Institutionalized Gender Inequality Starts in the Church at Age 8…

…when our boys got into Cub Scouts and our girls begin attending Activity Days.

Program Accoutrements A Wolf Cub Scout (8 year old Boy) An 8 Year Old Activity Days Girl
Uniform $35.99 (including patches) None
Handbook $8.99 Cub Scout book + Faith in God Faith in God
Awards $1.23 per pin; $1-$4 per patch; $1.50 per belt loop* None
Academic Year Programming Weekly meetings with dens and an end of the month pack meeting where awards are given to boys No more than two times a month (see Primary handbook)
Summer Programming Monthly pack meetings and a 3 day Cub Scout Day Camp** No more than two times a month (see Primary handbook)
Leadership Ratio 4:1 No requirement
Leadership Protection Background checks and Youth Protection Training are required of all Scouting leaders No requirement
Cost per participant per year $150 (this includes the expenses listed above, Day Camp, Pinewood Derby and other programming costs) $10 (supplies for bi-weekly activities)

uniformsRecently, I was called to be a Cub Scout master for my stake. I’m am happy to be in this calling. I love the boys in our program. We have amazing den leaders. And, I’m grateful that the Church is providing a program that many of our boys could not afford (as seen in the chart above) without the Church’s assistance.

I have mentioned before my issues with the Boy Scouts of America. The bureaucracy, homophobia, and salaries/pension plans upset me. But, I have to say that the BSA Cub Scout program is admirable. The program gets boys to go outside their comfort zones and try new skills. The activities get my son to see there’s more to life than Xbox (even when he as he completes the requirements of the Video Gaming pin). He sees attributes like loyalty, obedience, kindness, and trust outside of our usual spiritual context.

Right now, we’re getting ready for Day Camp, and even though it’ll be three days of us all outside from 2 pm to 10 pm in Phoenix, Arizona, I know that our Cub Scouts will have opportunities to learn skills that they can’t learn in school or church.

There are so many leaders in my stake who are going to heroic efforts to get our Cub Scouts to have a great experience, and they’re mostly women–like the branch Primary president who drives to the homes of boys who don’t have phones as she tries to pick them up for weekly den meetings or the Stake Primary presidency who I can frantically text, asking her to bring ice 5 minutes before a pack meeting. She pulls out of the building parking lot and goes to Circle K, as she also gets the stake to call and set apart the leaders we need.

Let me be clear here. Though I don’t love the BSA, I do not want Cub Scouts taken away from our boys. I only ask that we have the same level of programming and funding be available on a Church-wide basis for our girls.

Because I can’t help but think about the Activity Day girls. (Starfoxy served these girls for several years and posted some of her lesson plans here and wrote about a combined Pinewood Derby event in her stake and the feelings it brought up for her.)

  • Why can’t we have this sort of programming for them?
  • What message does this send to our Activity Day girls?
  • What message does this send to the sisters of Cub Scouts who attend the monthly pack meeting?
  • What message does this send to our Cub Scouts?

We see sexism often in Church beginning in nursery. But, it seems ironic that we ask our children to make their baptismal covenants the same year we have also have gender-specific program that sadly, makes a statement about who we value.

*Cub Scouts generally earn one of these each month.
**This is our stake’s program and varies by location.

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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62 Responses

  1. Jessawhy says:

    This is so hard for me to read. I know that it’s true, I have a 10 year old who loves Cub Scouts and two younger sons who are eager to join.

    The problem for me is that I want equality, but the parents with girls don’t seem to care. I’m not sure how I stand up for girls without pulling my boys out of the program in protest. (Which I would happily do, but somehow think I would wind up paying for therapy for my sons as adults).

    When I was in Cub Scout leadership I tried to include the girls in Pinewood derby, which ended badly. Any suggestions on other ways to promote equality here?

    • jesse says:

      When I was growing up, I caught onto the idea that all weekday activities sponsored by the church were optional. My parents encouraged the idea that these activities were for people who didn’t have anything better to do–and I was never st a loss for enriching activities in my community: music lessons, sports, after school clubs, etc…

      Now that I have children, I find this attitude a bit less useful. My kids want to participate…in everything. My daughter is 8 and recently began sporadically attending activity day girls activities–in violation of our family ‘s 2 activities at a time rule. I let her attend so that she could see the difference between the church program and the Girl scouts, of which she has been a part since age 6. In a few days we will sit down and she will decide which she wants to give up, Girl Scouts or activity days. I sure hope she chooses to keep GS. Her troop has done some really cool things: removing invasive species at a local nature preserve, camping, and horseback riding to name a few. I also like that the girls in her troop are the girls she sees and plays with at school.

      When my son gets old enough, I will allow him to participate in cub scouts at school if he wants. My ward and stake leaders already know I oppose the church’s involvement with BSA.

      Of course a lot of my objection stems from my belief that the church overprograms its members. I see most of the “extra” meetings–RS socials, primary/scout activities, ward parties, etc… as a burden, not a blessing. Why are we isolating ourselves in our little wards and stakes overburdened with an abundance of meetings and activities that est up our time and energy?

      Drop the fluff and we wont have to worry about the boys getting more of it than the girls. Trust us to find worthwhile activities and friendships within the communities where we live.

      • EmilyCC says:

        Jesse, lots of good points here. I think there is a danger of overprogramming, and I’m not quite sure how to solve it. I see plenty of kids with too many activities truly, but some of the boys in our Cub Scouts only have CS as their extracurricular activity.

      • Jesse says:

        Jessawhy,

        While I understand that there is value in providing enriching activities to children (and youth and adults), I question whether the LDS church is the optimal vehicle for delivering such activities.

        I know that many people love church sponsored activities. However, I also know many families restrict their children’s participation in community sponsored activities in favor of church sponsored ones (even if the community sponsored activities are better managed and more engaging for the children)–and I question this practice.

        I know many parents (mothers mostly) who moan and groan about the amount of time weekday church activities consume–and the lack of consideration cub scout/boy scout and other church leaders give to families who actually do try to participate in their community. They want to be a force for good in their neighborhood, but feel the mighty cultural pressure to “support” the cub scout leader/boy scout leader/RS enrichment leader. They question the value of the programs for their children but make them go because “a son of God earns his eagle” etc…. And then they don’t have time to participate in their community, furthering their Mormon sense of otherness (peculiarness).

        I don’t know that we should drop all of our extra programming, but I’m beginning to enter a stage of life where my children’s activities are multiplying. I would like to feel more free to let my children choose those activities which are best for them without feeling pressure to attend activities simply because they are part of church programming.

        In my ward this pressure is overt and aggressive.

      • Jesse says:

        oops! I meant to address my comment to EmilyCC.

    • EmilyCC says:

      I think we can do what we so often do–work at a local level for the changes we hope to see, but that’s uncertain (as we see from Starfoxy’s Pinewood Derby post where we saw regularly combined PWD to a strict gender segregation of the event).

      I think this is a case where change needs to come from the top down. Activity Days is an underdeveloped program. It shouldn’t be hard to change this. (right?)

      • Jesse says:

        I agree that the change should come from the top. I see a few possible avenues:

        1) Scrap the cub scouting program and just do Activity Days for Primary age children — which hurts those boys who enjoy it, but evens the playing field for the boys and girls and removes the cultural insistence that BSA is the same as the gospel.

        2) Implement the Girl Scout program for the girls. One of the things that baffles me about the activity day program is the seeming need for the women who run it to re-invent the wheel. Why are we asking them to design an enriching program for our girls when one already exists?

        3) Switch to some other program for both boys and girls: like 4H or something similar.

        4) Get rid of the extra meetings. My mother often tells me how much better it is now that we have a consolidated Sunday schedule. “We used to have Primary on one day a week, RS on another, etc…” she tells me. My response: we still do! Only now we have 3 hours on Sunday, Scouts one night a week, Activity DAys every other week, RS activities every month, Seminary every morning, EQ activities, etc…. The consolidated schedule did not reduce meeting times, it multiplied them. If individual members of a ward want to sponsor a scout troop, that’s great! Let them do it. But, please let it be a choice, not an obligation.

  2. Davis says:

    While your monetary breakdown is accurate, it does not reflect much with regard to my Stake. Most of the Cub Scouting fees you have listed are paid by the family, not the Ward or Stake. All of the young women’s budget listed is paid by the Church.

    For a very long time, our Stake had very bad attendance issues with week day activities for the girls – Activity days and the Young Women’s program. As a solution, a huge effort was made to make sure that there was no inequality with regard to money between the girls/boys and YW/YM programs.

    After several years of exact monetary equality, the results are quite surprising. It turns out the money issue is not the issue after all. There has been essentially no change in attendance. Our programs for the girls routinely end up having excess funds at the end of the year.

    I do not know what the answer is, but after many years of skepticism, I have been convinced that the money has nothing at all to do with it.

    • EmilyCC says:

      I would agree with you, Davis. Money doesn’t have much to do with it, but (and perhaps I should have highlighted this better) quality programming and a group of leaders does. As a former Activity Days leader, I think how much better I would have done if I had had someone besides me coming up with activities or if I had someone else to bounce ideas off of.

      Oh, and I should note, my stake doesn’t pay for shirts and patches and the monetary breakdowns are a compilation of a few stakes and wards across the country that I could get figures for.

      • April says:

        While the fact that we spend $9 on a handbook for boys and $0 for no handbook for girls may not be very important, I think the wealth of information in the handbook for educating boys versus the complete absense of information for girls is extremely relevant. I served as activity days coordinator and I recieved nothing but the same Faith in God pamphlet the kids receive. I spoke with a friend who was recently called as scout leader and she told me about an interesting electricity experiment she conducted with the boys based on instructions she read in her detailed manual. I would have loved to do such activities with the girls when I was their leader, but with no instructions, I could only do things I personally knew how to do. The leadership and meeting requirements also force ward leaders to take scouts seriously and make sure an adequate number of responsible adults supervise the scouts and are accountable for making things happen. The complete lack of such requirements for girls means that they are often left with only one leader for large numbers of girls and the calling is not always taken seriously. The activity days leader that preceded me served for a year, alone, and held only two activities the whole time. That would not be allowed to happen to the scouts.

      • anita says:

        I know, every time my son has a birthday I have to go spend $100 at the scout store for the next level gear (you didn’t mention the socks, belt, neckerchief, slide, hat–our ward checks for them all at uniform inspection)! Super irritating.

  3. spunky says:

    This is a powerful comparison. I think it is important to note that the Boy Scouts are a calling of the church in the United States; it is not a calling or a part of the church outside of the US. Activity Days in Australia, for example, are for all boys and girls, because there are no scouts groups associated within the institutional church in Australia or New Zealand. That being said, the majority of international Missionaries are American missionaries, and the sense of American Mormon Male privilege is prevalent and maintained by these missionaries (both male and female is only because the many of the women I have spoken to are treated more poorly on missions in comparison to males). Therefore, a part of the gender disparity culture that is established in the world-wide church is introduced as a part of American Mormon culture, making this is an issue for the church as a whole.

    Well done with pointing this out, EmilyCC.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Thanks, Spunky! The lack of an international counterpart to the BSA and Cub Scout program is an important point (and one I forgot to make).

      • N. says:

        Scouting is a world-wide confederation of nationally-divided scouting programs, of which the BSA is only one member of World Organization Scouting; the world scouting emblem is even required on the adult BSA uniforms .

        There are scouting organizations in almost every country and they run their organizations according to their own programs (age, activities,uniforms, etc), but all need to adhere to the World Organization Scout Promise and Law.

  4. Katie says:

    I’ve been a cubmaster for about 9 months. I can’t agree with you more. On every single point. Sometimes it angers me that I am part of the “machine” that fuels so much gender inequality. But then again, half of our boys are from rough family situations and they gain so much from cub scouts.

    • LovelyLauren says:

      I don’t think cub scouts is inherently bad at all. It’s a great activity and while I have mixed feelings about the church’s support for the program, there are kids who get to participate because of the Church when they otherwise wouldn’t get too.

      What grinds my gears has more to do with what the girls aren’t getting rather than what the boys are.

  5. EmiG says:

    Church units are not supposed to pay for handbooks (or uniforms), but as April mentioned above, the fact that they exist as resources points to the disparity. And the Church does pay, at least in my area, for all of the awards, the Pinewood Derby kits, and a good chunk of the cost of day camps – the families only contribute $20.

    The difference that gets me the most – and I have three sons, no daughters – is that the boys have a monthly meeting to which the families are invited and at which they are recognized for their achievements and accomplishments. Our girls don’t have family involvement in their program, much less on a monthly basis, and aren’t formally recognized at any point for what they learn or do.

  6. Lala says:

    I was AD leader for about a year, but just moved into the primary pres….and through gentle pushing I’ve been able to make some minor changes. Our girls are also going to cub country this summer. They will participate in the flag fundraiser to help pay their costs. We are also going to provide them with “uniform” tshirts to wear to camp and to their activities if they choose. When I held AD I held at least a quarterly meeting with parents to let them know what their girls have achieved and to recognize those achievements. I was working up a little awards things when I was released.
    The inequality is a big issue to me, but I agree with you, I’m not sure I want the program (though I am NOT a friend of scouts) to be taken away from the boys…

    • EmilyCC says:

      I love hearing stories like this. I had a fantasy about getting our AD girls to Cub Scout Camp this year, but I don’t think I’ve quite recovered from my last gender-equalizing attempt. Good on you, Lala!

    • Nate Curtis says:

      Yeah. We presented the option of attending the only co-ed session of cub scout camp with the Activity Days girls to our den leaders. It was a non-starter, and if we can’t get buy-in from our den leaders, we have no hope of getting parents or leaders to approve.

      Give us some ideas as to how you made that happen. I would love to see the girls in our stake get the cub scout camp experience.

  7. Kat says:

    I wish I hadn’t read this before I went to bed. Didn’t make for very good material to go to sleep to 😉 Another cost associated with scouts is chartering the unit itself. I don’t know if that’s a ward or stake cost. I also don’t know how much that is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not cheap.

    I do think Cub Scouts is a cool program, but I have a problem with so much church money/human resources going towards it. If it were the same across the board for boys and girls in EVERY country (not the exact same program, but more equal programs), I could maybe get behind it. But the way things are now, I would prefer for scouts to not have a place in the church.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Kat, thanks for bringing up the human resources aspect…that is huge (see today’s post for more about those labor costs: http://www.the-exponent.com/guest-post-the-cost-of-volunteer-hours-in-the-churchs-cub-scouting-program/)

      • Nate Curtis says:

        For more details on rechartering and registration fees. This is the one part of scouting that the church does universally pay for. It comes right out of ward/stake budgets. And the church requires that every boy on the rolls 8 or older, regardless of activity level, be registered as a scout. That is $40 per boy, per year.

        The process of rechartering is about the most miserable experience I have ever had in the church. Imagine stacking all of the useless bureocracy from the church on top of all the useless burocracy in the BSA, and then jump through those hoops 60+ times (once for each scout and adult) and you will get an idea as to what the first round of rechartering is like.

        The BSA currently requires me to fill out all forms both hard copy and electronically, and I have to fill it out for every unit. So if an adult holds two positions (like cub master and committee member) I have to fill out their paperwork twice for every pack (6 packs in our stake). When labor is free, abuse is assumed.

      • Ziff says:

        Nate, my wife was the scout committee chair for three wards in a stake we used to live in, and her experience with rechartering sounds very much like yours. The amount of paperwork she had to do, particularly the amount of redundant paperwork, was unbelievable. Setting aside all the inequality issues (which is a big thing to set aside), another major complaint of mine is that the BSA seems to me to be a hugely backward, flabby organization that could use some competition to force it to get into the 21st century.

      • Nate Curtis says:

        If you think that is bad, don’t go looking for what the BSA pays its employees. The guys who run individual districts (40-100 packs and/or troops) get paid close to a quarter million.

        All sales from those overprices uniforms are earmarked for their very generous pension plan.

        The pension plan that was not denied the BSA’s national executive in charge of youth safety because he faxed his resignation letter to the BSA while the FBI was executing a search warrant on his home looking for child porn. He spent seven years in jail, but the BSA never even tried to deny him his pension. His wife (who never left him) picked him up when he was released from prison and took him home to their new pension-purchased McMansion backing the 10th hole in a gated community in Texas.

        And then there is the whole pedo-file issue.

        But all of that is a distraction. The BSA is a horribly sick organization. As is common with monoplistic power, the entity with the monopoly eventually corrupts and destroys itself. The BSA has a great product and no competition. In business, that is a recipe for disaster. One symptom of a pending collapse is a horribly inefficient bureaucracy which the BSA has in spades.

  8. Jessica F says:

    Great post. This is one of the reasons we moved to the UK. In my last ward I was in the primary presidency you figures are lower than what I saw in that ward. It was around 300 per boy.

    • EmilyCC says:

      I think you’re right, Jessica…after I posted this, my husband (and co-Cubmaster) pointed out that I didn’t figure in chartering and registration.

  9. spunky says:

    I think it is interesting that some of the comments reflect a reticence to void the scout program. I am actually disappointed that the church does not do scouts in Australia– because Scouts Australia is co-ed. It is not the “Boy” scouts of Australia, it is “Scouts Australia.” Girls and women can be involved if they choose.

    Still, the church in Australia is not affiliated with scouts, for what formal reason, I do not know- but I suspect a series of things led to the disavowed status— allowing girls in, thus creating co-ed sleepovers, the non-discrimination of homosexual scouts and the growing tradition of having scout formal meetings in Sundays.

    But- from a US perspective- this begs the question– if the BSA became “Scouts USA” and allowed girls and women in, would support it better and without conflict at church? I like the idea that girls (and boys) could have the option, rather than the obligation to do scouts, so am not a huge fan of it being a “calling” or a church required activity group.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Great question, Spunky! I think there are so many flaws with the BSA that I’d prefer for the Church to cut their ties and come up with their own program–even just beef up Activity Days more.

    • N. says:

      ” if the BSA became “Scouts USA” and allowed girls and women in, would support it better and without conflict at church?”

      In the USA, the BSA has a fully co-ed program for ages 13-21 called “Venture Scouting” (Venturing is the umbrella organization for Sea Scouts as well); a unit can be chartered as sex-exclusive or co-ed. All co-ed overnighters require 2-deep leadership of both sexes.

      The only thing that keeps the Scout program in the church from being co-ed after the age of 13 is the policy of what kind of units the church will charter.

      • Nate Curtis says:

        Ahh. I remember that they did make Venture on up co-ed. I did not realize that was at the discretion of the charter organization (the church in our case). In the few co-ed teams I have encountered, they do merit badges and meeting together, but camp outs are gender specific. I can see some good logic in that.

        There is nothing preventing the church from letting girls participate in scouting from ages 13-18. Girls could even earn the Eagle Scout award if they wanted. The church could make that change tomorrow, and the BSA would cheer them on (it would double the already considerable revenue they get from the church).

  10. Katie says:

    I always thought it was nice that the church provided Cub scouts for the boys and I recognized that girls did not have the same level of involvement so as a mother, it was my responsibility to provide those opportunities and I supported my girls in Camp Fire clubs and activities. Some of my grandchildren are now in the UK where there is no cub program and boys and girls participate in co-Ed activity days. Programs vary throughout the Church. Some countries involve teenage girls in scouting. I don’t believe that the Church is responsible for all my family’s social needs, that is my stewardship and if the church helps out, that’s great and if not, then I find other outlets which often offer missionary and fellowshipping opportunities as a bonus.

    • Em says:

      I also agree that the church is not in charge of my social needs, and my mother was a co-leader for a Campfire club so I could have that experience. The difference, however, is that my mom and her friend had to run the whole thing for years. If I was going to keep having a club, she had to run it in addition to her callings. By contrast, most parents of cub scouts send their sons off and it is all taken care of, with comparatively little personal oversight. If by chance the parent is the cub scout leader, that IS their calling. So essentially we’re saying this is an opportunity that is very easy to put your son in, but incredibly demanding to create for your daughter. For your son, you are guaranteed that activities will meet your Sunday standards, that there will be prayers and your same values etc. For your daughters, you have no such guarantees. While there is value in associating with the wider community, it is still a fundamentally unequal situation.

      It is possible to create equality of opportunity for your daughters, but that does not change the institutional inequality in the church.

    • EmilyCC says:

      I think you make a great point here, Katie. The Church is not an institution designed to meet social or educational needs. However, I can see value in providing those pieces occasionally for homes that would otherwise not have those needs met. It’s hard for me to draw the line at where the needs of those few are trumped by the strain it puts on the institution.

  11. Marilyn says:

    I love reading The Exponent, but I don’t believe I’ve every left a comment before. However, I had to say something about this. I’ve been a cub scout leader twice, an activity days leader once and a Primary president and have four sons and a daughter. I love cubs, but I must say that activity days leader is once of my very favorite callings ever. I’m so glad it doesn’t have the heavy programming and requirements of cubs, and I never felt hampered by the lack of funds. The other leader and I had between eight and fourteen girls, and we were almost always alone in the building when we met. We did whatever we wanted. So we had annual book sharing sessions (with free books for all), visits to museums, service projects for the library, a talk by a policewoman, Pilates, sports (taught by a woman in the ward who is a former Olympian), tastings of protein bars and unusual fruits, lessons on money and budgets, — and, yes, cooking, sewing and crafts sometimes, too. Twice a year, we invited families to a program which was not exactly an award ceremony. We gave every girl a chance to share something she loved — which ranged from photography to flute to running a triathlon. I loved it and felt that we were doing valuable things every time we met. I’d take the calling again in a heartbeat. I’m all for greater awareness of gender equity in the church. Much needed, definitely. But this particular issue isn’t high on my list of things to agitate for.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Marilyn, it sounds like you were an amazing AD leader. I did that calling when I was 24, and I’m embarrassed about what a horrible job I did. I was in graduate school, lived 45 minutes away from my two charges, and just didn’t have a clue about how to proceed. I wish I had had an experienced AD leader like you to learn from. Thanks for sharing your experience and the innovative ways you did your calling.

    • anon says:

      Sounds like you were an awesome activity days leader. Unfortunately most girls don’t have the experience of having someone like you. When I was called to activity days leader I was given a list of activity day ideas printed from a popular LDS oriented website that included cleaning the nursery toys and a modesty fashion show (PUKE!).

      Last year I did a first aid activity with the girls and I got the activity from cub scouts! The girls loved it and my co-teacher was very impressed. This year we decided to let the girls lead the activities and they have been choosing what they do and one girl and one leader are in charge. They absolutely LOVE it because they get to decide what we do.

      I only have half the girls; the older girls are under two different leaders who are always late and no one ever knows what is going on. Every time we meet, either a parent or the girls themselves come to our room looking for the their leaders. One week this happened repeatedly for a half hour. I’d be super pissed if I brought my daughter to activity days and the leaders were that late. However, I’m not any certain that the cub scouts are doing any better as they appear to always be playing basketball in the gym.

      I don’t know that money makes a difference for activity days so much as the attitude of the leaders. It is absolutely necessary to get people who are interested and engaged in this calling. Unfortunately as a lay church, many members are apathetic about whatever calling they receive.

      I specifically asked for my calling but I can say that I had no clue what to do and there wasn’t any direction or guidance so it took me a while to get a groove going. I hear from the moms that their daughters love activity days so I must be doing something right.

    • Nate Curtis says:

      Thanks for this comment. In all my bashing, I do need to say, I love the product cub scouts gives my boys. I wouldn’t pull them out of cub scouts voluntarily. I also think the AD program is excellent. As you pointed out, the fact that AD flies under the radar so well allows leaders much more flexibility on how and what is done at AD. Equality in scouting and AD would most likely kill that very valuable benefit. I don’t know that the price would be worth the equality.

      That being said, the monetary investment inequality does exist as does the unintended message that it sends teaches girls that they are something less than.

      The manifestation of this inequality lesson comes years later when feminists struggle to effect change in the church. We face direct opposition from men, no doubt, but the more difficult adversaries are those girls who were taught from the time they were little that they were somehow less than boys, who are now grown women, and fight against the feminist movement at times with more vigor and passion than their male counterparts.

  12. Shannon Armstrong Smith says:

    I was told that Church explored the possibility of using the Girl Scout organization, but choose not to get involved due the insistence of their rule that we could not choose are own leaders for the girls. The leaders are chosen by the GS organization. Can anyone confirm this?

    • EmilyCC says:

      I just skimmed the Girl Scouts Blue Book of Basic Documents (http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/facts/pdf/2012_blue_book.pdf) and it looks like the structure is similar to the BSA–you need to be hired to do executive work, but the daily running of troops is done by local volunteers who apply and are generally accepted.

      I’ve heard that the culture of the Girl Scouts is more liberal than the BSA so the Church has shied away from that affiliation (but that was nothing official).

      • spunky says:

        I have also heard that the history of teaching sex ed and about birth control was the primary issue with the church and girls scouts/guides.

      • Nona says:

        My daughter has been in GS for five years. The leaders are always just moms who volunteer. And as far as the liberal/sex ed type stuff, that’s really up to the troop leaders. They very much set their own program. We meet as mothers of the troop once or twice a year to discuss what we want our girls to get out of the program for the year. The program has really been demonized unreasonably.
        That said, I don’t think it is as well organized and achievement driven as the BSA. It’s 100 times better than Activity Days or YW (my daughter attends AD too) but I always cringe when she gets a patch for, like, attending a pajama party. (though that is mostly just for the younger girls. We’re starting to get into real achievement based stuff now)

    • Anon says:

      I believe that the main reason the Church has not adopted the Girl Scouts is that the Girl Scouts insists on holding the final decision on who the troop leadership will be.

      Most leaders are of course simply volunteers and parents, but if push comes to shove, the Girl Scouts organization has the final say as to who the leaders will be. In they Boy Scouts, the chartering organization chooses it’s own leadership.

      In a real world example, if the YW Presidency changed, the GS would not have to make a change to its troop leadership. When the YM Presidency changes, the Scouting hierarchy changes automatically.

      • Cari H says:

        I have a comment awaiting moderation I believe due to links I put in about the Girl Scouts. Can someone release my comment? Please?

  13. Rachel says:

    I don’t have a lot to add, but want you to know that I read this, and think it is a very important post.

  14. Cari H says:

    As far as GS not allowing who chooses to be a troop leader, it is up to the troop. I am currently in the process of starting a troop for my girls. In the past that may have been the case, but I think it would be difficult for any of us (unless someone has first hand knowledge) to say exactly why the church does not and did not get involved with GS. I was told by my father when I wanted to join that I couldn’t because the church didn’t agree with some of the stances of GS, like on abortion. Which I have since learned was a myth and that idea prevented me from participating.

    People may find this interesting about myths from the Girl Scouts of Utah http://www.gsutah.org/for-adults/myth-busters.php

    and this article may be helpful as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Scouts_of_the_USA

    • Nate Curtis says:

      Cari, thank you for this. Our daughter is 2, but I have been struggling with how to give her the same cub scout experience our boys are getting. Girl scouts is the obvious answer, but other than delicious cookies, I know nothing about the organization. Bookmarked for when the time comes.

  15. Ziff says:

    Great analysis, Emily. It’s a depressing conclusion, but it’s great to see the comparisons made so directly. The message to girls seems pretty obvious: you’re welcome as supports for the boys, but don’t think you’re of primary concern to anyone in general leadership.

  16. Caroline says:

    Awesome post, Emily. I don’t have any experience with any of this yet, since my oldest is only 6, but soon I’ll be knee deep in it all. It’s helpful to me to hear all these comments and perspectives on scouting and Activity days.

  17. I don’t know about the councils outside of Utah, but the council camps in Utah regularly have weeks set aside for activity day girls at the cub scout camps and YW girls camp at the high adventure camps, where they can do the same activities the boys do. It’s too bad when they choose not to take advantage of those opportunities. The YW and Primary leaders need to push to bring the programs for girls up to the level of what the boys do. From what I’ve seen, a lot of the sisters that are leaders in these programs fit into one of two camps – either they don’t understand that they can push they envelope on the girls’ activities or they don’t want to. Let’s use some of the pants-wearing and praying-in-conference power to good use and push for equality for our daughters!

  18. Alan says:

    Ideally, the Church would create individualized programs for both girls and boys, tailored to the distinct developmental needs of each gender, without too much regard to cost or hours of service required to support the programs. Or is that what the Church has already done? Does the level of resources (money, service hours) committed to something necessarily reflect priority? I value clean drinking water as much as I value healthy food, yet I spend much more time and money on buying and preparing food to eat than I do on purchasing water and transporting it home to drink.

    • TopHat says:

      It seems that you don’t see the difference between people and things. Your celery and your water don’t care how much time or money you spend on them. The leftover celery stalk will become compost. The water and food you eat will all end up in the toilet.

      Children are people. Their experiences will shape how they see the world and how they relate to others. They see that some people are treated differently than others and wonder why. Imagine if your parents spent more time and money on one sibling, ignoring another. They could say that they love and value both equally, but their actions say otherwise.

      Children aren’t commodities like food and water. They are children of God, deserving of equal opportunities and love.

      • Alan says:

        Obviously people and things are not of equal value, a comparison with food and water was simply an example. But I like your example better. Parents do spend significantly different amounts of time and money on their children, based on the needs and interests of each child. Of course, this does not mean that the parents love one child more or less than another. Parents simply try to identify what is best for each child and provide for him or her as best they can. It seems to me that the Church does the same with respect to youth programs.

        The central conclusion of this article and your comment seem to be that children interpret the relative amount of time or money spent on them as a reflection of how much they are loved or cared about. In my experience, children perceive the intent of others efforts to best meet their needs as a reflection of their love and concern, rather than the amount of time or money spent.

      • MDearest says:

        When I was a child, my mother was called to be a den mother for my younger brother’s cub scout den. I was filled with admiration for the cool things that they did. Not envy, but a sad hope that maybe someday I would be allowed to do things with the leftovers. I would look over her den meeting supplies and would sit for hours reading the how-to books with all the suggested activities that could be planned for the boys. It never occurred to me that I could or should have been included in the fun learning or early development. It was just a given that boys got a lot more extra care in their growth and nurturing, it was never questioned so no reason why was ever given.

        Now that I am adult enough to see what is really behind such systemic discrimination, and knowing that such differences in needs don’t ever (never ever, Alan) occur in all of one gender and none of the other, I wonder how people in charge of the Church programs can justify the disparity.

        Further, time and money spent, while not the entire equation that demonstrates how much we love our children, are certainly part of that equation, and with the disparity measured here, our young men and young women most definitely do notice, and will easily judge for themselves what it means.

  19. Sherry says:

    Bravo on this analysis, EmilyCC! Although I do not support ordaining women to the priesthood, I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support doing everything we can within our own spheres to curb the social and cultural traditions that make our girls, young women, and women feel less valued. Laying out the investment in time, manpower, and resources as you have so succinctly done here provides a great example of the larger cultural gender inequality problem.
    As a young girl with two older brothers whose parents were highly involved in Scouting, I remember enthusiastically asking my mom, “Mom, when do I get to be a Cub Scout?” She tried to break it to me as gently as she could that I wouldn’t ever be a Cub Scout, but I could do other fun things at home with her to help me learn skills that would someday help me in my role as mother. YAWN. Seriously? Although I wouldn’t have understood the words “gender equality” at age 7, I certainly already felt poignantly the effects of it– that girls must not be as important as boys (and they sure didn’t have as much fun). This was confusing and disappointing to me as a child. I could list many other personal examples since then that show this same disparity in our culture.
    Fast forward nearly 40 years. My oldest child and only son is an Eagle Scout. Like others posters here, I have less of a problem with what is put into the boys and take more issue with the lack of resources, manpower, direction, and support for the girls’ Activity Days that creates what seems to me a glaring disparity that is so obvious to girls. I do have to admit, though, I breathed a big sigh of relief when my son was out of Scouting. I wouldn’t be sad if the church parted ways with the BSA and had Activity Days across the board for girls and boys as is done in other countries.
    As a current YW pres, former RS pres, ward and stake Primary pres and mom of two girls, I have to say that my favorite and most rewarding calling was as the Activity Days Leader because it’s where I could have the greatest influence for building girls. When I heard my daughter comparing their “lame” activities to what the Cub Scouts were doing, all those memories of my growing up years came flooding back. And when there was a need for a new Activity Days Leader, I jumped at the chance to volunteer. My ultimate and driving goal? Make the girls feel like the Cub Scouts had nothing on them! I had to work really hard to make that happen with little help, support, money, or direction. I had to find other ways to celebrate the girls without the awards and patches and find ways to include parents in meaningful ways. This was not easy, but at least I was lucky enough to be able to DO something. (Many moms don’t have this same opportunity and just have to watch as their daughters are largely ignored because there isn’t the same support as for the boys their age.) I smiled when I heard one of my daughter’s Cub Scout friends remark how he wished he could go to Activity Days instead of Cub Scouts. Victory! Today I asked my youngest ten-year-old daughter if she has ever felt like she is not as important as the boys at church. She said, “Actually, that has never crossed my mind.” Yes! Another victory in my own little sphere of influence! What’s my big issue then? I feel that mothers should not have to work so hard to even the playing field for their daughters!

  20. Andrew R. says:

    “Let me be clear here. Though I don’t love the BSA, I do not want Cub Scouts taken away from our boys. I only ask that we have the same level of programming and funding be available on a Church-wide basis for our girls.”

    This is almost entirely a USA issue. For the most part the Church-wide programming and funding for boys and girls is the same. In the UK Activity Days, Young Men and Young Women activities and YM and YW camps are all funded the same.

    But there is also no annual drive to get money from parents. It is all LUBA funded.

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