A conversation occurred recently on my family's website about the difference between Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, particularly the later stage (high school) involvement. The perception is that Boy Scouts encourages a deeper and more lengthy involvement than Girl Scouts. The primary reason for this is probably the well known ultimate Boy Scout achievement, Eagle Scout. It becomes part of a listing of a man's achievements -- Astronaut, Congressman, Eagle Scout. Can anyone name the ultimate achievement in Girl Scouts? (Yeah, I didn't think so. You can Google it or wait till the end of this post.) I earned the penultimate award and tried for the last one, but didn't manage it.
So, the discussion turned to why is it that way? My brother-in-law very astutely pointed out: "Think of it this way. The BSA started training boys to be men and great leaders. Where as the GSA started out to train girls to be good housewives. That is not the goal of young woman today. They have had to redesign their program. The mind set of GSA has not evolved as fast as the young women they serve. It's coming though. I have often thought if girls could join the BSA and become a eagle scout right along with the boys. They would start out in the job market on a more even playing field. Even that is changing nicely now."
So began the conversation.
Obviously, the role of women is changing. I think there is a correlating loosening of the restrictions on men's roles as well. It's much more acceptable for a man to be a stay-at-home dad than it ever has been. At least, I think it is. What do you think? Are things changing? TV and movies present the professional woman and the kick-ass heroine, but conservative churches present the mother and homemaker as one of the highest achievements a woman can attain. What I wish was that all choices were equally accepted and equally honored.
Which brings me to my conclusion: The thing my brother-in-law said that gave me the most hope for a was that he had spent time as a Girl Scout troop leader. He also pointed out how many women are involved as Boy Scout troop leader. I think it's these "cross-over" situations that will inform kids about stereotypes. Namely, don't trust them. They have some value, of course. They can give one a starting point for observations, but they are not a substitute for actual observation. They oversimplify, like a cartoon. Yes, June Cleaver was a great housewife and mother, but what were her hobbies? Why did she and Ward stay together so long? I could go on.
Funny, but this has transmogrified into a response to MWT's post about gender roles. I highly recommend a wander over there.
For whatever reason, I'm a highly individualistic person. (Makes me bad mortar in MWT's analogy.) The harder a community presses me to join in, the more likely I am to slip away. (It was no accident I jumped overboard from Nathan's ship.) This makes me pretty sensitive to social pressure in general, but specific to this post, definitely to gender-driven pressure. I see it in advertisements and TV and movies. I hear about it from friends abroad. I like the parts of my gender that I have accepted, but there are parts that I just don't have. Instead of being perceived as a good or bad example of the stereotype of my gender, I'd rather be a person who has some good traits and some bad. And I'd rather not feel awkward or wrong because I'm "not feminine enough".
I'm glad that there are those who are leading today's youth who are like my brother-in-law, who appreciate the diversity of life. Hopefully they will be taught to appreciate individuality, their own and that of others.
(The Girl Scout's ultimate achievement, by the way, is The Gold Award.)