These Incredible Girls Fought for Their Right to be Boy Scouts And WonOct 13, 2017
Who exactly can be a boy scout? According to Boy Scout Law, ‘a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent’. This poses an obvious and important question: aren’t girls just as likely to have all of these attributes as boys are?
Earlier this year, Sydney Ireland, a 16-year-old who has been involved in scouting for over a decade, made a powerful call to the Boy Scouts to allow girls to join. In her own words, ‘I just want to see a change. Right now, they’re discriminating against girls, and I’m just calling it as it is’. She started a Change.org petition that reached nearly 10,000 signatures.
Sydney Ireland with her brother Bryan
But Sydney isn’t the only girl who has mounted an impressive campaign for girls to be let into the Boy Scouts of America. In 2015, a group of girls got together to make the case for girls in the Boy scouts. They called themselves ‘The Unicorns’, and you have to hand it to them – their campaign was pretty awe-inspiring. They bought Boy Scout style uniforms and took part in almost Boy Scout every event that girls are allowed to attend. They competed in a scouting camp contest called camporee, and placed second – not too shabby for a group who wasn’t allowed to actually join the Boy Scouts.
This summer, the daughter of an Eagle Scout (the highest rank in the Boy Scouts) penned an op-ed arguing that both she and many of her childhood friends should have been able to join the Boy Scouts, and that her daughters would thrive in the organization. She posed a powerful question, saying: ‘these little girls don’t want to be Girls Scouts — if they did, they already would be. What they want is plain and simple: They want to be Boy Scouts. Why should anyone have a problem with that?’
So, there are plenty of girls and women making the case that girls should be let into the Boy Scouts of America. Was their campaign successful? Well, it didn’t seem like it – until now. This Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America officially announced that they would be accepting girls from 2019 onwards.
The chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America, Michael Surbaugh, said in a statement, ‘The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women’, going on to say, ‘we strive to bring what our organization does best – developing character and leadership for young people – to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders’.
But was this the actual reason that girls have been allowed to join? Enter the cynics. Some people have suggested that over the course of the past few years, the Boy Scouts have been trying to “rehabilitate their image”. What does this mean? Well, there have been a few incidents that suggest that the Boy Scouts might be trying to modernize to bolster their dwindling membership. Earlier this year, they criticized President Trump after he politicized the annual Boy Scouts of America gathering. In January, they announced that transgender boys would be given access to the organization. So, is letting girls join just the latest in a series of stunts that seek to improve the image of the boy scouts? It’s difficult to say.
There is one group that expressed their skepticism at the move: The Girl Scouts of the USA. In a statement on their website the organization wrote, ‘we believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a free space for girls to learn and thrive’, going on to say that, ‘the benefit of the single-gender environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, other girl and youth-serving organizations, and Girl Scouts and their families’. In a letter to the President of the Boy Scouts of the USA obtained by Buzzfeed News, a senior Girl Scout representative accused the Boy Scouts of carrying out a ‘covert campaign’ to induce girls into their organization.