Women say Boy Scouts policy to allow girls isn’t necessary–improve GSA and YW programs instead

Written by: 
Hannah Jones & Josh Mason

After the Boy Scouts of America announced it will accept girls into the program, female BYU-Hawaii students said they wouldn’t have joined when they were younger. Instead, they said improving the Girl Scouts of America and including a variety of activities in the Young Women’s programs would be sufficient.

Mariah Beckwith, a sophomore peacebuilding major from Florida, said she was jealous of the Boy Scouts. “I got to go to Boy Scout camp when I was younger because my mom was the cook, and I was so jealous of all the activities they had. Something to work for like badges instead of a bookmark that Young Women had.”

Alyssa Noel Stockford, a sophomore Hawaiian studies major from Oregon, said she never had the desire to do the Boy Scout activities. “When I was older, I felt like Girl Scouts had been a drag in comparison – I never went camping, never learned even the most basic survival skills, no plant or animal identification, etc.”

Stockford joined the church when she was 20, so she said she is only familiar with the Girl Scouts of America. "I earned a lot of badges, but I can't remember a single one or why the information was useful." 

Libby Templeton, a sophomore elementary education major from Oregon, said she wouldn’t have joined BSA had she had the opportunity, but she wishes the Young Women’s programs would plan more activities similar to what the scouts do.

“[My] Young Women’s program had the potential to be just as amazing as Boy Scouts, but the way it was handled in my ward was not equal. The boys went on monthly campouts, high adventure, and had amazing guest teachers.

“The boys had a larger budget, more activities that interested me more. I learned how to knit and ‘be a mother,’ as if a mother doesn’t need to know how to start a fire, manage a budget, or build a bird house.

"If you read the Young Women’s program manuals, leaders have the option to teach girls all those skills."

Having a time to meet with just girls is important, said Templeton. “While I enjoyed being a tomboy, it was nice to have time to just build relationships with girls and to be away from the boys. Also I went to some of my brothers’ events and the teasing and stares from the boys was ridiculous.

“Venture Crew has always been an option for women, and I did not take it because I didn’t want to be in that situation.”

GSA has an amazing program, said Templeton, “and I think if the church sponsored that program, I would have felt way more equal with the boys.”

Beckwith said if “the church sponsors Girl Scouts like it sponsored Boy Scouts, I think it wouldn’t make a difference” if she would want to join.

Letting women in

Jon Carr, a freshman biochemistry major from Utah and Eagle Scout, said, "I honestly think it’s a little [strange] that girls want to join the Boy Scouts of America, seeing as the Girl Scouts of America exists."

Assistant Professor of Art Jeff Merril, a local scout leader who was a Boy Scout as a child, said, "The Girl Scouts of America is totally different than the Boy Scouts.” He referred to comments from GSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo about how working with girls is different than working with boys.

Richard McBride, professor of history and the Scoutmaster for his ward’s troop, argued, "To say 'women can't do that' [isn’t a] feasible argument. My eight-year-old son gets jealous when I go camping with my older son. You don’t think a daughter is going to feel the same way?

"Women want to do things that are adventurous. Many women like the outdoors just as much, and some of them if not more [than men]. As boys get older, ages 16 to 18, they tend to want to do more things with girls that are that age."

“Why do we have to let girls in?” Merril asked. “Not because were being exclusive, but because it wasn’t made for girls. And Acevedo was saying, 'Here's a program that’s exclusively for girls, and we’re catering it to meet the girls needs and give leadership experience.'”

Although the BSA and GSA provide different activities, Carr said, "I think girls should've tried to change the GSA to meet their criteria instead of [joining] the BSA.

Carr said, "If girls want to join that badly, I believe that they should be able to as long as they want to be a Boy Scout. If their intention is to take the 'boy' out of 'Boys Scouts of America,' [then] they should take their problems elsewhere."

Carr drew attention to the issue of gender equality. "The BSA is a historic organization that has taught leadership skills to young men for generations. Though it did not accept girls until recently, I don’t believe that it created or creates legitimate gender inequality since there are leadership programs for young women as well, such as the GSA."

Uncertainty on the LDS Church

The local scout leaders said the Oct. 11 announcement of accepting girls into the program wasn’t a surprise because of all the changes made in recent years, but they aren’t sure what it means for relations with the LDS Church.

McBride said, "There's a lot of pressure on the Boy Scout program to not seem so conservative. But it's been hard because the church has been generally conservative, and the church has been one of the largest supporters... I think there's going to be a parting of the ways."

BSA has had to evolve as the United States changes, said McBride, so “it makes sense when I look at the trajectory of things that are going on."

Merril said, "I have no problem letting girls in. Boy Scouts has a lot to offer.” However, he said the organization doesn’t “really stand for what they used to” based on its decisions made in the past five years.

The BSA’s decision could be a financial motive, Merril speculated. “They might do it service to be like, 'We're all inclusive,' but my real feeling is that the Boy Scouts of America is losing money, so they're looking for a way to generate it by getting more people to [join]. To me, the real issue is not what the boy scouts are doing but how people in our own church are having to be towed along."

Carr said he doesn’t think this announcement will affect the LDS Church’s involvement. "The LDS Church has slowly been leaving the scouting organization for a couple of years now, and I don’t think this change will make much of an impact. Although I believe they [will still] keep their Young Men and Young Women programs separate."

With "very recent" news of the church backing away from older boys participating in the Scouting program, McBride said he didn’t know if older boys and girls mingling was the reason for this change, but “there's a lot of speculation [for] what the future holds."

Date Published: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017