The Boy Scouts made the momentous decision to allow girls to join the organization on Oct. 11.
According to NBC, “Girls will soon be allowed to become Cub Scouts and to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest honor.” The vote to welcome girls was unanimous among the scouting board of directors.
Chief Executive of the Boy Scouts Michael Surbaugh believes such a change will be beneficial for all children in the long run.
“It is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children," Surbaugh said, as reported by NBC.
The admission of girls in the Boy Scouts is imperative in fostering gender equality at a young age. Now that boys and girls can work side by side toward the same goals, heteronormative gender roles once implied by each gender’s respective organizations will someday become obsolete.
The primary way the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts had encouraged strict gender roles was through their badge systems. Badges for boys have typically focused on physical activity and brainpower, according to The New York Times, and have included badges for backpacking, entrepreneurship, home repairs and wilderness survival.
Conversely, the girls’ badges revolve around domestic life and caring for others. Some badges Girl Scouts can earn include “respect authority,” “household elf,” “babysitter” and “simple meals,” The New York Times reports.
There are certainly badges available for girls that promote outdoors skills and badges for boys that encourage empathy. Overall, the number of badges promoting gender stereotypes is overwhelming and this is exactly why inclusivity is the only way forward.
Most of the Girl Scout badges imply characteristic notions of femininity, such as helping with chores around the house and perfecting appearances. These badges are sending the wrong message to young girls: being female equates to being submissive.
It is evident these badges for girls support dangerous societal norms surrounding appearance, as can be seen by The New York Times report, which found that “the independence badge … includes learning how to ‘make your clothes look great.’ The ‘eating for you’ badge—recently called ‘eating for beauty’—emphasizes how nutrition helps with ‘smooth skin, shiny hair and strong nails.’” Badges like these are toxic at a young age.
While this is an imperative step forward, not everyone sees sexism in the Girl Scout badges. Many critics are skeptical of the Boy Scout’s decision, including Lisa Margosian, chief customer officer for the Girl Scouts.
“We’ve had 105 years of supporting girls and a girl-only safe space,” Margosian said as reported by The New York Times. “We have so much research and data that suggests that girls really thrive in an environment where they can experiment, take risk and stretch themselves in the company of other girls.”
There is validity in the argument that girls flourish in an all-girl setting. What Margosian and other opponents are leaving out, however, is that most of a girl’s life is in a co-ed environment. Due to the fact that girls will inevitably be surrounded by boys in places such as school and work, such interaction between genders is required to help each gender’s emotional, social and physical development.
The Boy Scouts’ decision to welcome girls into its organization is a step in the right direction for gender equality. When they are separate, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts foster heteronormative gender roles through the badges they offer. This promotes toxic messages at a young, malleable age when boys and girls are learning in what ways they should contribute to society.
We must place our focus more heavily on allowing young people to decide what path they want to follow themselves—not the path that society chooses for them.