Girls Join in on the Campfire

Boy Scouts open door to girls for first time.

Stefan Sujansky, Co-Editor in Chief

The Boy Scouts of America announced this month that they would be welcoming girls to their ranks in the upcoming year, drawing a wave of praise and criticism from across the political spectrum.

Chicago businessman William D. Boyce  founded the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in 1910, modeling them after a similar group in England. Six years later, President Woodrow Wilson officially sanctioned the organization, protecting its name, insignia, and uniforms under U.S. law. While today BSA has over 2 million members, its membership has seen a continued decline since it reached a peak of over 6 million scouts in the 1970s.

Now, the organization is making moves to reestablish itself as a staple of American youth culture. On October 11th, in a landmark decision, the BSA announced that it would begin accepting girls into its Cub Scout and Eagle Scout programs beginning in 2018, adding fuel to the debate surrounding gender identity and roles in the U.S. in recent years.

Weston Bourgois, an Eagle Scout and senior at Woodside, is careful in wording his opinions on the issue, saying, “It might offend people, but there are differences between men and women, and you can’t really dispute that. Men need their own area, to be separated from women, and that’s what Boy Scouts was there to do, [to] teach young men how to act. And when you let women in there, it kind of defeats the purpose of what Boy Scouts was meant to do.”

While many Boy Scout leaders have come out in support of their leadership’s decision, the scouts themselves worry that their organization may lose its core values related to brotherhood and community.

“[Boys] have different values and traits, and they bring that all to Boy Scouts, and what unites them is the fact that they’re all dudes, and that’s what creates a bond,” Derek Smith, a Woodside senior and Eagle Scout told the Woodside World. “I just don’t think that [the girls] are going to be able to relate to the guys as well as guys relate to other guys.”

Girl Scouts U.S.A. also expressed its disappointment in a letter to the BSA president sent shortly after their announcement.

Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of Girl Scouts USA wrote, “It is… …unsettling that BSA would seek to upend a paradigm that has served both boys and girls so well over the years with a plan that would result in fundamentally undercutting Girl Scouts of the USA.”

Following the Boy Scouts’ move, the Girl Scouts have come under mounting pressure from some parents to change their model to better mirror the skills taught by their sibling organization. Laura Perdikomatis, a physical education teacher at Woodside, also acts as the leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

“That’s what makes me mad: when people are like, ‘Girl Scouts should [be more like Boy Scouts] because they’re different, which they’re not,” Perdikomatis told the Woodside World, referring to the many Girl Scouts’ complaint that their program lacks a status similar to BSA’s Eagle Scout.

While Perdikomatis stands by her girls in her defense of their activities, she strays from the organization in her stance on BSA’s recent moves, demonstrating how a group’s official statement may not reflect the opinions of all of its members.

“I think it’s fine. I think if a girl wants to join the Boy Scouts, all the more power to her,” she shared.

Because Woodside is situated in one of the most liberal regions of California, which is already a liberal state, BSA’s move towards a more open gender policy also enjoys widespread support on campus.

“I think that it’s a really good idea, the fact that [BSA is] more inclusive to everybody nowadays,” Colby Peck, a Woodside sophomore, shared. “I remember I had a friend who wanted to join the Boy Scouts, …but my school wouldn’t really allow that. So, I’m glad now that we’re having more inclusion and that people are allowed to join activities that will better their skills and build more friendships and relationships.”

Looking into the future, the debate over gender identity will continue to play a larger role on campus, as more organizations and activities connected to students begin to change their long-held policies. For now, though, some Boy Scouts aren’t buying it.

“If girls don’t like the way that Girl Scouts is run, then they should change that,” Smith added. “But they shouldn’t come to Boy Scouts and try to change that.”