Staff Ed: Boy Scouts – don’t just change your name, change your ways.

Boy Scouts of America is now Scouting America. It’s a change that represents a larger rebrand of the organization after reports of more than 80,000 sexual abuse cases dating back to 1960, a sweeping $850 million settlement, according to Reuters. Between 2019 and 2021, the program lost more than half of its membership, according to U.S. News. Now, the name change aims to differentiate the organization from this tumultuous past and attract new members, using inclusivity as bait. 

Previously, Boy Scouts of America cut ties with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2017, according to the BBC. At the time, 20% of Boy Scouts were Mormon, since the church automatically enrolled boys at age eight. According to CBS, in 2018, the program welcomed girls, though the name remained unchanged. While the steps forward expand inclusivity, they coincide with times of declining membership, funds and public esteem.

The organization’s split from the Mormon church is responsible, at least in part, for both the name change and many of the problems Scouting America currently faces. Under Mormon influence and funding, the Boy Scouts barred gay boys from membership, so only after the split were LGBTQ+ and girl scouts allowed to join. 

But even with those steps toward inclusivity, rebranding an organization founded in exclusionary practices will prove difficult. While the organization can take many steps to adhere to changing social norms and grapple with new membership opportunities, it does so inauthentically. The rebrand fails to address any systemic issues within the organization; it is a change in name only. 

Without any shifts to more inclusive leadership roles and no promotion of shared opportunities for all genders within the organization, no real change has been made.

Having historically low membership numbers, with just over a million scouts this year, according to the Boy Scouts’ annual report, the organization is losing money fast. 

Boy Scouts of America’s rebrand to Scouting America is a cry for funds and redemption as its reputation crashes. 

In a time when organizations are attempting to adjust to a more accepting society, the precedent established by the Boy Scouts fails to hit the mark as its equity stance feels forced.

The name change brings to light the fundamental gender bias of having both a Scouting America and a Girl Scouts. Despite Girl Scouts of America and Scouting America having similar mission statements, the scouts’ roles in each of the respective organizations differ significantly: in Girl Scouts, the focus of the skills taught differs from traditional survival skills taught in Boy Scouts. According to the Girl Scouts’ website, their activities include selling cookies, visiting animal shelters, hosting dance offs and filming movies — all of which are clearly more stereotypically “girly.”

The new inclusion of all genders into Scouting America, effective February 2025, raises the question about whether the existence of Girl Scouts is necessary. 

Though the organizations claim to instill the same values, this is not the reality.

Gender separation of youth organizations fails to produce gender equity in the way the groups say it does. It is true that female-only organizations provide girls with leadership opportunities, which helps develop strong, confident young women and gives them experience that can convert to leadership in other arenas. However, having female leaders solely around other females, as it is in the Girl Scouts, is counterproductive. 

In the real world, women in power would lead all genders — not just women. Moreover, boys still would not be accustomed to respecting girls as leaders if their organizations are separated along gender lines. 

If boys and girls were integrated in organizations like the Scouts from a young age, perhaps real equality of ability and opportunity would be part of their thinking throughout their lives. Of course, girls might be drawn to particular tasks that boys may not want to participate in and vice versa, but without the option to participate without discrimination, nothing can truly be equal. If such things were considered in the Boy Scouts’ effort to be more inclusive, then the rebrand would seem more effective and authentic. If we allow the Boy Scouts of America to rename themselves without substantial change, we open the door for other organizations to follow suit.

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