Letter: Boy Scouts name change will backfire on girls
The NBA (National Basketball Association) within its title does not define what sex plays within the association. However, we know that the NBA is for males. We also know that women play in the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) because it clearly states this in its title. The PGA (Professional Golfer's Association), LPGA (Ladies Professional Golfer's Association), and many other organizations operate similarly in that the female group is denoted and marked, and the male group is not and does not need to be labelled.
This is what Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is trying to do — they are trying to change their name to "Scouts." In doing so, BSA is encroaching on already limited female space and making themselves seem like the dominant Scout organization by taking up this title when Girls Scouts of America (GSA) also exists.
According to sociologists Wildman and Davis, the privileged category is used to make the norm, and though it may seem trivial, I believe the naming of these organizations is significant and has an impact on women. These naming procedures, though not meant to minimize women, highlights male dominance and encourages women to consider male-centered organizations above their own.
BSA wants to more actively include girls in its organization with its name change, but girls would benefit more from an organization like GSA that focuses solely on girls. The problem is not that BSA is including girls, it is that BSA is including girls at the expense of GSA. If GSA didn't exist
and then BSA started this movement, it would be a different story. But because the GSA already exists and does great work for young girls, there is no need for BSA to take up the space.
GSA would suffer from BSA including girls and changing their name because
society is male-identified, which according to sociologist Allan Johnson, means that core cultural ideas about what is desirable and normal are associated with men. I've seen this in my own life, and I believe if I was involved in GSA as a child and BSA opened its doors to me, I'd leave GSA
for BSA. According to sociologist David Newman, girls - like myself - grow up learning that boys' traits were valued more and want to be associated with them - competency, strength, and control — not girls' traits — weakness, indecisiveness, emotionality. Think about it - if were the opposite case, and GSA was trying to take up the name "Scouts," boys probably
wouldn't even join because it is shameful for them to be associated with anything feminine.
Furthermore, if girls were to join BSA rather than GSA, they would lose out of the benefits of a single-sex program. According to David Newman, girls who go to single-sex schools are more assertive, confident, and likely to go into STEM. It is proven that in educational settings, girls receive less attention and useful feedback than boys, even if an educator does not mean to do so.
Even though GSA is not the same as a classroom, it is likely that the same effects exist. Thus, promoting and joining GSA is more beneficial for girls than being included in BSA. Keeping girls in GSA is also valuable because GSA has more women in leadership. According to the Miss Representation documentary, "you can't be what you can't see," and young women rarely see women in leadership — because while women make up 51 percent of the population, women only account for 17 percent of Congress and 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
BSA changing their name and actively including girls would be at expense of the GSA. Women are constantly labelled and othered, so the best thing BSA can do is keep its label so both organizations have a label, and so that young girls choose to join GSA. However, if BSA changes its name, it is still in the best interest of girls to join GSA to derive maximum benefits from their scout experiences.