Last week, the Boy Scouts of America deftly managed to avoid rescinding their century-long policy banning homosexuals from their organization. Considering that they continue to bar atheists and agnostics from their ranks — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000 — I can’t say I’m surprised. Nearly 70% of the troops associated with the BSA are sponsored by “faith-based organizations” — the top three being The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Methodists, and the Catholic Church. Given the stance these top three religious sponsors take on homosexuality, I find it unlikely the Boy Scouts will be joining the rest of post-Victorian society in 2013 anytime soon.
While I appreciate that the program was founded to promote the development of character, good citizenship and physical fitness of young men, I have a hard time understanding their resistance to social progress. Yet I can’t defend the Boy Scouts, especially not when I know there is a better-run youth organization out there, founded merely two years after their homophobic brethren became official.
I was a member of the Girls Scouts for eight years, beginning in kindergarten. My mother was our troop leader — at least until I became too much of a finicky pre-teen to follow her directions, at which point she found another troop for me to join. There are a lot of fond memories from my childhood wrapped up in the tiny blue aprons, brown pinafores, green sashes and dark blue vests that bore the council’s insignia: a green trefoil made up of women’s faces. We earned merit badges through selfless or noteworthy actions both in- and outside the troop, as well as regurgitating lessons from colorful workbooks; illustrated instructions on being a helpful member of our households and communities, the benefits of the ‘Golden Rule,’ clear descriptions of how to build a campfire, and how to expertly perform CPR. The joy of adding another badge to our sashes never wore off, the confirmation of our efforts was handed over in small ceremonies held in a classroom after school.
Nobody got upset when girls chose not to say “God” — a word that peppered more than a few of the campfire songs we bleated at the end of each meeting, or even when it was omitted during the Pledge of Allegiance. The importance of accepting, understanding and celebrating each other’s differences was always clear.
In recent years, their open support of gay marriage and inclusion of all campers that identify themselves as female has caused quite a stir in the media. But GSA accepted disabled scouts and desegregated their troops more than twenty years before the Boys got around to catching up. What can I say? The Girl Scouts have always been ahead of their time.
I couldn’t have been out of seventh grade when our Scout leader sat us down to discuss what she called our “Sexual Rights” before broaching the subject of eating disorders in teenage girls. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a lesson we were being educated about long before any of my non-Scout friends understood the difference between anorexia and bulimia.
Girl Scouting was meant to teach me courage, confidence, and character; to empower me to make the world a better place, through actions big and small. I’ve forgotten how to weave a God’s Eye with popsicle sticks and yarn, but the values they stressed — honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship — have stuck with me.
Girl Scouts taught me all of these things, however subconsciously their values may have been instilled. I am glad to have been affiliated with a progressive association, the kind that welcomes both homosexuals and transgendered children into their ranks; the kind that does not require you to align with or make vows to any religion; the kind that strives to educate girls about their Sexual Rights. To (poorly) paraphrase Ian McLaren, the Girl Scouts taught me the importance of being kind — that everyone I meet is fighting a hard battle.
I feel bad for the Boy Scouts; how very sad that their organization refuses to evolve with the times; to reevaluate charters based on antiquated notions about homosexuality. I hope their governing board comes to their senses by the time they reconvene on the topic in May. Political correctness aside, there’s another matter I feel obligated to address: the Girl Scouts come bearing cookies. Do you know what delicacies the Boy Scouts sell door to door? Popcorn. Now there’s one thing that doesn’t keep well, no matter how efficiently vacuum-sealed the packaging.
Though I avoided buying Girl Scout the last few years cookies due loss of desire (well; forced desire — I was dieting) I intend to remedy the situation this cookie season. I’m going to buy the hell out of some Girl Scout cookies this month. It may not be flattering to my waistline, but it appeals to my more fundamental desires: to do my part in supporting an organization that doesn’t just do good deeds, but one that has the mindfulness not to fear doing right ones.