl Scouts until the third grade, and speaking from personal experience, I don’t believe there should be a change. For me, Girl Scouts was a way to connect with girls my age and delve into a multitude of activities I never would have thought to try in a safe environment, by which I mean free from any possible “cooties” or boy judgement. What I do believe though, is that the Girl Scouts program should take more of an initiative and change the activities to include many of those that boys participate in. Juliette Gordon Low first created Girl Scouts in response to this gender dilemma, for she believed that girls should learn practical real-life skills, including those that were deemed to be “gender inappropriate,” like building a fire. Since then, I feel like the Girl Scouts reputation has gone from that of being gender progressive to one not as much. Therefore, I find that this problem lies within the Girl Scouts program, rather than the Boy Scouts program of not being inclusive.