I have never wanted to be a Girl Scout. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I would rather be curled up in bed with a book than taking place in any kind of outdoor or physical activity. However this weekend (as I was in bed taking a break on my book), I ran across an interesting post on Facebook that led me to develop a deep respect and admiration for the organization.
Girl Scouts support Planned Parenthood! They support an LGBTQ agenda! For God’s sake, don’t buy the thin mints!
Sweet, I thought. I can feel good about ordering five (or maybe ten) boxes this cookie season. The whole thing seemed too good to be true, but when I did a little investigating I found out that it was even better than I had imagined.
This “year of the girl” marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, an organization with 3.2 million members and 59 million alumnae, whose primary mission is to help girls develop spiritually, mentally, and physically. In a group of women this size, it is no surprise that issues of women’s rights have become a central concern in the past one hundred years. In 2007, Girl Scout CEO Kathy Cloninger said it best:
“I feel like we cannot be the nation’s expert on girl issues without dealing with how issues of sexuality affect the girls of this nation. We believe parents are part of the discussion, but girl scouting needs to be part of education and discussion as well.”
This atmosphere of acceptance and honesty has proven troublesome to some conservatives. In fact, in February 2012, Indiana State Republican Representative Bob Morris refused to vote for a resolution that would honor the Girl Scouts one hundred years of service. He called them a “radical group” that “promotes homosexuality,” pointing to a list of Girl Scout role models (some were gay!) for proof. Morris was met with public controversy and eventually apologized for his statement, but he couldn’t erase the homophobic impression his words left on me.
The great thing is, Morris was not entirely wrong. An example can be found in 2011 when the Scouts invited Houston’s first openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, to speak at a leadership convention. As one of two women in Houston’s history to hold the title of office, she certainly deserved to be there. When I think of budding young lesbians in the crowd who may have heard her speech, my heart fills with joy. It is rare that youth are able to listen to or meet LGBTQ role models, especially in politics. Maybe a girl scout in that crowd found the inspiration through Parker that will lead her to become the first women president, maybe even the first lesbian president! When I think about how conservatives would squirm over that, my hearts is so full it could burst.
And squirm they have. It would seem that no accomplishment, even one as serious as holding office, could overshadow the horror that Annise Parker was a lesbian whose partner works for Planned Parenthood.
In response to the feminism within Girl Scouts, the Family Watch International (gag) has created a website called “100 Questions for Girl Scouts,” with questions such as, “Are parents aware that GSUSA’s World Thinking Day activity pack for girls ages 6-18 explores the topics of sexual and reproductive rights?” Although it is clearly meant as an attack, it actually reads as an informative list of all the good Girl Scouts are doing.
Not only are Scouts promoting the right kind of information and supporting awesome organizations, they are demonstrating within their own ranks what acceptance looks like. Just last year a transgendered child named Bobby Montoya was admitted to the group in Colorado. Seven-year-old Bobby had identified as a girl since the age of 2 and always dreamed of being a Girl Scout. She was rejected at first, but in consideration of the fact that Girl Scouts accepts ALL girls grades K-12, the decision was overturned. Several leaders that were affiliated in the area’s Christian communty left their posts in protest, but in the end Bobby won. Sometimes it is a beautiful world.
I never assumed that such a viable way to practive feminism would be alive in communities all over the country. It takes feminism out of the hands of the academic and places it in the lives of real girls. The ideals are true and the cookies are delicious. Now, I wonder if I can get the uniform in my size?
If you are interested in getting involved with Girl Scouts in Harrisonburg, contact one of these fine ladies:
North Rockingham Co: Vanessa Helmick, firstname.lastname@example.org
South Rockingham Co/Massanutten area: Dawn Kern, email@example.com
South Rockingham Co/Spotswood area: Beth Raynes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff: Jennifer Flory, email@example.com, 540-298-2891