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The Boy Scouts Will Now be Open to Girls, But is That a Good Thing?

Photograph by Twenty20

On a news day plagued with raging fires, political turmoil and revelations of the shocking indiscretions by Hollywood hot shot Harvey Weinstein, there was what seemed like a bit of good news. The Boy Scouts of America announced—coincidently on the International Day of the Girl— that they will now be letting females join their ranks.

While us gals are still fighting as hard as ever for an equal share of the pie, respect, and rights, this timely tidbit gives way to new hopes for gender equality and having all have the same opportunities (and badges) that our male counterparts have.

The Boy Scouts of America board voted, unanimously, for this major change in policy. "We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children," said Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts.

The fraternal organization, which has been around for over a hundred years, made this historic change in response to the changes in American life and busy families (why belong to two organizations rather than just one?)

But don’t think that all the kids will be Cub Scouting together. "Cub Scout dens will be single-gender—all boys or all girls," the organization said in a statement. In 2019, there will be a separate program created for older girls, where they can work towards the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.

This change in policy is not an abrupt one—the Boy Scouts have slowly been integrating girls for a while now. Girls are currently able to participate in several scouting programs: Venturing (outdoor activities), Sea Scouting (water activities), Exploring (a career focused mentoring program), and STEM (based on math and science). But none of those programs would lead to the path of Eagle Scout-dom.

Throwing the doors of their dens open to girls could, potentially, double their numbers.

Earlier this year, the National Organization for Women was vocal about the Boy Scouts opening all their offerings to girls, spurred on by Syndey Ireland, a teen that wanted to become an Eagle Scout like her older brother, but had no course of action since she’s female. But soon, girls like Syndey can fulfill their Eagle Scout dreams.

While this might all seem like rainbows and unicorns, some see it as a marketing move, not a moral one.

The Boy Scouts have suffered declining memberships. Throwing the doors of their dens open to girls could, potentially, double their numbers.

And the Girls Scouts, at least previously, were not stoked about the Boy Scouts trying to steal away their girls calling the move akin to a “corporate hostile takeover." Last September, the Girls Scouts board sent an accusatory letter to their male competitor stressing that they should "stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts" and "not consider expanding to recruit girls."

This comes of the heels of a string of controversies regarding the Boy Scouts, with their short-lived ban on gay scout leaders, to their recent gathering that Donald Trump used as a platform for his agenda. The Boy Scouts clearly needed an injection of good will. And it seems to be working ... so far.

We spoke to a parent of two boy scouts who was happy with the news. “Both programs have different goals, but what I can say is this is good, because every family is different, and now every family can decide what works best for them and their kids,” said writer and Scout mom Silvia Martinez. “The way I see it, the more opportunities to raise our kids with important life skills the better.”

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