The Boy Scouts of America just announced that their board has unanimously voted to open Cub Scouts to girls and create a program for girls starting next year that would enable them to earn the prestigious Eagle Scout award.  This is clearly big news for an organization that has existed for over a hundred years to serve boys only.

LDS church members might ask what this means for the church.  Answer:  nothing.  The church doesn’t let BSA drive its behavior.  LDS troops haven’t been organized or funded the same way as the rest of BSA, and even though that’s caused some tension, the church’s large footprint (ie., financial support) pretty much gave it the freedom to do as it liked.  Besides, the church started moving away from scouting when it opted out of the Varsity and Venturing programs, and the answer to the question “Does this mean the Church is completely separating from the BSA?” at Mormon Newsroom was

“The Church continues to look for ways to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs of young men around the world. The current decision is consistent with those efforts. The Church will continue to use the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.”

an answer many interpret as meaning the church will eventually leave BSA altogether.  So, in my opinion, this event means nothing with respect to the church.

But it is still very interesting news for other reasons!

The Girl Scouts of USA are very angry about this.  While not connected with BSA, the two organizations had a cordial, complementary relationship.  Not any more.  Buzzfeed published an angry letter from Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, GSUSA’s national president, to BSA’s national president, Randall Stephenson, and the entire BSA board back on Aug 22.  After giving a number of arguments why BSA recruiting girls was a bad idea, she basically intimated that the only reason they were doing it was to try to increase their declining membership.  That, of course, would be at the expense of the Girl Scouts, who are also facing a declining membership.  Hannan went on to say

“Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys”

Clearly, BSA is trying to raise their membership.  All Hannan’s letter did was give them feedback in advance to help them prepare them for the press, as NPR’s report demonstrated:

“This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families,” BSA said.

The decision comes after years of requests from families, the organization said. “Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing.”

It added that the move is also geared toward Hispanic and Asian communities, which are “currently underserved” and “prefer to participate in activities as a family.”

Sidney Ireland and her brother

To be fair to BSA, there are girls clamoring to get in.  Sidney Ireland is one. She’s been participating unofficially in scouts ever since her brother joined Cub Scouts, even completing all the requirements for the Arrow of Light (but not getting the award, of course).  She’s now participating with Troop 414 in Manhattan, but she’s been getting awards from her Canadian registration (looks like she wears a Canadian Scout uniform), because the Canadian Scout program accepts girls.  She’s been campaigning for a while to get BSA to let her in.  On her petition, she writes

“The facts say it all — high-level Scouting creates opportunity, and with opportunity comes a chance at success in the global community. Unfortunately for me and half the country’s population, we are excluded from most of these amazing opportunities for no reason other than that we are female.”

I’m sure she’s elated with today’s announcement, and you can’t help but be happy for her. [1]  But why doesn’t she just do Girl Scouts?  In an interview, her answer is kinda weak:

“I’ve never been a member of the Girl Scouts, and I’m not an expert on it. But I do know that it’s not the program I want to be a part of.  I really want to be a part of the Boy Scouts. They offer what I want to do with service and with the outdoors.”

But it doesn’t matter if that’s weak, right?  As any good feminist will tell you, her opportunities shouldn’t be limited simply because of her sex.

But not all feminists are happy.  As Lizzy Acker of the Oregonian declared in her op-ed, “Wednesday, in terrible news for girls, the Boy Scouts said it would start allowing girls.”  She’s goes on to describe how great Girl Scouts was for her, with great role-models and wonderful adventures, especially camping with just girls and women

“…without boys or men telling me, explicitly or implicitly, what was wrong with me or how I should view myself as nothing more than a sexual object.  All girls, anyone who identifies as a girl, should have this experience. And to have it, they need to be separated from boys and men.”

She castigates the backwards and discriminatory Boy Scout program, which just recently allowed gay and transgendered people, and still doesn’t accept atheists.  She concludes by saying girls don’t need Boy Scouts, boys need Girl Scouts.  It’s ironic that rather than being excited that a barrier came down for women, she’s more worried about losing her separate space for girls (presumably because they’ll be siphoned off).

Regardless whether you prefer religious (discriminatory) Boy Scouts or progressive (godless) Girl Scouts, the real question is whether separate spaces for girls and boys is better, or whether they should just learn to integrate as human beings.  Hannan certainly believes in separate spaces, and is incredulous that the Boy Scouts would abandon their mission like that.  From her letter — “we have leveraged our single-gender expertise to uniquely serve the needs of girls” and “Girl Scouts believes in meeting the needs of America’s youth through single gender programming by creating a safe place for girls to learn and thrive” [2]  In reality, the Boy Scouts want to maintain separate spaces too — sort of.  They’re creating separate dens for girl Cub Scouts, and a separate as-yet-to-be-determined program for girl Boy Scouts.  But when it comes to pack meetings and scout camps, it seems they’ll mix.

It’s a progressive maxim that separate cannot be equal, and equality is the goal.  However, given that women historically, and still to this day, suffer from all sorts of injustices and disadvantages in our society, progressives could possibly justify a separate space for girls. [3]  Can a separate space for boys also be justified?  Is something going to be lost for them when girls show up at scout camp?  Take that several steps forward.  If women were granted the priesthood, would men and women still need separate PH/RS meetings and separate leadership?  If the ultimate goal isn’t to have male and female people 100% equal (integrated), then what would justify the separation?



[1] I’m convinced she legitimately loves Scouts — she’s not just running an agenda as the quotation might suggest — so even if you disagree with BSA, you should still be happy for her.

[2] Sorry boys, Girl Scouts USA is strictly “no boys allowed” — no progressive option for you.

[3] But I wouldn’t think forever, because then it would be maintaining unequal treatment.