Image: © U.S. Department of Defense

Scouts try to go gender neutral… and get sued

... by the Girls Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America are dropping the “boy” from their name and allowing female members. The Girl Scouts think that’s damaging their brand.

What it means: Scouts, a popular children’s group which involves a lot of running around woods and building campfires, have a slogan -“do a good turn daily”- and a motto: “be prepared”. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) decided last year that their good turn would be to allow girls to join their group. Ironically, they don’t seem to have been super prepared for the humongous backlash that followed, which has ended up with a lawsuit from the Girl Scouts of America (GSA).

The beef seems to be less about gender and more about what is essentially a business rivalry. GSA thinks that BSA is just trying to poach their members in order to reverse a decline in BSA membership (there are about a third fewer American Boy Scouts now than in 2000). And the GSA lawsuit says it’s the only group with the legal right to use “Scout trademarks with leadership development services for girls”. (Trademarks, FYI, are any symbols or words that companies have legally called dibs on.)

If girls did abandon the GSA in droves, would it matter? It certainly might leave some of the GSA staff out of a job and out of a nice paypacket (their CEO makes $400,000 a year). But a more serious issue is what it could do for gender equality. Some people say that refusing to treat male and female children differently like the BSA is doing is a good way to create future business leaders who don’t judge someone’s ability to do a job on their gender alone. But others think that in a world where women still have fewer opportunities than men, female only spaces are important for encouraging women’s growth and development.

Read our explainers on economic inequality and the gender pay gap.  

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