Growing up in small-town, mid-century America, some of my friends were Girl Scouts. So I wanted to be one too - mostly to get the green uniform and Thin Mint cookies.
Then I learned that to wear the uniform, you had to sell the cookies, and that you had to learn how to tie a slew of sailors’ knots to get that badge to go on a sash over the uniform. And I wondered where else, exactly, I might apply that knot-tying expertise, as I was unlikely to get a sailboat for my tenth birthday.
When I also found out that going to Girl Scout camp meant sleeping in one place and going to the bathroom somewhere else, maybe in the woods, my enthusiasm waned. But back then, if a boy had asked me to join his scouting troop, I might have been tempted by the idea, depending on who that boy was. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true.
Once feminism came along young women became more self-motivated and multi-faceted than their ‘50s counterparts. Girl Scouts now climb mountains and take leadership seminars. High achievers get badges for, among other things, digital photography, robotics, social justice work, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and marketing.
And this brings me to an observation about optics – specifically on the Boy Scouts of America website. Even though they claim now to welcome girls, the language and imagery do not send that message. In all the photographs, it’s boys, boys, boys. And the written invitation to girls to join Cub Scouts - in all-girl dens - and maybe in the future become part of an all-girl Eagle Scout program – well, that’s buried in the small print “news” section, like an afterthought.
It’s not exactly great PR, but the still male-dominated Boys Scouts website may, unwittingly, tell the truth - that girls are being invited in, but reluctantly.
It reminds me of those cartoon clubhouses where little boys have crookedly nailed a “No Girls Allowed” sign on a door that doesn’t actually have a lock on it. A cartoon girl could walk in, but rarely does.
A Girl Scout who earns the badge for savvy advertising might be able to suggest how to make the imagery on the Boy Scouts of America website more enticing to girls. But then, what could they do about the name?
Nobody seems to have thought that one through.