Scouting: Separate but not so equal

Author: Catherine Tutt

As an impressionable ten-year-old, I remember going to my mom and asking her if I could join Boy Scouts. My dad and brothers were both involved in scouting and I thought it was the most amazing thing; however, my mom’s response was not what I had expected. My young doe-eyed self, who thought that I could do anything, was hit with reality.

“Girls can not join Boy Scouts” is what I was told. I was immediately confused. Why couldn’t I join? I could kayak like the boys could. I could go hiking like the boys could. I could build a robot or a pinewood derby car like the boys could. In fact, I did. I participated in the annual pinewood derby put on by my brother’s troop. Many times I had come close to winning.

A year or so passed when my mom came to me with a proposition. “You can join Girl Scouts!” Excitement filled me when I realized I would get my dream. Finally, I would have a group of friends to embark on adventures with. We would climb mountains, kayak in Lake Michigan, or go white water rafting. Together, we would go on every adventure our little hearts aspired to do. I went to the first meeting with my heart overflowing with joy. The leader went through what we would do that day. We would have a whopping talk about cookies, eat some cookies, make some crafts, and then sing some songs. This was not what I was expecting. As the weeks went on I realized this was all we would do. We would sit in a circle and sing about friendship, not climb a mountain. We would have a tea party and practice etiquette, not take a trip to kayak in Lake Michigan. We would learn how to make a macaroni necklace, not how to white water raft. After a year of being disappointed, I quit.

My heart was weighted with confusion. Why wasn’t there a scouting group that allowed girls to do what the boys could do? I believed that I could do all those things—Why didn’t anyone else? I became frustrated with this notion. I noticed this was not just a thought in scouting. In the upcoming years, I would be told that I could not get the highest grade, or run the fastest mile. All because I was a girl? Well, that was just downright ludicrous. The United States of America was supposed to be a country where you could follow your dreams. How was intolerance working towards that dream?

At the tender age of now twelve, I became acquainted with a very new idea—Venturing. As a coed part of the Boy Scouts of America it focuses on leadership, community service, and high adventure. At first, I was incredibly disinterested. It was probably just another so-called “youth run” club that was not actually youth run.

Two years later I joined my local Venturing crew, and began a striking new journey. Everyone was friendly, thoughtful people who genuinely cared about me. I became associated with a group of people who strove to be adventurous and benevolent. Together we went white water rafting, rock wall climbing, horseback riding, visited a senior center, hiked, and kayaked. I was finally allowed to do what I had dreamed of.

Three months into Venturing I joined the President Ford Field Service Council as the youth council VP of Communications; three months later I moved up to VP of Program, along with becoming president of my Venturing crew. Six months later I was re-elected as crew president, as well as asked to serve another term as VP of Communications for West Michigan. Within these positions, I poured my heart and soul into Venturing. I deeply cared about my peers having treasured experiences, and I would work hard to ensure that.

I went on to earn the first, second, and very soon my third Venturing award. The fourth one, called the “Summit” award is equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle Award. As I jumped into scouting, I found myself in love with Venturing. I loved being able to help those around me, provide leadership on outings, and most of all I loved to talk to everyone I came across. I learned the importance of what it is like to take a step back from the materialistic items in the world and let myself focus on the pure and beautiful things I came across. Like a sunrise in Wisconsin, and a sunset over Glacier National Park. The laughter of my friends, or the smell of brisk morning air as we tear down our tents. The hikes my close friend, Kait, and I go on to clear our minds. Venturing gave me something that I struggled to find—peace.

While scouting has come far in terms of letting females be involved there is still an obvious push against female Scouters. With all the positive experiences I had gained, I was shocked to find I was limited from the full scouting experience based on my gender. There was still a program associated with scouts that youth females were not allowed to join. The Order of The Arrow is a program associated with the Boy Scouts of America. Their mission is to “recognize Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives”. Each year youth and adult Scouters are recognized and inducted into the “brotherhood” of the “OA”. Except there is one catch, one secret qualifier. Female youth scouts cannot be inducted into the OA. Despite how dedicated and passionate about scouting they may be, they are still unable to be recognized.

OA advisors typically give the answer of “the OA is not a Venturing program”. Well, my question is, if Venturing is a Boy Scout program why is Venturing not included in the OA? Furthermore, male youth venturers and female advisors involved in a troop and crew are able to join the OA. Scouting was created to give both young men and women an opportunity to be passionate about leadership and the outdoors. It is foolish to give one section of scouts an opportunity to be recognized and not the other. Whether you are a male scouter or a female scouter, you deserve to have the same opportunity. Female scouts should not be deprived of an opportunity to enrich their scouting experience.

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