Five girls in California want to join one of the most gender-exclusive organizations in the country — the Boy Scouts of America. Thirteen-year-old Allie Westover, her 10-year-old sister Skyler, and three of their friends prefer Boy Scout activities to those of the Girl Scouts, telling The New York Times that they would rather camp than sell cookies. After taking a skill-building course for both boys and girls which was affiliated with the Boy Scouts last fall, the girls bought uniforms similar to the boys' and starting attending pack meetings and camping trips. Led by one of the girls' mothers, the group started calling themselves the Unicorns. Not only do these girls want to join the Boy Scouts, but they also want to destroy stereotypes about "girl activities" and "boy activities."
In a big scouting competition called camporee, the Unicorns placed second, above dozens of all-male Boy Scout groups. "We can do the same things boys can — proven from camporee," Ella Jacobs, one of the Unicorns, told The New York Times, showing off her ribbons for team building, backpacking, and slingshot.
The local Boy Scout council forbid the girls from the organization's functions in October after someone complained about their presence. A meeting was called Nov. 13 to tell the girls why they could no longer participate in Boy Scout activities, and each girl handed a scout application to the panel of male scout leaders.
The local Boy Scout council told the Unicorns that they didn't have the authority to let them in, but would forward their request to the national Boy Scout office. Despite opening its doors to gay scout leaders in July, the organization still strictly prohibits girls from joining its main program — the Boy Scouts are even exempt from the federal Title IX law banning gender discrimination, as are the Girl Scouts.
"In Boy Scouts, I was jealous of what my brother got to do, like things outside, but we were just inside doing art badges and stuff," Ella, 10, told ABC7 News.
Girl Scout spokeswoman Nikki Van Ausdall disagreed that Girl Scout activities are less diverse, telling The New York Times: "Outdoor experience has really always been a hallmark of what we do. If they want to come back to join us, we’re thrilled to have them."
The Boy Scouts of America defended its boys-only policy, saying: "We understand that the values and the lessons of Scouting are attractive to the entire family. However, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are year-round programs for boys and young men in the first grade through age 18. Local Scouting leadership welcomes the opportunity to discuss BSA policies with the families involved, as well as potential alternative programs available."
The girls just want the same opportunities as the boys, and even see the long-term benefits to letting girls be Boy Scouts. Allie told ABC7 News: "For me, being a girl among the boys it was a place where I learned to work with just not people of my own gender, but people of the opposite gender who I am going to have to work with when I get into the real world." The young Unicorns already understand more about gender equality than many adults.