Girl guidance

Lots in the news recently about the list of things that Girl Guides in the UK have reported as wanting to have training or acquire skills in – full details here.

Interesting results: of the 16-25 age group, 80% said they wanted more sex education (perhaps this will help); in the 10-15, 68% wanted to learn how to stand up to boys; 65% self-defence.

Initially positive news, I thought – good that the Guides are responding to the voiced concerns of their members. And indeed, the report claims that the survey was conducted because ‘we prioritise giving girls the skills, experiences and opportunities they need to reach for new aspirations and succeed in the modern world’ (so says Chief Guide Liz Burnley).

….However, I hate to say it, but further investigation lead me to the following conclusion about the best way to get equipped with skills for the modern world: join the Scouts (female members permitted)!

Just take a look at the respective list of activities badges, here and here. As a Guide, one can take badges in camping, science, team leading. Not bad, I thought, til I noticed that as a Scout, one could take badges in many more topics, with much greater specificity: for example, in aviation skills, meteorology, dragon boating, public relations.

And there’s some annoying gendered badges: for Guides, cook and ‘finding your way’ badges; for scouts, chef and orienteering badges.

Further, one might think that a more general point is in the offing: each organisation representing a distinctive strategy for gender equality. One same sex organisation, which provides activities in a way that seems to rely on gender differences, with the projects accordingly attuned (the site tells us: “there is one element that remains central to the ideas and ambitions of Girlguiding UK: the ‘girl’.” I find that way of putting it kind of disturbing!); on the other hand, an organisation for both sexes, aiming for ‘A more balanced and natural environment in which young people can develop … [with] a more diverse range of skills, qualities and interests’. (see the incredibly level-headed training document on mixed scouting here).
Interesting to think about how the gender perceptions of younger generations are being formed, given these will be the feminists of the future (one hopes)!

6 thoughts on “Girl guidance

  1. Fascinating comparison. I wonder how many girls join the Scouts– I hadn’t known it was possible. Do you know, by the way, if atheism and homosexuality are forbidden by UK scouts and guides? I’m pretty sure they are by US scouts (both boy and girl scouts).


    My blog is about sports as a means to show the practicality of philisophical tohught and often deals with capitalism and the commercial control of modern culture and seeks to question the validity of criticizing these things or supporting them. It’s light hearted and I urge philosophers to be open minded and to think in new and different ways and steer clear of dogmatism. My aim is to raise the awareness among the masses of intellectual independence using practical philosophy. I study metaphysics and epistemology and enjoy it, but promote the practical use of philosophy, for if it is not used, the opinions of the ignorant about philosophy being pedantic become true – excercize your philosophy on your reality; you must have one.

  3. ‘Cooking’ and ‘finding your way’ badges?! I’m going to laugh or else I’ll cry.

  4. Jender,
    Here’s what the Scoutbase in the UK say on homosexuality:
    ‘The Scout Association has an equal opportunities
    policy and as it says, has no objection to the
    sexual orientation of any of its members.
    Therefore you do not have to leave Scouting if
    you are gay.’
    An advice document on being gay and being a scout can be found here:

    Click to access fs185082.pdf

    There, it also specifies that the Scouts should not discriminate on the basis of political or religious belief – presumably that includes atheism.
    However, the Scount promise includes the lines:
    ‘I promise that I will do my best
    To do my duty to GOd and to the Queen’
    Although this line is changed, in the Arabic version, to ‘To do my duty to my God and the country I live in’.
    So perhaps there is a version for atheists – or perhaps atheists just have to treat ‘my God’ as a non-referring term.

    Finally, the document linked below reports 12.5% female membership, of 446,352 scouts in the UK.

    Click to access GrowingMembership.pdf

    I’ve learnt a lot about Scouting this week! Dib dib dib.

  5. Thanks for looking all that up! Yes, I suppose for atheists it’s like taking an oath to do one’s duty to Santa Claus, which simply isn’t very demanding. Interesting that Arabic speakers can get away without supporting the monarchy though! What’s with “dib dib dib”?

  6. ‘Dib’, derived from ‘DYB’ – ‘Do Your Best’.
    Similar: DOB (Our).
    To be heard, apparently, chanted around campfires.

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