3,500 girls have already become Cub Scouts since the Boy Scouts — now renamed Scouts BSA — announced it’s letting in girls.
These girls are scouting out their options.
Alexandra Silverstone, 9, has been a Girl Scout in Virginia for the past couple of years, where she’s enjoyed doing arts and crafts, or meeting with professionals like a veterinarian that let her troop do “surgery” on stuffed animals.
But she also joined the ranks of the first 3,500 girls to become Cub Scouts in January, after the Boy Scouts of America announced that it was creating a program for girls last fall. There was so much interest in bringing girls into the ranks after the initial announcement, a Boy Scouts rep told Moneyish, that the organization rolled out an “early adopter” pilot program of 170 Cub Scout packs for girls ages 7 to 10.
By next February, all 265 Boy Scouts of America packs will begin welcoming girls, including those ages 11 to 17, under the 108-year-old organization’s new gender-neutral name Scouts BSA. (The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America.) They will have the potential to earn the same merit badges that boys have had for the past century, as well as the ability to work toward the prestigious Eagle Scout award earned by world leaders such as former President Gerald Ford and astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Alexandra wanted to join the Boy Scouts because, “it’s fun, and you can do more stuff,” she told Moneyish. Her dad Andrew Silverstone, an Eagle Scout himself, is her den leader. “We use pocket knives; you can cut stuff, and carve stuff,” she said. “We did rockets; we built them, and then we launched them. We met police workers and did fingerprints. We’re going camping pretty soon, and doing tie-dye t-shirts.”
Her dad is moved to see his daughter follow in his scouting footsteps. “I’m excited to be part of that, and to do the same things with my daughter that I got to do,” he said. “Girls have always come to their brothers’ [Boy Scout] meetings with their families, so why not bring them on board into the organization officially, and continue that message of family scouting?
Alexandra isn’t the only Girl Scout hungry for more. Zoey DeLeve, 8, from Kansas has been a Girl Scout for four years — but she’s also loved tagging along on her brother’s Boy Scout activities, especially the campouts. So she’s joining Scouts BSA next year.
“I thought it would be fun going camping,” she said. “And you get to do the car race [the Pinewood Derby], and you get to make your car, and I was thinking that when I join, I’ll do a panda car.”
Her dad Bryan DeLeve, also an Eagle Scout, fully supports her. “My daughter could be an Eagle Scout now, and that was an amazing thought that I’d never considered before,” DeLeve, 37, told Moneyish. “There’s nothing in the curriculum that is gender-specific. There are no activities that you have to be a boy for. And it’s such a great program that we should want our daughters and our young women in it. I think scouting creates great adults, and we can use more of those.”
But the Boy Scouts’ open invitation to girls infuriated many parents, as well as former Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee deemed the Boy Scouts “effectively dead,” adding that the Boy Scouts gave young men “an identity” and “there really is a difference between boys and girls and the way they think and the way they grow up.” And the backlash has been particularly swift on social media, with critics slamming the “war on men” and “wussification of America” from letting boys and girls be scouts together.
Greg, a Birmingham, Ala. father who declined to give his last name, told Moneyish that his 9-year-old daughter (also a Girl Scout) is excited to join Scouts BSA; folks are just afraid of change. “A lot of people still see making things coed as ‘girling’ everything down. My daughter played baseball a couple of years ago with the boys, and I don’t recall any of them being irreparably harmed because they had a girl on the team,” he said. “Everything changes, and not all change is bad. The vitriol that people have about it is just mind-boggling to me.”
Still others are worried about coed camping trips leading to sexual misconduct, with some Tweeters cracking wise about kids earning “birth control merit badges,” since the rules of how girls will be integrated into the Boy Scouts are still unclear for many. The younger Cub Scouts do have the option of being in same-sex packs or in coed packs. But older scouts will be in separate all-boy and all-girl troops, which will come together for some shared activities, such as family cookouts. All-boy and all-girl troops can also be linked together to work together on projects and events.
But a BSA spokeswoman told Moneyish that the all-girls Boy Scout troops will differ from the Girl Scouts. “This is our own program. We appreciate that there are other programs — Girl Scouts, Camp Fire and a lot of other activities that are related to the outdoors — and we all build character and leadership skills, but we all do it in a slightly different way,” she said. And opening the Boy Scouts to girls, “is just another option for families to consider.”
But now the Girl Scouts is competing with its male counterpart for some of the same recruits. And both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts have seen membership shrink. The Boy Scouts’ youth participation is about 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013, and more than 4 million in peak years. The Girl Scouts have about 1.76 million girls, down from just over 2 million in 2014.
So the Girl Scouts is shaking things up by creating 23 new badges that focus on STEM achievements and outdoor activities, and introducing a Girl Scout Ranger Program with the National Park Service. It also retaliated to the Boy Scouts’ name-change announcement this week with a blog post entitled, “No Contest: Girl Scouts is the BEST Leadership Organization for Girls,” citing research that girls learn best in all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environments.
— Girl Scouts (@girlscouts) May 3, 2018
“Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,” Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, responded to Moneyish in a statement. “We are, and will remain, the first choice for girls and parents who want to provide their girls opportunities to build new skills, explore STEM and the outdoors, participate in community projects, and grow into happy, successful, civically engaged adults.”
But the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Alexandra and Zoey still plan to suit up in their Girl Scout uniforms as well as for Scout BSA. These smart cookies realize they can get the best of both worlds.
“You get to have more experiences, and it’s more fun,” said Alexandra. “I do Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and clubs at school.”
“I want to do both,” agreed Zoey. “Unless they’re [meeting] on the same day. Then I would probably try to choose Girl Scouts.”
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