Why Do Men Only Notice Inequality When it Affects Boys?


My two daughters hustling to sell cookies to pay for their summer camping trip this year.

I am about to enter my 6th year as a girl scout leader. My troop is located in Utah County, Utah, in the heart of the church. We are totally self sustaining. We raise our own money, plan our own trips, recruit girls, leaders and volunteers ourselves, and work directly with the community to earn girl scout awards. We are not an exclusively LDS troop, but more of our girls and leaders are members of the church than are not. If you added up the past and current donations in tithing and hours of service to the church between all of us, we would be an impressive force. Our troop has been meeting for years on Thursday evenings at a local ward building, the same night that everyone has stake meetings and the church is often empty other than us. I’m grateful for the church letting us meet there all these years because they certainly didn’t have to. It’s allowed us to grow and expand our age levels and numbers far beyond what we could have done meeting in my living room.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will be kicked out of church buildings at the end of December, when the church switches to their own program and officially disaffiliates with them. They made an official statement in a news release that BSA troops will no longer be permitted to use churches for their meetings. Okay. I guess that makes sense, because BSA has had a long and involved history with the church and they are now splitting ways. The church did NOT say anything about girl scouts, however. And in case you didn’t know, Girl Scouts of America and BSA are totally, completely separate organizations. Banning BSA does not equate banning GSA, although I can obviously understand the confusion.

We asked recently to schedule our current building for the next school year and were told that we, like the boy scouts, couldn’t use it after December either. My co-leader from that stake sent a message directly to her stake president, appealing the decision. She pointed out the obvious, that girl scouts weren’t banned – so why would he suddenly change the rule about us meeting there as well? He called her on the phone and explained his position.

He said, “I know that the church didn’t say anything about the girl scouts, but if I let the girl scouts use the building, the boys might get upset and want to use the building for their programs, too.”

She said back to him, “So, you’re saying you’re personally fine with us using the building, but you won’t because you’re afraid of making the boys feel like it’s not fair?”

He said, “Yes.”

So here’s what I’m hearing – for over 100 years, the church ran a high quality scouting program. It was fully funded, staffed and housed by the church itself, and was available for 100 percent of the boys, and zero percent of the girls. The concern about inequality is crossing his mind now, for the very first time, as it finally effects the boys in the church – and the effect is incredibly minor – a few boys who actually stay in scouts MIGHT be bummed the girls have a meeting location that they don’t have. It’s not like the church is suddenly funding or staffing our troop.  We’ve always provided everything for ourselves, while the boys have had a free ride for over a century. But *now* is when he’s worried about inequality between boys and girls scouting programs for the very first time ever?

(PS. For those who are interested, the same co-leader contacted church headquarters and asked the official policy on letting an outside group such as girl scouts use church buildings for their meetings. She was told those decisions take place on a stake level, and it’s up to the discretion of the individual stake president and his physical facilities representative to decide.)

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7 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    Never ceases to amaze me how much people worry about silly things. It doesn’t matter if the boys get upset – the stake president can do nothing about it, it’s a church wide policy.

    Upsetting the girls, for no good reason, is just stupid.

  2. Chiaroscuro says:

    thanks for writing this up. the systemic inequality in how the church invests in its boys and neglects its girls is heartbreaking to me.
    i hate that when questioning the unequal treatment of girls, the answer is always “Boys need ___. Girls don’t need ___.” I think a lot of people are out of touch with the needs of boys and girls

  3. ElleK says:

    So glad you wrote this up, Abby. It’s just maddening! Did your co-leader go back to the SP with the church’s directive? Could she get a general feel for if any scouts WOULD feel sad if the girls still met in the building? This whole thing is so, so dumb. I hope you find another place to meet where you don’t have to deal with ridiculous patriarchal shenanigans.

    And such a good point: there has been SO MUCH INEQUALITY for decades upon decades, but this man only chooses to see it NOW?

    • Abby Hansen says:

      We are waiting to hear back from the stake president to see if he’ll change his mind, but it’s been a couple weeks and just silence. We’re not expecting him to change his mind really, but maybe he’ll surprise us.

      • Anon says:

        This makes me so mad. I am so sorry this is happening to you. Contact the media if you have to. The men need to be embarrassed of themselves.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The policy will change now to include Girl Scouts and other random things….it’s a matter of time. Be on the look out.

  5. Liz says:

    This is a great article Abby and something we’ve gotten to discuss more in depth amongst our group of females leaders as we stressed over what to do. I hope you’ll post more about it. On a side note our troop has since been invited to use a local private school completely for free (unless you count the cookies we happily took to him). It’s telling that a private citizen and father of five grown women (two of them former scouts) kindly offered his space while a church was too nervous to do so, because some boys might get upset. So?! Don’t they think their daughters deserve better too? Aren’t churches supposed to be open to all? They didn’t even have to kick BSA out either as far as meeting places go. Anyway, it has stressful, but in case any of you wondered, we got a great new home, thanks to a father that cares about girls growing up with the amazing experiences that GSA brings them. 🙂

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