It was recently announced that the Boy Scouts will begin accepting girls into their ranks. As soon as it was announced on social media and in the news, the arguments for and against began. Many parents said their daughters were excited because, they claimed, the Girl Scouts were behind the times and didn’t do extensive hiking trips or use power tools. The national Girl Scout association made their voice known that they were the premier group to empower little girls. As an African-American woman who was a Girl Scout for 9 years (that’s one of my troops in the picture above) and whose African-American mother was a Girl Scout in the 1940’s I am a firm supporter of Girl Scouts. So much so that my daughter is now a Girl Scout and I am one of her troop’s co-leaders.
Why do I love Girl Scouts so much? Because in my own personal case, as the only African-American girl in all of my troops, I was never treated differently and don’t remember ever feeling different. We had troops with Asian girls, white girls, Christian girls, Jewish girls, girls whose parents seemed to have a lot and girls who seemed as if their parents were working class. I learned the song I Have A Little Dreidel and how to sign It’s A Small World in Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts empowers little girls by having them plan their meetings and deciding what badges they want to earn. Girl Scouts vote to decide what trips they take and what community services their cookie money will be used for.
A lot of the arguments this week have been about Girl Scouts still doing home-ec type activities and not letting girls who enjoy the outdoors to do those activities. Not true! Girl Scout camp is a rite of passage in the community and they hike, do archery, study marine life and build campfires. True the girls aren’t generally pitching their own tents however there are many ways to camp and some individual troops do camp that way. Some troops choose to hike the Appalachian Trail while some councils allow girls to learn gun skills so there are few limitations on what the girls can do. And when did knowing home-ec skills become taboo? Boys and girls should be learning how to cook indoors, sew and clean well!
If someone’s daughter wasn’t getting a great experience in their Girl Scout troop, that’s on the parents of those girls, not the entire Girl Scout organization. Girl Scouts are always looking for volunteers and adults, with or without children, are encouraged to volunteer. This includes men! As my own experience showed me, the Girl Scouts are an inclusive group and have welcomed people of all races, genders and sexual orientation since they were founded in 1912.
The beauty of Girl Scouts is that the girls are making their own decisions so our troop doesn’t have parents stay at meetings. What we ARE looking for is parents helping with the fundraisers, parents to teach the girls some skills they have, parents to ask questions and make suggestions. The troop leaders can’t do it alone. So I feel that the moral of this story is for parents to get involved! Whether your child is in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, swimming, football, ballet – whatever it is, that activity needs your support. And with your support you’ll be building your child’s confidence and excitement to try something new.