Hell No, Women & Femmes Shouldn’t Join The Boy Scouts
The Boy Scouts of America boasts a rich history of discrimination. To this day, no atheist or agnostic young person can be a Scout. Until last year, no transgender, gender-neutral, or otherwise non-cis young person could be a Scout. And until 2013, the LGBTQ rights movement had made no dent in the Scouts' ban of gay young people. Sure, as of Wednesday, girls can join the "Scouts BSA" — but why would they want to?
Let me be really, really clear: I am in no way advocating for segregation by gender, especially when it comes to learning valuable and gender-neutral skills (financial literacy! civic engagement!). Two organizations for young people now exist: The Girl Scouts Of The USA — which have long welcomed transgender, femmes, and all other non-cis, non-male members — and the "Scouts BSA," which has a history of discrimination so profuse that even Mitt Romney condemned it in 2012.
America is filled with spaces in which cis men can achieve whatever they want. The Girl Scouts has provided a space for everybody else.
For progressive parents of young women and femmes, and for young women and femmes themselves, one has to wonder: Of these two organizations, why would anyone choose to join the one that has spent years on the wrong side of the history? The one that, to this day, actively fosters a white, cis, non-inclusive patriarchy?
Young women and femmes who want to develop a skillset to create change need an organization whose values align with theirs. That's the Girl Scouts of America.
Do young men need progressive spaces, too? Yes, absolutely. Without men who fight to advance the rights of the marginalized, we won't see any social change. But, like America itself, the Boy Scouts of America has always provided ample space for cis men to learn, thrive, and be mentored.
Put simply, America is filled with spaces in which cis men can achieve whatever they want. The Girl Scouts has provided a space for everybody else.
And it's not like the Girl Scouts is perfect. It hasn't done enough to make the organization accessible to atheist young people, though it technically allows them to substitute another word for "God" in their pledge. It has been painfully silent when it comes to support for Planned Parenthood. It welcomed non-cis members in line with the timeline of the LGBTQ rights movement, but not before. And yet, the Girl Scouts has adapted and amended its policies in tandem with social change. It wasn't always firmly on the side of the marginalized — but it tries, and it's been trying for many years now.
The Boy Scouts, meanwhile, or "Scouts BSA," has changed its men-only policy for reasons that are at least partially business motivated.
And whatever you think about Scouts BSA's decision to admit girls, there's no denying that the change poses a risk to the Girl Scouts. Now, young women who want to join a skills-based group have to choose between at least two organizations. As you might imagine, the Girl Scouts, which is also struggling to retain membership, isn't pleased. According to David Crary in the Associated Press, the Girl Scouts were "blindsided" by Wednesday's announcement.
One regional leader in Illinois, Fiona Cummings, explained to Crary that the two organizations' relationship has become "very chilly." “How do you manage these strategic tensions?” Cummings asked Crary, rhetorically.
By opening its doors to a population who until now would have been primed to be Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts has infringed on a space that was designed to subvert the power of organizations like itself. It is business strategy rebranded as inclusivity. With Trump and the Republicans in power, we live in a time when intersectionality is at risk of being used by traditionally cis, white, and exclusive organizations just like Scouts BSA.
And just like we must support organizations that stand up for the marginalized more than ever — whether it's Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, the Human Rights Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety, or Run For Something — we need to stand up for the Girl Scouts. Which means that when it comes to young women and femmes joining one or the other, we must encourage them to pick the Girl Scouts.
Side note? Their cookies are better.
This perspective is reflective of the author's opinion, and is part of a larger, feminist discourse.