This past February, Scouts BSA, formerly known as Boy Scouts of America, inaugurated a class of nearly 1,000 females into the National Eagle Scout Association. The Eagle Scout ranking is the highest ranking in the Scouts BSA program. This is the first inaugural class to include females since the organization’s founding in 1911.
This is not the first radical change to come to the Scouts BSA program in recent years. In 2019, Scouts BSA officially began accepting female membership. At that time, Scouts BSA changed their name from “Boy Scouts of America” in an effort to reflect their newly inclusive membership.
“I see this as a welcome change, especially after years of regressive and abusive sex, gender and sexuality policies by BSA,” said Dr. Prathim-Maya Dora-Laskey, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
Accomplishing the rank of Eagle Scout requires a lot of hard work on behalf of the scout, regardless of gender. Eagle Scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges and complete an extensive service project of choice. At the present, 2.5 million scouts have been inducted into the National Eagle Scout Association.
“Of course we should celebrate all new Eagle Scouts and the first 1,000 girl Eagle Scouts. I’m happy to know that so many girls decided to sign up, were able to thrive and made it to the pinnacle of scouting achievement,” said Dora-Laskey.
Although many feel excited about the inclusion of girls into the Scouts BSA program and the National Eagle Scout Association, many also feel concerned about the future of the Girl Scouts and the continuation of the two separate scouting organizations.
“I think girls are a valuable addition to The Scouts of America, but many families and girl scouts may not want to see their girl-centric spaces vanish,” said Dora-Laskey. “There’s plenty of research emphasizing enhanced leadership opportunities and development for girls in girl-centric spaces.”
The separation of the scouting organizations based on gender may be arbitrary in our modern society as traditional gender roles progressively recede. Additionally, the goal of both the Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA programs are very similar.
“Ultimately, both girl and boy scouts set opportunities for social interaction and encourage an appreciation of the outdoors, but because of the way we make gender so binary, we may end up reinforcing gender socializations,” said Dora-Laskey.
As the Scouts BSA and the Girl Scouts reassess who should be permitted to participate in each respective program, they may also need to reassess scouting as a whole to ensure inclusivity to all scouts and provide equal opportunities for the growth and success of participants.
“Perhaps there needs to be a mission change. What can be done to make scouting feel welcoming? Are there ways in which scouting is an activity not predicated on gender designations whether arbitrary or self-chosen as well as a place where children are encouraged to collaborate on projects and appreciate nature and do something caring every day,” said Dora-Laskey.
Regardless of how people feel about the separation of scouting organizations based on gender, the Scouts BSA program made major changes in recent years to become more inclusive to all scouts. Will the Girl Scouts follow suit in the near future?
“The Girl Scouts had always seemed like the more progressive scouting organization. They set up troops in homeless shelters, support reproductive rights, welcome transgender members, etcetera. I’m sure they can do it,” said Dora-Laskey.