Author’s Note: This is another re-post from a site that no longer is live, but I wanted to share it here as well. Enjoy.
Not many people know that I was a Girl Scout for 15 years (as both a girl and an adult member) and received my Gold Award, which is the Girl Scout version of the Eagle Award. I worked for two summers as a counselor at a day camp run by my local council. I was the keynote speaker at a Gold Award dinner while I was in grad school. While I’m currently not an “active” member – which is something I really need to remedy – I still consider myself a Girl Scout since I am a reflection of the organization and the skills it taught me throughout my many years of involvement.
Over the past few months, Girl Scouts have been in the news. While, many of the stories highlight the 100 years of successful programming for girls currently being celebrated, there have also been a number of attacks made on this organization that are quite simply distractions from the actual mission of Girl Scouts of USA. This is, in my opinion, taking away from what should be a positive year of celebration by causing the organization to play defense.
I don’t pretend to be a mind reader. I don’t pretend to know everything, but one thing that I do know is that it seems as if these attacks are not based on facts, rather they are based on fear and prejudice – things that do more harm than good. Is this a a battle in a larger “War on Women” currently being waged? That I will leave for others to discuss, but regardless, it is troubling to see an organization with 100 years of providing girls a forum for developing into strong women attacked.
The first attack on Girl Scouts came when a young transgender boy tried to join a troop in Colorado. Initially he was turned away, with the person citing that boys were not allowed to join. However, the Girl Scouts of Colorado released the following in response: “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members,” the statement says. “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”
Some people are saying that by letting this young transgender youth join an organization that interests him will be detrimental to the entire Girl Scout organization and also is akin to child abuse. While many often exaggerate to make a point, this is a case where it feels like someone is taking a HUGE leap on a jump to conclusion mat. Being in Girl Scouts is not mandatory nor are any laws being violated, so it is troubling to see the attacks and negativity being directed towards a situation that at its core deals with a kid wanting to be involved in an organization with their peers. It’s not about indoctrination – it’s about providing opportunities for kids to learn, grow, develop leadership skills, and try to figure out what interests them and makes them happy. All this kid wants to do is sell cookies and earn badges as a Girl Scout, go ahead. More power to them. Long story, short? Who are any of us (that aren’t the parents) to decide for this kid what they want to do. Just because it is different, doesn’t mean it is wrong. Respect and understanding is awesome. This is what we should be teaching kids – not hatred and fear of things that are different.
Girl Scouts are taught this exact thing – about being accepting of others, even if they are different. Even in the early 1990s, Girl Scouts of the USA was having serious discussions about the girls who were of different faith traditions not being required to say God in the Girl Scout Promise and/or Law. They could replace God with their faith-appropriate word or leave it out, but it was each girl’s choice not the organizations. Girl Scouts also did not create any policies that would ban or limit participation by members of the LGBT community – as members or leaders – they were open to anyone that wanted to join and be a part of the organization. Since its founding in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, in an era when women weren’t allowed vote and segregation was the norm, Girl Scouts worked to make its programming accessible to all girls, laying the foundation still reflected by the organization today. In a document titled “The Architecture of Inclusion” from the Girl Scouts of the USA website, Patricia Diaz Dennis, past Chair of the National Board of Directors states, “Girl Scouts’ diversity philosophy reflects my belief that there is always room at the table for anyone who should be there, and if there are not enough chairs, we will get more.” Not only is this an excellent philosophy for an organization working to empower girls, it is also one that is applicable in all aspects of life.
Fast forward a few months and Girl Scouts are again finding themselves under attack – this time for promoting homosexuality, abortion, and Planned Parenthood by a sitting member of the Indiana Legislature. Now, this isn’t meant to be a political debate, and no disrespect is meant towards Representative Bob Morris, however it is important to look at facts. From the Girl Scouts of the USA website: “In Girl Scouts, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Through a myriad of enriching experiences, such as extraordinary field trips, sports skill-building clinics, community service projects, cultural exchanges, and environmental stewardships, girls grow courageous and strong. Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others.” Even more directly, Girl Scouts of the USA answers the questions raised by Representative Morris on their website.
It is frustrating when things like this happen. It is one thing to disagree with something or to choose not to support it, but it is another thing to perpetuate myths and non-truths. As a wise person I know often says, “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.” Again – Girl Scouting is not about indoctrination – it’s about providing opportunities and empowering girls.
Over the past 100 years, almost 50% of all women in the United States have been involved in Girl Scouts and I am proud to count myself as one of the 59 million Girl Scout alumnae. This organization provided me with experiences that I can use as I continue on in my journey through life, it provided me with the foundation necessary to become the strong woman I am today. Furthermore, recent research has shown that Girls Scouting has an impact on many aspects of its members and alumnae’s lives. In my opinion, we should be encouraging participation in this organization as too often girls, especially those in disadvantaged communities, do not have opportunities to be successful and Girl Scouting provides a foundation for success. Let’s celebrate this and recognize the impact Girl Scouting has had on girls and women over the past 100 years and not hide behind misinformation and myths to portray it as a detriment to society.