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Now Look Who Can't Join the Boy Scouts

Photograph by Twenty20

Two years ago, the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay troops. More recently, the organization called for no longer excluding gay men from serving as leaders in the century-old organization.

But there's another marginalized group that has long fought for inclusion in the Boy Scouts, long considered, as the New York Times puts it, "the cradle of American male leadership."

Girls.

In a year when we saw a dramatic shift and more open discussion about gender and breaking down traditional roles assigned to males and females, girls are trying, once again, to be allowed to officially join.

Boy Scouts of America, however, isn't quite there. Yet?

The Times reported on five girls in the Northern California town of Santa Rosa who have petitioned BSA to let them join. The girls, who already consider themselves Boy Scouts, submitted their applications and made their plea at a Nov. 13 meeting at their area Boy Scout headquarters. The men on the panel pushed the decision up to the national level, saying girls were excluded from BSA and that they had no authority to admit them. The men agreed to forward the girls' request to the national office.

The girls, who call their group the Unicorns, took part in a skills-building course, Learning for Life, which is for both boy and girls and is affiliated with BSA. They also placed second in camporee, a big scouting competition of grit and spirit whose competitors included dozens of Boy Scouts groups.

"There's no really 'girl things' or 'boy things,'" Ella Jacobs told the panel of BSA leaders. She held up first-place and other award ribbons to demonstrate her abilities and that she stands on equal footing as the boys in their organization.

Some of the girls in the Unicorns had tried out Girl Scouts, but didn't like selling cookies and preferred learning to tie knots and build fires—skills Girl Scout leaders say their members also develop but something none of the girls had experienced.

Concern over girls and boys sleeping in the same tents and the erosion of boys-only time appears to be at the top of the list. But also more subtle (and kind of ironic worries) that girls, who some studies show are starting to dominate school classrooms and sports, will earn their way into the leadership positions, which, if the current single-gender rule is enforced, are guaranteed to go to boys only.

Both the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of American have seen a decline in participation in the last decades, leading one to wonder whether separating genders isn't part of the problem. Is it time for the two scouting organizations to join forces and teach leadership and justice for all?

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