My family has proudly supported scouting for three generations. My father joined the Boy Scouts of America in 1960, in the 50th anniversary year of their organization. Because my father had severe asthma and was unable to play sports, scouting offered him an opportunity to expand his horizons, travel, and gave him a sense of purpose that lasted until the day he died. One of his proudest moments was when he gave our son the neckerchief slider he’d garnered at the Boy Scout Jamboree in 1964. Whittled into the shape of a fist, my son proudly wore the slider to his first meeting when he joined scouting, ironically, in the 100th anniversary year of the BSA.
My father achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, and when we cleaned out his closet after his death in 2012, we found years of memories from his scouting days that he’d painstakingly labeled and preserved. Being a Boy Scout was very much a part of the fabric of the man he ultimately became, and he was proud of his involvement.
Like our father, my brothers and I were enrolled in scouting from an early age, and our experiences were invaluable. I, of course, was a Girl Scout and my father was the Cub Master for my brothers’ Cub Scout pack. I grew up watching my father lead boys in songs, preside over rank achievement ceremonies, and arrive home from a camping weekend covered in mud. Families were always welcome at Cub Scout meetings, and I can remember to this day the camaraderie that came from attending annual Blue and Gold dinners and selling popcorn at local grocery stores.
Naturally, when my son was old enough, he was eager to join his own Cub Scout pack. We enrolled him in our local pack, and at the first pack meeting I attended, it felt like I was coming home. I watched as the Cub Master lead the boys in songs and beamed with pride as my son achieved rank after rank. I only wish my father was around to participate in the camping activities with my son because I know it would have made his heart sing.
As much as I adore the BSA for the experiences they’ve given my son, it’s only been recently that their image is tarnishing for me. Like me, my daughter has grown up in our Cub Scout and Boy Scout packs, attending meetings, participating in the crafts and activities, and becoming friends with the boys who all proudly wear the blue or tan shirts to meetings. She raced a Pinewood Derby car and has helped collect food for their annual Scouting for Food drive every November since she was 4.
She loves Boy Scouting. She’s passionate about it and supportive of their causes.
And yet, she’s not allowed to join.
Simply because she’s a girl.
Of course, we enrolled her in Girl Scouts when she was in kindergarten, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade the memories she’s made with the girls and leaders she’s called her troop. Her leaders have empowered her to feel confident and the girls she spends time with in her troop have become close friends, which has proved to be a godsend as she navigates the choppy waters of the tween years.
But my daughter will not get the same recognition that her brother will when he achieves Boy Scout’s highest honor, the Eagle rank.
Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout is no small feat, and it’s a prestigious, well-recognized honor. Many high-ranking politicians, astronauts, and CEOs have achieved their Eagle rank, and by merely mentioning that he’s an Eagle Scout, my son will have doors opened for him. In fact, as soon as our Eagle Scout friends hear that our son is close to achieving this highest rank, they high-five him and welcome him to the club.
And it’s time to smash that notion to smithereens.
Sure, it can be argued that the Girl Scouts’ highest rank, the Gold Award, carries the same merit. And yes, a girl has to work very hard to achieve the prestigious honor in Girl Scouts, but let’s all be honest here and no disrespect to the cookies we all love to buy, it’s just not the same.
When was the last time you heard of a girl achieving the Gold Award? Now ask yourself when was the last time it was that you read in the paper, saw in the news, or heard on the radio that a boy was either achieving his Eagle rank or participating in his Eagle project? While some will argue that Boy Scouts have better retention rates than Girl Scouts, the fact remains that the Eagle rank has been elevated in our society.
That’s right, the Eagle rank is a bigger deal.
And only boys can achieve Eagle rank.
Only boys get to put the Eagle rank on their resumes and have their achievements instantly recognized as worthy, capable, and highly employable.
Only boys have the benefit of walking into a job interview and knowing that their interviewer is a fellow Eagle Scout.
Hey, BSA, the 1960s called. They want their misogyny and marginalization of women back.
Women today can, and have, shattered glass ceilings in virtually every field. Women have more opportunities, yes, and they have fought hard to gain recognition in STEM fields and in politics.
Yet we still perpetuate the notion that boys and girls should be separated with regard to scouting.
And don’t give me that nonsense that my girl is going to corrupt your boy because she’s sleeping in a tent next to his. Let’s be honest here: I’m not talking about mixed tent sleeping and sharing the same bathrooms at campsites, so don’t distract from the centralized message with that nonsense. I’m simply talking about leveling the playing field and letting girls excel in the same way boys do. Girls like archery, hiking, and campfire stories too. They should get the same recognition for their efforts. It’s time, BSA.
My daughter should be allowed to earn the Eagle rank and have doors busted wide open for her too.
And if takes being the mom who helps her kick down every closed door in her way, so be it. I’m a Girl Scout. I’m prepared to pave her way.