A/N: Hello and thank you for reading! A quick note that I would probably add one more research study later in the essay (for logos), but for now, I'll have to find that. For reviews, if you could focus less on the grammar/typos and more on the larger arguments, that would be great. Enjoy the read!
Straightening my Boy Scouts uniform as Mom gives me a stern look, I know it’s time to get down to business. Pulling open the heavy door of the small church, I walk through the main hall and step down the stairs to the basement where our Troop congregates. The first thing I notice are the opposite gender - the younger boys running around chasing each other, or the older ones on their phones near the benches on the opposite side of the room. They make their presence quite large, even though they’re not always the leaders or the most outspoken ones in the Troop. I always walk to join the girls at the round tables, where they’ve gathered over their Scoutbooks and are poring over information they need to know for rank advancement. First aid, tying various knots and lashings, merit badges for dozens of topics, and many more activities that I’ve simply lost track of. The other girls work harder than I do, but I work harder than most of the boys. Girls were only let into Boy Scouts of America, which has simply renamed itself into BSA, in February of 2019. I was in eighth grade at the time, and there were only 5 girls who had joined in the first month or so: Lotte, Rachel, Aidan, Frieda, and Laurie. The five of us were enough to create our own Patrol, the Phoenix Patrol, and from that day forward we were made separate from the boys. I am now fifteen with my first class rank: Although it has been almost a year and a half, only six girls more have joined. There are several reasons why Scouting can upset me, and there are times I fear that the cons will overweigh the pros so I’ll never get my Eagle. As the organization I have known for only over a year, the presence of systematic sexism takes down what Boy Scouts can mean to me.
We’re called in for flag: a couple of Scouts are assigned with color guard, to carry in the local flag of our Troop and the American one, too. The Scout Oath and Law are recited by everyone, even the youngest Scouts, and the American Outdoor Code follows before our Senior Patrol Leader gives a run-down of what we’re doing this evening. I can’t help but think of all the homework I have to do, the geometry I struggle to understand or the history paper that I haven’t yet finished drafting, and as my mind wanders and wanders I realize that it’ll be awhile until we have another Senior Patrol leader that’s a girl. The first and only was Lotte - she’s standing in front of me as we are sorted by Patrols, the boys with their two and the girls with our overflowing one.
“Okay, boys, let’s-” the Scoutmaster stops himself to correct his mistake. My eyes drift downward to the ground: If my mom was here, she would’ve chided me for my bad attitude.
“Alright, everybody. Let’s get working.”
It’s clear to see that due to the simple lack of female leaders and younger female Scouts, the women here are frequently overlooked. Perhaps women as a minority has led to sexism, because throughout history majorities are bullying a minority for some reason based on a subjective thing. Gender just has to be one of them; a smaller percentage of women and girls means we have to make sure our efforts are shown.
The mentality of female Scouts and adult leaders having to work harder towards rank advancement than everyone else does not escape our Troop; it’s mainly due to that BSA didn’t let girls in until recently.
Along the margins of the troop are the adults; parents of younger Scouts line up by the children. It’s mostly proud fathers, whose sons and, only as of recently, daughters are currently going through the program or have already done so. But there are only three mothers who show frequently; Lotte’s mother, mine, and one of the boy’s. One of the most frequent topics that are not part of the upcoming activities list is Philmont - it’s short for Philmont Scout Ranch, and it’s a twelve-day trek in the backcountry. The Scoutmaster has been reminding my mom that we need a new adult leader, because Scout Youth Protection guidelines dictate that kids need another person of the same gender to be with them at all times. Lotte’s mom is reluctant to go again, and Rachel’s mom worries about her health, so the only mother left is mine. I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that she is nowhere near ready.
The Scoutmaster breaks us off into our activities, but as a bad mood drifts over, I decide to “take a break” from what’s going on. So I sit, quiet and alone with a pen in my hand, drawing flowers on my wrist. We’re probably supposed to be doing group work at the minute, and I know soon, I’ll get reminded by the adults to come in and join. I wonder what it would be like to talk to someone, to not view Scouting as pure work, to be able to experience it like the boys my age did when they were in sixth grade. They almost look like they’re having the time of their lives. However, in the most recent weeks, two young girls have joined our troop.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has prevented them from going to a real Troop meeting at the church, where kids their age are supposed to be playing while the older ones like us are supposed to be guiding them. I feel compelled to be of assistance to the younger Scouts for a reason I can’t ever say out loud: that I am the leader, they are the follower, and because the boys have not done a single thing about it the obligation has been passed along to me. It must be said that I do enjoy talking to one of the sixth grade girls, but I’m sad to say that there are just two in total. To put it frankly, girls aren’t interested in joining BSA. This generally means middle schoolers, but if put on an aggressive enough path, a freshman could still make it to Eagle in time. There are several reasons that I can think of why girls are reluctant to join. First and foremost, BSA is still labeling itself as Boy Scouts - that’s what the “B” in the acronym stands for, and girls can be afraid to join an organization that challenges their ideal of femininity. Perhaps she’s afraid of being seen as weird, or she’s instead prioritized other activities by now that take up her time. Either way, girls aren’t given the encouragement as children to break the gender norm; and our friend systematic sexism returns again. At this tender age, girls and boys are once again divided, left to form misconceptions about each other as the stereotypes burn themselves into daily life. Children are young and impressionable, and that fact is taken advantage of in ways we wouldn’t want or expect. But in Scouting, adults do their best to lead the kids into doing the right thing.
For the most part though, as much as our Troop likes to say it is Scout-run, the Scoutmaster does all the work in planning and preparation for outings. And for the jobs and tasks that the Scouts are required to do for themselves and their rank advancement, the girls my age have been taking charge compared to our peers. Sincerely I wish this was just a comparison, but the boys that were my age in eighth grade had already achieved their Star and Life ranks, the two right before Eagle. As of now, even though the latter ranks are much harder to achieve, the boys haven’t advanced much at all. It’s as if they’re fizzing out when the girls are starting to begin their last great efforts to Eagle. For example, Lotte has gotten her life rank in just over a year along with two other girls right behind her. We were worried when we first started that we wouldn’t finish before we aged out of the program at eighteen. The mentality among the now high-school aged Scouts, regardless of gender, is to get their Eagle rank as quickly as possible and drift away: But if that’s the case, how come the boys have not fully committed themselves to their goal? In January 2016, there was a study done for VoxEU by Azmat (et. al) about boys and girls’ testing habits at school. It noted that they responded differently to exam pressures depending on their significance. For low stakes, girls performed better, but for very high stakes, boys outperformed them. This parallels our troop - one can say that there’s no risks involved if you don’t make it to Eagle. The boys were given a lot of time, and technically they started before sixth grade if they were a part of Cub Scouts. What the boys learned there transferred over to BSA, and they were given until they graduated as high school seniors to rise through all of the ranks. A second comment the study made was that girls outperform boys in every school test, but the difference of girls doing somewhat better on low-stakes ones is minimized or even erased when the stakes increase. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of boys procrastinating their Eagle right now, like sophomores or juniors who understand that their academics and sports are going to take up more and more time away from Scouting. They fall into a sort of limbo, while the rest of us are trying to get it all done before junior year and college prep kicks in. Understandably, sexism has unknowingly contributed to our efforts in our Troop’s all-girl Patrol. This was the way we were “brought up” as Scouts from day one, and now, most of us now have exceeded our goals by a wide margin farther than what is necessary. But it doesn’t hurt to have your Eagle before you turn eighteen, doesn’t it?
Even with the integration of girls into BSA, sexism still exists to hinder the true experience of Scouting. As a female BSA Scout myself, this essay of mine is simply another walk into my day-to-day experiences. My current feelings about the time I have had with my Troop, the local branch off the larger organization that serves my area, are divided. Half of me wants to be able to appreciate the greater meanings and efforts of what we learn and the values we are taught, but it’s difficult to do so when I don’t feel like I’m a part of the community. Several of the girls I talked to who joined BSA feel similarly as I do, that the sexism existing in our society, whether it be patronizing or simply forgetting that girls exist, makes them want to reconsider their path. The journey to becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in BSA, is already tough and discouraging. But when a supposedly integrated experience continues to make girls and women there feel like a minority, the impact BSA has on its Scouts as a whole is belittled. Boys and girls will not grow up separately, and no new girls will even want to join at all.
It’s like change never happened.
On the other hand, people have begun to realize, finally, that in the 21st century it is paramount to raise girls as leaders. It’s important to bring them up right and teach them the skills they need to succeed across all fields of life, not just home duties or baby-raising.
So Scouting for girls is only the first step out of many more, and I was only unfortunate to get caught in the beginning. The organization’s mission and values have remained intact over the years and now, and every effort made is still an effort. Girls are learning how to serve their community and how to lead alongside boys, and the impact it has made on my life is nothing short of obvious. I have started volunteering for many different organizations and I’ve gotten outside to experience the great outdoors. Friends or no friends, whether I feel included or not, my positive feelings about BSA give me hope. My thoughts wander farther from just getting my Eagle rank, but knowing that girls will not be able to have my experience, but one better, resides with me. As much as hard work is work, it still gives great rewards - and that concept is older than sexism itself.