On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America announced that — for the first time ever — young girls will now be welcomed into Cub Scouts, one of the organization's most well-known programs. The organization will also be creating a Scouting program for older girls, letting them work their way up to earn Eagle Scout ranks. It's an impressive change for the national organization, but the reaction on social media has been mixed: some families are celebrating the move towards inclusivity, while others are decidedly less happy about the change.
The Boy Scouts have been around for over a century now, and although the organization has offered up several co-ed programs since the 1970s, the majority of its programs have available only for boys — a fact not lost on young girls who have wanted to join the Boy Scouts over the years. Groups of young girls have been petitioning the Boy Scouts for membership since the 1970s, according to The New York Times, with 10-year-old Ella Jacobs telling the Boy Scouts in 2015:
Because we’re girls we can’t participate with boys? When we get into the real world, we’re going to have to work with other people who are, like, not just girls.
Now, other girls just like Jacobs will be able to join Cub Scouts as soon as the 2018 program year, and a large number of people on social media are not happy about it:
A lot of the criticism seems to stem from the belief that the only difference between the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts — aside from their respective names — is the gender of their members. However, the organizations are entirely different bodies that offer their members different activities and preach different values.
One study, published in Gender & Society in 2011, found that members of the Girl Scouts were offered more artistic activities than the Boy Scouts were, and that they had less options when it came to scientific activities. The names of Girl Scouts badges were also less career-minded and more playful, using titles like "Rocks Rock" and "Sky Search" rather than "Geologist" and "Astronomer," as similar badges were named in the Boy Scouts. Several badges — including "Caring for Children," "Looking Your Best," and "Sew Simple" — simply didn't have equivalent badges in the Boy Scouts.
Critics also seemed concerned that boys and girls would be camping together under the new guidelines, which wouldn't be the case. "Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls," the Boy Scouts said in a press release on Wednesday. "This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families."
Not all responses were critical, of course. A good number of people recognized the change as a step forward, and congratulated the Boy Scouts on social media:
Young girls will be able to join the Cub Scout program starting in 2018, and the Boy Scouts is hoping to have a program, based on the existing Boy Scouts curriculum, available for older girls by 2019. "We strive to bring what our organization does best – developing character and leadership for young people – to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders," Michael Surbaugh, the Boy Scouts of America's Chief Scout Executive, said in a statement on its site.
Based on the mixed reviews the news has gotten on social media, it'll be interesting to see if membership increases, decreases, or stays the same overall over the next few years. But in the meantime? Welcome to the Boy Scouts, girls.
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