A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Until this week, a scout was also a boy. My twin brother was a scout, I as a girl was not.
I remember tagging along to one of my brother’s first cub scout meetings, listening as adults told a room full of eager, young boys that the program they were in would change their lives. That they would learn independence and leadership. That they would go camping. And if they stuck with it, if they were strong, and smart and persevered, that they could become Eagle Scouts.
I remember my first girl scout meeting. I learned how to paint my nails. I never went back.
I left my brothers meeting burning with all the righteous indignation a seven-year-old could muster. This amazing, special thing, this program that could change your life, it wasn’t for me. Not because I wasn’t strong or smart. Not because I lacked perseverance. But for the simple fact that I was a girl.
It wasn’t the first time I had experienced sexism as a girl. There’s a glass ceiling on the playground as well as in the boardroom. But it was my first experience with institutionalized sexism. There was a whole organization, readymade to fit my interests, and there I was, excluded.
I know there are alternatives for adventurous girls (I tried them). And I know that not every girl scout troop emphasizes a girl’s need to paint her nails. But the recognition and resources afforded to boy scouts who reached the rank of Eagle, the recognition and resources afforded to my brother and his scouting friends, those were not available to me.
So thank you Boy Scouts of America. It may be too late for me, but I know there are girls out there who are going to seize this chance. Girls that just want to run and play and grow, who will be able to because of this change.