Given that the Girl Scouts is largely, if not solely, composed of little girls in matching outfits and their moms and/or guardians, it’s maybe a little surprising how often people seem to get riled up about them. For instance, Shakesville reminds us that back in 2010, the Girl Scouts were (completely baselessly) accused of distributing Planned Parenthood materials at a Young Women’s Caucus, and even after it was confirmed that nothing of the sort had even come close to happening, the Girl Scouts have never been regarded without suspicion by right-wing thinkers. Even when the stated goals are as innocent as fostering friendship and community, promoting good citizenship, or just arts and crafts, it seems like the GSUSA can’t catch a break. Regardless of its actual purpose, apparently you just can’t have a space devoted to women, girls, or girlhood without its being accused of fomenting promiscuity, lesbianism, and pagan witchcraft! Don’t believe it? From Amanda Marcotte at Slate:
More than a decade ago, Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review wrote: “The Girl Scouts’ leaders hope to make their youthful charges the shock troops of an ongoing feminist revolution.” A number of prominent voices on the Christian right went on to join her in sounding an alarm about the organization, accusing it of religious and sexual subversion. Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council alleged that the organization is “pushing promiscuous sex on the girls.” Bob Knight, while working for Concerned Women for America, accused the Girl Scouts of drifting into “radical feminism,” and while the word “witchcraft” has yet to be trotted out, popular right wing website WorldNetDaily has accused the Girl Scouts of promoting “lesbianism” and “paganism.”
Now the conversation has changed slightly, because while they’re still not pushing lesbianism or paganism, the Girl Scouts are respectful of gender identity. Back in October, we covered the story of the Colorado Girl Scout troop which welcomed Bobby Montoya, who identifies as female, into their ranks in an inclusive policy that says “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.” Not everyone’s response has been positive; even this little girl, who one might hope would be sympathetic to other small people in matching colored vests, wants you to boycott buying Girl Scout cookies in protest.
Seeing how readily and how fiercely these spaces of girlhood are knee-jerk-ily defended is a reminder of just how confused and scared about gender most of our culture still is; and also how important the normal experiences of girlhood can be to those who have to fight for their right to have them. There aren’t all that many empowering, safe, confidence-building institutions that girls and young women have access to, but the Girl Scouts of America are one of them. To deny some girls access to it because they’re queer or trans or gender-nonconforming is saying “we don’t believe you deserve the same things that other, ‘normal’ girls do,” and worse, is saying that those children aren’t really girls at all. Which, when you’re struggling just to begin to understand and to deal with all the pain that being a girl will inevitably make others feel justified to visit upon you, is a terrible and invalidating thing to hear. This isn’t really about Girl Scout cookies (although if buying more is your way of supporting the GSUSA and the Girl Scouts of Colorado’s policy of inclusion, then go for it). This is about the right of people who our culture doesn’t necessarily identify as “normal” to lead normal lives, with the normal joys and challenges that come with it. And to navigate childhood and adolescence concerned more with merit badges than with national YouTube campaigns designed to organize a community against you. That actually sounds like a much harder thing to provide young girls of all kinds than an education in promiscuity and lesbianism, but if anyone has decided they’re up to the challenge, it seems to be (at least the Colorado branch of) the GSUSA.