The Boy Scouts of America sent shock waves across the country last week when it announced it would open its program to girls for the first time in its nearly 100-year history. Although girls long participated in Boy Scout events, they weren’t eligible to earn ranks. Now they’ll be able to join at the Cub Scout level and work their way up to the prestigious Eagle Scout rank.
The organization said this new inclusionary policy, which goes into effect in 2018, is an effort to shore up declining membership. The decision was hailed, but also drew ire from Girl Scouts of the USA leadership, which also has had to grapple with sinking membership.
We asked local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts what they thought about the announcement, what scouting has meant to them, and whether this move will affect their scouting futures.
14, Girl Scout Cadette, Pine Island, Minn.
What do you like about being a Girl Scout? “Being a Girl Scout has been the time of my life. I’ve learned independence, I’ve learned how to build a campfire, I’ve learned how to survive in the wilderness, I’ve learned financial responsibility, first aid and leadership.”
What do you think about Boy Scouts allowing girls in? “Personally, I don’t agree with it. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have had a separate place in society for upwards of 100 years, and to me, combining two similar yet different organizations, I don’t think it’s going to work.”
8, Girl Scout Brownie, Annandale, Minn.
What do you think of the Boy Scouts letting girls join? “I feel super-excited and happy, because I get to hang out with my dad [ a Boy Scouts district chair] more often now.”
After you join Boy Scouts, will you quit Girl Scouts? “I will stay in Girl Scouts, because they’re both fun things to do. And Girl Scouts will never quit.”
9, Cub Scout, Plymouth
What do you like about Boy Scouts? “I like that you get to go camping and get to do lots of fun things.”
What did you think about the Boy Scouts letting in girls? “I was excited, because then my sister gets to join in all the fun as well.”
16, Girl Scout Ambassador, White Bear Lake
What did you think about the news? “I thought it was really nice, since we live in a world where equality is a really big issue, to see a widely known male superior group allowing women to be in it.”
Would you have joined Boy Scouts if you could have? “Not younger me. It would not have been beneficial, because I just wanted to be around a bunch of girls. But now, possibly, because I’m older, and it’s like school, where I like to be in a group of different mind-sets — and boys definitely have a different mind-set than girls.”
What do you think the differences between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are? “I like the Boy Scouts. I think they do very valuable things that help shape boys into men. But girls definitely don’t need all of those things. Most girls don’t really care about whittling a stick into a little spear.”
15, Eagle Scout, Prior Lake
What do you think about Boy Scouts allowing girls in? “I think it’s a very good idea. Boy Scouts has been a great program for young men all over the U.S. and the world, and I think it will give young women great opportunities as well.”
How do you think Girl Scouts is different? “My sister is a Girl Scout. From what I understand, it’s not so much about leadership. It seems to be a lot more oriented around friendship and having good social relations.”
Is being a Boy Scout better? “I wouldn’t say it’s better, but I would say that you get more recognition as a Boy Scout. When someone hears you’re a Boy Scout, they get this mental image of a tough outdoorsman sort of thing. When someone hears Girl Scouts, they think: cookies. Which I know is kind of wrong, but it’s kind of true.”
13, Girl Scout Cadette, St. Louis Park
What do you like about Girl Scouts? “I’ve made a lot of friends through Girl Scouts. But also the events we’ve done have been really fun. We’ve done camping outings. We’ve done ropes courses.”
What do you think about the Boy Scouts letting girls in? “I think a big part of why girls wouldn’t want to join that organization is because it’s [thought of as] more rough-and-tumble, more survival and leadership. I think Girl Scouts is more commonly thought of as we learn to cook and knit and sew. I definitely think that Girl Scouts does offer that, but it offers a lot more than the stereotypes. Some girls may still want to join Boy Scouts, and honestly I think that’s fine, too.”
11, Girl Scout Cadette, Coon Rapids
What do you like about Girl Scouts? “I get to hang out with my friends and sell cookies. Or eat them.”
What do you think about girls joining Boy Scouts? “I think it’s a good idea, but at the same time, I don’t get why they want to do it. Also, I don’t know what they’re going to call it now.”
Sharyn Jackson • @SharynJackson