This week the Boy Scouts of America announced a campaign and a name change that has parents talking.
The Boy Scouts are dropping the 'Boy' in February 2019, and the iconic youth program for kids 11-17 will be renamed 'Scouts BSA' as the organization welcomes girls.
The umbrella organization, however, will still be called Boy Scouts of America, and critics say that emphasis on male children means Boy Scouts is still no place for girls—not because they shouldn't scout, but because they should do so in an organization that doesn't see them as an afterthought.
Yes, the Girl Scouts have been the loudest critics of the move. When plans for the name change were proposed last year, the National President of Girl Scouts of the USA sent a strongly worded letter to Boy Scouts of America, asking the organization not to move forward "with a plan that would result in fundamentally undercutting Girl Scouts of the USA."
According to the Girl Scouts of the USA, girls are best served by programs created specifically for them, and they question whether scouting in a program originally made for boys is in the best interest of girls. "Have they invested in creating uniquely effective programming for girls?" Stewart Goodbody, Girl Scouts' senior director of communications and external affairs, said in recent interview with Refinery29.
"Because at Girl Scouts, for the past century, we've been acutely focused on dispelling gender stereotypes and creating a space exclusively for girls to learn and grow—a 'room of one's own' for them, so to speak. And we are determined as ever to stay on this path, so that more girls, through Girl Scouting, gain confidence, seek challenges, and become active decision-makers and proficient problem-solvers to the greatest degree possible — and frankly, are better equipped to navigate a world that is still, regrettably, a 'man's world,'" says Goodbody.
According to the Boy Scouts of America, some 3,000 girls are already involved in programming through an early adopter program that let them join the Cub Scouts (the program for younger kids) back in October. Cub Scout 'packs' that include kids of both genders are separated into single-gender Cub Scout 'dens.' This hybrid model aims to provide the benefit of single-gender programming while allowing girls to take part in the same activities as their brothers.
As Backpacker reports, some are with the Girl Scouts say letting girls in isn't enough. The organization would have to let go of its gendered history to really welcome them. "They will be keeping the organizational name, Boy Scouts of America, and therein asking girls who join to give up part of their identity," Andrea Bastiani Archibald, family engagement officer for Girl Scouts of the USA, told Backpacker last month.
Whether girls will flock to the Boy Scouts remains to be seen, but as both organizations have seen declining membership in recent years, recruiting members is more important than ever.