I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout at Ravinia Elementary School. We learned to fold a flag and to knit squares, which our leader assembled into a somewhat lumpy quilt which we donated to “the old folks’ home.” Once we “camped” in the back yard of a house. Selling cookies was the most exciting activity. By junior high school, all the girls dropped out. We needed our time for brooding.
My daughter was a Brownie and Girl Scout. I was the Cookie Mom for her troop two years running. When elementary school ended, so did her Scouting career.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts differ in how they stress “critical thinking, arts, science, autonomy, community service, and careers”, writes Kate Stringer on The 74. A 2011 study published in Gender and Society “found a mountain of difference in the way Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts teach” about rocks.
Boys could earn a professional-sounding Geologist Badge, while girls earned one with a much cuter name: Rocks Rock. But when boys learned about rocks, they responded to questions about minerals and mountains in a booklet with all the answers available. Conversely, girls were required to do research, start a rock collection, classify them using their own source materials, learn about natural disasters, or connect with a group fighting erosion. The study found that other badges followed this pattern: Boys’ badges were more likely to have career-sounding names, but girls’ badges required research and critical thinking skills. A look at the organizations’ subject areas found that 11 percent of Girl Scout activities were arts-focused, while only 2 percent were science-oriented. Meanwhile, 6 percent of Boy Scouts’ activities were arts and 6 percent were science.
The Girl Scout handbook focuses on community activities, while the Boy Scouts’ book is more individual in focus. Girls get “I’ll try” statements, while boys get “I will.”
The Boy Scouts have 2.3 million members, the Girl Scouts’ 1.8 million, reports Stringer.
Other countries have co-ed groups such as Scouts Canada and Scouts Australia, writes Stringer. In the U.S., Camp Fire Girls has recreated itself as the co-ed Camp Fire.
However, there are no plans to drop the “Boy” in Boy Scouts.
There are alternatives to Boy Scouts for parents who want a more liberal, co-ed experience or a more conservative (no gays) all-male experience. Girl Scout alternatives include the Christ-centered American Heritage Girls.
When men’s institutions admit women, women’s organizations often fold writes Isabel Fattal in The Atlantic.
“While there were about 230 women’s colleges in 1960, today there are around three dozen,” she writes. “Like the Girl Scouts, women’s colleges have long argued that they are poised to offer resources and experiences to women that a coed institution can’t provide.” But only those able to transform themselves have survived.
There are even fewer all-male colleges. Excluding seminaries and yeshivas, there are three four-year institutions for men only: Wabash College (Indiana), Hampden-Sydney College (Virginia) and Morehouse College (Georgia).