Yes, girls in the BSA.
I want the BSA to be a fully co-ed organization with no limitations on how girls participate.
Before you lose it understand I don’t think girls in the BSA should be forced on anyone. More about that later.
I think we can and must make this happen for one simple reason: it is the right thing to do.
I can’t say I always thought this way.
We first visited Kandersteg International Scout Center in Switzerland six years ago. The vast majority of World Scouting is co-ed. How would my Scouts react to girls as Scouts on an equal footing with boys? Turns out I needn’t have worried. My Scouts accepted a Scout is a Scout regardless of their gender very quickly. It took me a little longer, but not much.
I guess seeing is believing, at least that’s all it took for me. A Scout is a Scout: it really is as simple as that.
I know it may take more to convince some folks this is the right thing to do. Before I talk about one caveat to having girls in the BSA here’s a simple question:
Should Gender Define Scouting?
Scouting in the United States is divided by gender. This division assumes girls and boys are fundamentally different and develop differently. This division also indicates we are okay with having gender continue to be a major determining factor in our children’s choices and futures.
It is easy to find hundreds of studies documenting gender-based developmental differences. These studies may not explain the difference between biological sex characteristics and assigned gender roles. Fact is many of those developmental differences are caused by assigned gender roles, not biological sex characteristics.
We are born with biological sex characteristics, but we learn gender roles.
The taboos, definitions, and expectations of assigned gender roles woven into our religious beliefs, our families, our politics, our careers, and ourselves, are very powerful. Gender conditioning begins right away (pink for girls and blue for boys) so we accept it as the natural state of things.
Gender roles are not biological, and they have not remained consistent. Within my lifetime they have changed considerably. I am old enough to recall when women first entered many traditionally male roles. This was remarkable enough to be newsworthy: “Town Hires First Lady Policeman”. Let’s also acknowledge enforcing gender roles as we do almost exclusively benefits men – that’s not an opinion, that’s our history.
People of goodwill agree character, talents, and abilities should define our children’s future rather than things like gender, skin color, or sexual orientation. If that is true it follows we’ll stop dividing our children into gender based groups and treating them differently.
One Caveat and Two Minor Issues
One caveat: I support allowing chartering organizations to choose how they incorporate girls in the BSA. Some would choose to become fully co-ed, some would choose to remain as they are, some would have boys and girls in separate groups.
Two relatively minor issues; the logistics of personal privacy in accommodations, and inappropriate fraternization. Both sound terrifically complicated until you realize somehow the rest of the world of Scouting and our co-ed Venturing program successfully manages these two issues.
Negative reactions to what I am writing here are predictable. Asking for equality from the privileged causes the privileged to react in fear and anger as though they are being oppressed or stand to lose something.
Before you react negatively tell me if it’s okay to define your child’s opportunities by gender, skin color, or sexual orientation.
If your answer is “no” why would you want that for any child?
If you’d like to read more about the gender from a man’s perspective I recommend Robert Webb’s insightful, hilarious, contemporary, and liberating discussion of gender in his memoir How Not to be a Boy.