It started when I was about four-years-old. My oldest brother became a Cub Scout — and got a uniform and badges and all sorts of awesome awards and activities. As soon as I could read, I began pouring over Boys’ Life…and coveting. We didn’t even have Achievement Days/Activity Day back then (not that it compares, but still), so I begged my parents to let me be a Brownie in the Girl Scouts organization. Alas, the church leadership had strongly recommended avoiding the heathen group, which left the girls with…nothing.
For 43 years I’ve carried this uneasiness about the disparity between the programs provided for boys and girls, between the budgets allotted to the boys and girls, between the recognition given to boys and girls, about the excuses given for the disparity. As the mother of four girls, it bothers me more now than when I was young.
Even now, girls have a years-long program that results in a certificate and a piece of costume jewelry — often handed to them unceremoniously in sacrament meeting — while boys receive badge after badge after pin after pin and one recognition event followed by another that culminates in the ulitimate Court of Honor.
A couple of weeks ago a man in the ward called me to let me know that someone would be dropping by to collect my annual “voluntary” scouting donation. I took a deep breath and — for the first time in my life — made it clear I am not a “friend of scouting.”
In my best sweet-and-subservient-with-just-an-hint-of-rebellious-boat-rocking voice, I asked, “Is there a way to donate to the ward scout troop without donating to the the National Parks Council or the Boy Scouts organization itself?”
“When you contribute, it does go to our ward,” he said.
“I understood that the fee goes to the general and state organizations to ‘sponsor’ each boy as a scout. Is that wrong?”
“Yes, it just goes for our ward.”
“Here’s the thing. I think I should contribute to the program — especially since I have two boys in it now. But I don’t like paying the scouting salaries and I think the girls need more support in their programs.” Deep breath.
“Well, yea, it just goes to our boys.”
“OK, well let me look into it more. I’ll talk to my husband and you can get back with me.”
That’s the last I heard about it.
Apparently the need to vent about scouting comes to the surface every few years. And I’m overdue. I’ve written about Boy Scouts before. For years I’ve hoped to abolish scouting or, at least, stop the boys from asking me to do the Eagle projects for them. But today it’s at the surface for a reason that doesn’t concern the girls programs or demands that I donate at all. It came to the surface because of my youngest son’s first Pack Meeting. (Is that capitalized? Is it the meeting’s proper name?)
First, I want to make something clear. I love our ward scout leaders. God bless them. It’s one of only two callings I think is worse than mine. And they do a fabulous job. They are loving and caring and reliable and the boys have a blast. They are doing something I hope I never have to do — and doing an amazing job. The following complaints are not aimed at them, but rather at the further disparity the guidelines they are following produce. (I don’t know exactly where the guidelines originated or who imposed them. They were said to have come from an activation study of some kind.)
Samson is now an 11-year-old scout. He loves it, loves it, loves, it. Caleb just turned eight this month and is “finally a Cub Scout!” He is so thrilled to be part of the den that he wanted to be a Cub Scout for Halloween. Everything is so exciting and fun to him. As soon as he got the materials, he earned his Bobcat badge. Although I usually forgo Pack Meeting and let my husband get the “mother’s pin” — because I fundamentally reject the idea that mothers should get a pin for what the boys are supposed to be doing and if the boys can’t really do the stuff then why are the mothers doing it and then giving the boys phony awards for it — but since it was his first meeting, I went along.
In my limited Pack Meeting experience, this meeting seemed odd. It wasn’t just that the boys lined up one after the other to get the patches and belt loops and badges and beads — and all manner of cool stuff the girls never get at all, but I digress. It was that every single boy got an award — whether he earned an award or not.
Each boy who hadn’t earned any kind of official recognition, was given a special certificate for “working on their awards.” So the boatload of awards itself isn’t enough to keep the boys plugging along, now we have to award them for breathing in between gathering all their awards.
So now all you Silver Beaver wannabes can pile on and tell me that I don’t understand all the good things BSA does for our boys and how the girls don’t need as much to stay active and how you hope your daughter marries an Eagle Scout and blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all before and I can take it again. But I wonder if we’ll ever, ever, ever start treating the boys like they can handle life without coddling and special privileges and start treating the girls like they deserve a cut of the action (and budget).