Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Little Girls' Subversive Training Society

This is the centennial year of Girl Scouting.

It's amusing and really quite sickening to me that this is also the year that the Far Right has decided to attack and openly vilify Girl Scouting. This week brought the latest insane assault on a a really great, valuable program for girls and young women by an ignorant and ill-informed member of the Indiana state legislature, Bob Morris. He sent a letter to his Republican legislative brethren declaiming a resolution passing through the legislature to recognize the Girl Scout Centennial, calling the organization "radicalized" and claiming that GSUSA supports Planned Parenthood, promotes homosexuality, and encourages abortion.


Here is the Michiana Girl Scout Council's official response.

I was a Girl Scout up through Cadettes. My mother was our Service Unit Manager (sort of a head district leader) for Smalltownland and the surrounding county. When I returned to Smalltownland, for three of the five years that I worked for the Baptist college, I was first a leader and then became Service Unit Manager myself. At no time were we doing any of the aforementioned. I was more focused, as a Scout, on selling cookies, hanging out with my friends at meetings, whether my uniform met the standard, and earning my badges. As an adult Girl Scout, I was worried about recruitment, promoting the program's values, scheduling meetings, getting my cookies organized and distributed, and having interesting badge-earning activities every time we met...oh, yeah, and making sure that we had snacks for the meetings.

My absolutely least favorite job was enforcing the standards laid down in SafetyWise. Anybody who's ever been a leader, particularly at a management level, knows and just looooves that part of it. Ever tried telling a leader whose husband built a float for a parade that the girls have to be seatbelted to fixed stands or seated on the float? No? Good luck with that. You'll want to kill yourself later. Trust me. I was too busy trying to keep everybody else from strangling that particular leader (myself included, because it took ENORMOUS restraint) to worry about indoctrinating the girls into lesbianism. Besides, being straight, I'm not sure I'd know how...and I don't think it's covered in the handbooks. I'll have to dig those out and check.

The co-leader for my troop was a classmate of my sister's, and was a Brownie in my mom's troop. We were really excited when I found Mom's Girl Scout basket o'stuff and along with it, the pattern for the felt Christmas tree mitts that the Brownies wore every year as they walked in the local Christmas parade. Yes, we made the green felt tree mitts, and the girls wore them, proudly waving to the crowd- Tracy's and my hands were stained green and gummy with glue for weeks afterward, but we were SO happy. We'd loved those Christmas trees when we were little. We wanted our girls to have the same experience.

Girl Scouting, if you follow the rules and do it correctly from the adult end, is a lot of hard work. It's a great program. It's not about tea parties and learning to sew; it's about practical skills and common sense, being ready for the challenges of life and facing them calmly. My cousin Jessica is currently a Brownie leader in Indiana for her daughter Akasha's troop- I think it speaks volumes that so many girls were interested that they had to split the troop in half (which happens if you end up with a huge troop of thirty-plus and need extra adults to facilitate things and meet the adult-to-child ratios dictated by SafetyWise). Akasha has dutifully been out selling cookies with Jessica close on her heels, due again to safety concerns and regulations. She enjoys Scouting, and I'm proud that her mother represents another generation in my family who have chosen to take a leadership position to perpetuate the program and keep it available to girls and young women worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, Brian Bosma, purchased and distributed 278 cases of Girl Scout cookies to other members of the legislature in silent protest of Rep. Morris' attack on Girl Scouting.

Juliette Gordon Low did not found this organization to promote anything other than good sense and self-sufficiency for girls and women. It was not radical. It was not feminist. It was patriotic; it prepared girls to grow into capable, rational women, and still does. That's an admirable goal, especially in today's climate of uninformed demagoguery and empty-headed anti-intellectualism. What's the matter, Rep. Morris? Does that frighten you? It must, or you wouldn't be attacking us.

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