I first became a Girl Scout more than 30 years ago. Each week, I walked through our northern California neighborhood to my Brownie meetings in my brown jumper, my beanie bobbie-pinned to my hair, a quarter in the dues pouch on my belt. Every year we would camp out and every year it would rain and we would complain about cleaning latrines, but we also sang silly songs, played silly games, and learned about native plants and how to build a fire even if the firewood’s wet. There was the year that it snowed while we were tent camping and when we got home, we found out that the Boy Scouts had gone home early and the Girl Scouts had stuck it out.
When we weren’t camping, my fellow Girl Scouts and I enjoyed doing service projects, hiking with naturalists, designing activities for younger girls, learning how to build an oven out of cardboard and tin foil, and taking trips to other states. Girl Scouts gave me my first chances to speak in public, and helped me see that being silly isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Girl Scouts helped me experience what it means when women and girls stand by each other. In Girl Scouts I developed confidence in myself and leadership skills that have served me well in both my personal and professional life.
I have been a Girl Scout in four different states. I went through every level of Girl Scouts as a girl, and I always knew that, if I had a daughter, she would be a Girl Scout, too.
Now I’m in my second year as a leader with my daughter’s troop. In the years between my membership as a girl and my membership as a leader, Girl Scouts has made efforts to update the program to appeal to today’s girls.
Here’s what they came up with:
This is one of the incentives my daughter received for selling a certain number of candies, nuts, and magazine subscriptions during the Fall Product Sale. When I was a girl in the program, we didn’t have a Fall Product Sale, and the incentives we got for cookie sales were generally patches, animal-themed tchotchkes, logo t-shirts, and—for the really big sellers—credits to go on Girl Scout adventure trips.
Clearly, since I was a girl in the program the organization has realized that those kinds of things don’t motivate girls to sell stuff. So, they asked themselves, what do girls these days care about? What do the women leaders of tomorrow need more of?
Faced with such questions, the national organization came to a realization: nature is all around us. I can look out my window right now and see ten or twelve birds at the feeder in my yard. Girls don’t need to have nature pointed out to them.
You know what’s not all around us? Shopping malls. There are squirrels hiding nuts all over my flower beds, but I have to drive almost two miles to get to the nearest shopping mall.
And shopping is awesome! Looking at ads, seeing the latest trends, choosing the outfit that will make us be noticed and popular and pretty. It’s what it means to be a woman in America!
This is a message our girls aren’t getting enough of from mainstream media. How are our girls going to know how great shopping is unless Girl Scouts points it out to them? Study after study shows that girls are severely deficient in positive messages about consumerism, and Girl Scouts is filling that void and helping our daughters develop a love of shopping from the age of five (the age that girls can join Girl Scouts nowadays). After all, who needs nature when you can shop?
And you know what else we can do? We can give the girls a pinewood derby, just like the Cub Scouts has. Only because everyone knows that girls don’t like building things we have to make it more appealing. I know! Let’s call it a “Powder Puff Derby”! Girls these days need to be reminded that they can do anything the boys can do as long as they do it cutely! (Double-bonus that it teaches them about cosmetics application. Goodness knows my daughter won’t be learning about that from me!)
Kudos to you, Girl Scouts, for leading my daughter and the rest of her generation boldly into the 21st century!