Every so often I see a news story about girls who want to join the Boy Scouts. Most of the stories are presented from the angle of the Boy Scouts not being inclusive and questioning why girls can’t join. My response has usually been to question why the girls don’t join the Girl Scouts. I couldn’t imagine that the programs would be drastically different.
Boy was I wrong!
Following a discussion with a friend I went onto the Boy Scout website to look at their program. I found the page listing the merit badges. http://www.scouting.org/meritbadges.aspx
The first badge American Business immediately caught my attention. I was curious what boys had to do to earn the badge. I was impressed. Here are just some of the requirements:
- Explain four features of a free enterprise system and how the Scout Oath and Scout Law apply.
- Describe the industrial revolution, 5 important people from it and what they did.
- Explain how changes in interest rates, taxes and government spending affect the flow of money into or out of business.
- Explain how a proprietorship gets its capital.
- Name five kind of insurance useful to business and describe their purpose.
- Pick two or more stocks and request the annual report. Explain how to use it to manage your investments.
- Run a small business involving a product or service for at least three months. Explain why it is needed. Keep records showing the costs, income and profit or loss.
I wondered if the Girl Scouts had a similar badge so I went to their website. http://www.girlscouts.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsusa/forms-and-documents/our-program/Badges/BadgeList_2016.pdf
One of the first badges that caught my eye was Eating for Beauty which girls in 6th, 7th and 8th grade can earn. This set me off onto a rant about how this is 2016 and this sounded like the exact opposite message 12 year old girls should get! Shouldn’t there be badges encouraging girls at this age to like math, science or technology?
As I continued scanning through the Girl Scout badges I noticed they seemed to represent safe, traditional or noncontroversial roles for girls – art, cooking, environment, advocacy and diplomacy. These still appear to isolate women roles to family, beauty, fashion, domesticity and charitable work.
Where is the Girl Scout counterpart to the Boy Scout’s American Business badge?
Where are the badges that force girls out of their comfort zones to challenge and prepare them to take their place in their community, workplace and society on par with men?
Where are the badges that will help girls close the gender wage gap?
In comparison the Boy Scout merit badges produce well-rounded boys. Of course they have badges for Engineering, Electronics, Chemistry, Surveying, Robotics etc. etc. But they also have badges for sports, artistic pursuits and practical skills.
This is how I expected the Girls Scouts badges to be. I decided to look into the Cookie Program because that is what I see the Girl Scout TV commercials promote.
I thought that the Cookie Program would be how the Girl Scouts taught girls to be business women. But after digging around on the website I didn’t find anything that led me to believe that the Cookie Program had any real depth to it. The girls simply decide how many cookie boxes they will sell, how they will sell them and agree on how to spend the money.
The short-coming of the Cookie Program is that it leaves too little for the girls to do. Unfortunately for the girls, Girl Scout cookies have huge brand recognition and are an annual American event. The cookies literally sell themselves. The girls miss out on creating a business idea; determining its viability; marketing, selling and promoting their business and then providing the product or service themselves. They don’t experience running a small business in its entirety like a Boy Scout.
The Girl Scout website says the Cookie Program teaches girls Money Management –“I make change happen.” While that may be a cute play on words, learning how to make change prepares a girl to be a minimum wage cashier, not a successful business owner.
I know I am being critical but it is because I see the Girls Scouts perpetuating a pattern I see in many women’s groups. All too often women pick the low hanging fruit and then we cheer and congratulate ourselves as if we just changed the world. But in comparison to men we accomplished very little.
For example, a group of girls are going to bake apple pies. But instead of getting apples from the grocery store they get to go to the orchard and pick the apples. When they get there they only pick the low hanging fruit – the fruit they can reach from the ground. A girl wants to climb the tree to get more apples but is told it isn’t safe and to come down. The girls collect a bushel of apples and are proud of their big out-of-the-kitchen accomplishment of picking apples. They cheer, hug and congratulate themselves. Then they return to the kitchen and make 5 pies.
Meanwhile a group of boys are told they are going to the orchard to pick apples to they can make pies. The boys climb the trees and pick every apple they can safely reach. They collect 12 bushels of apples. Then because they were taught to produce, they go into the kitchen and make 40 pies and 25 jars of applesauce.
The women’s 5 pies pale by comparison.
As women it is time for us to be honest with ourselves.
The real reason we aren’t reaching parity with men is because we are still playing it too safe but pretend we aren’t. We create feel good moments that allow us to hide, mask or ignore what we aren’t accomplishing. We tell girls to make pretty boxes to for their apple pies and that will make their pies better than the boys’. We ignore the fact that the girls can earn $50 for selling their pies and the boys $400 plus $125 for the applesauce.
We change the subject so we can deliberately miss the point that we didn’t challenge the girls to go beyond what is safe, easy, non-challenging, nonthreatening and noncontroversial. If you really listen to women you find we have this down to an art form.
What would happen if we told the girls to climb the trees to pick more apples?
Some girls would scurry right up the tree and then reach down and help the other less confident girls climb the trees. The girls would help each other feel safe and secure as they reach for the furthest apples. They would pick 14 bushels of apples. Then they would work together to carry and load all the bushels into the car. Once in the kitchen they would make 48 pies and 32 jars of applesauce. They would make pretty boxes to package the pies and decorate the jars of applesauce. They would sell their pies for $5 more and the applesauce for $2 more than the boys.
Too often we think the only solution for girls who want to climb trees is to have them join the boys – force the Boy Scouts to accept girls. But this only perpetuates problems for girls. Girls who want to climb trees are labeled masculine while the rest of the girls are permitted to play it safe. It perpetuates the myth that “girls” can’t do the same things or achieve as much as boys – that “real girls” need to play it safe and have boys do things for them.
We have to stop protecting girls from discovering their own capabilities. Just because girls aren’t part of the Boy Scouts doesn’t mean that girls (and women) can collect their own merit badges such as:
- I Figured it Out
- I Didn’t Want To Do It But I Did It Anyway
- I Didn’t Know I Could Do That
We have to encourage girls to figure out their own ways of doing and achieving. Then they can collect my favorite merit badge:
The Guys Do It That Way But I Did It This Way and I Got Better Results
Challenging ourselves to do more and be more is one of the greatest human experiences. It is time to include all girls and women in that experience.
Empowered Women Challenge Themselves
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