Saturday, June 07, 2008

Boy Scouts, Women, and Leadership

My 10 year old boy is a Webelos Cub Scout, which means he will be crossing over into Boy Scouts soon. So he and his Dad are attending some functions of the nearby troops to see which one he might choose to join. There are two that seem most likely.

One group has had a lot of events and is very active, very encouraging to the Webelos. Quite a few of the boys in this troop go on to become Eagle Scouts. I would love my boy to be encouraged (by other scouts, not just his parents) to work toward that goal. The other troop seems a little more laid-back and not quite as hard-working.

So it seems like the choice might be obvious, except the troop we (so far) like best has one big problem: there are women in troop leadership. Women bossing these boys around.

I really, really hate this. It's the Boy Scouts, people. The goal is to give boys an opportunity and atmosphere in which to become leaders of other boys, and then leaders of men. The boys (ages 11 and up) are starting to separate from their mamas, and rightly so. They don't need mama surrogates to boss them around. And yes, that's what my husband saw at the meeting the other night. Women refusing to allow older boys to make simple decisions on their own. The women took over. (Just like everywhere else, some of you are saying. Yes, I know you are.) I will go so far as to say: these leaders can't really help teach boys to be leaders of men. They will teach them to be followers of women. (Which, some of you are saying, is the point.)

You know, I don't think women are incapable of leadership. There are women who are smart and tough and probably fantastic leaders. But they don't belong in the Boy Scouts. They don't belong in positions of authority over these young men. They don't belong on camping trips with young men (unless it's a family camp).

Some will say "well, boys need to learn to respect authority from women, after all they may have a woman for a boss one day." Yes indeed, they might. And most boys have teachers in school who are female so they have that experience. My boy has learned to respect his female teachers, and I don't just mean me - he takes classes with female teachers sometimes. I drew the line at martial arts class with a female teacher, though.

We go to a church that does not allow women in leadership. Pastors, elders, deacons are all male. The women are not disgruntled because of this (if they become so, they leave, I guess) and there is a vibrant life in the church because these women understand that they are not to be in authority over men. They have important responsibilities in the church, important work to do. They are not treated as second-class citizens with nothing to offer. Everyone understands that men and women are different, with different gifts and talents. Complementary, not competing. It's great. So it's not surprising I would believe women don't belong in leadership over Boy Scouts either.

So. We won't tell our boy which troop to pick. He needs to do that himself. He'll probably choose the one that most of his Webelos den goes to. But his Dad and I will have to figure out a way to talk to him about the leadership issue. Not sure how we'll do that yet.

I just don't get why Boy Scouts can't be for boys. Why there is no place women can't just stay the hell out of. (Sorry if I offend. I'm just talking like my Dad. He would think this stinks.) Why women have to jump in and boss everyone around. Why?

Updated to add: Apparently at this troop at least (I found out) the women do not go on the campouts. Also I did not mention (though I thought about) the possible connection between the troop with the female leaders producing more Eagle Scouts than the more "laid back" troop. Well, gotta be careful with correlation and cause, but if the female-led troops produce more Eagles because they are babying the boys along, rather than letting them try and fail, or not bother to try, then I'd rather go with the troop that allows for self-determination. I don't know that that's the case, of course. More research is needed.


Sheryl said...

Oh, does this bring back (bad) memories. Way back when Josh was in scouts, Sam was an assistant Scout Master for his troop. And there was another assistant Scout Master that was (you know what I'm going to say) a woman.

The Scout Master was the sort of man that was easy to push around (no backbone)and this woman just bulldozed her way into every single decision that was made, and she let her own son and his friends get away with murder. She and that wimpy Scout Master completely ruined that troop.

She also made their camp-outs very uncomfortable (she would walk around in her PJ's.) It was a disaster, and I was really glad when Sam and Josh decided to leave.

You're so right...women DON'T belong in Boy Scouts!

I'll be praying for wisdom for you and your husband when you talk to your son about this, and for James to make the right choice.

Sandy said...

My youngest son will be 10 this year and just became a Webelo. One of the things I love and appreciate about his Pack is the male leadership.

There are moms around, of course; we're encouraged to attend meetings and teach a class if we have something to offer that's part of their badge work.

Up to now they have had family campouts where mom and siblings were encouraged to come and moms took the boys on hikes, etc.

But, none of the positions of direct leadership are held by women which, I think, is as it should be. Moms have a lot to offer their sons, but we cannot teach them to be men. How can these boys learn to lead if the only leaders they see are women? They'll think leading is the women's job. We don't need another generation of men who watch TV while their wives do the parenting. (You said 'hell' so I'm saying this. :) )

Of course, I have a good situation; this is a homeschool only Pack, all Christians. So, our values are backed up at Scouts more often than not (though not always).

Many of the dads in this Pack are Eagle Scouts themselves and encourage all the boys to earn their Eagle, starting when they enter Tigers. They are very serious about Boy Scouts being Scout-led rather than adult-led.

This Pack is one of the reasons we still live where we do. We know we won't find one like it everywhere.

Interestingly enough, the staff of Cub Scout Day Camp is almost all moms- all the dads are at work. I saw two men working there last year and some older boy scouts. I thought that was good enough for male influence since it was just for the week. The boys didn't seem to notice.

I would caution you, though, that if the female leadership bothers you, you should take that seriously since it is not likely to change. You will likely not be able to reconcile the situation. It might be best to realize up front that this is not the right place for your family. Just a thought.

SmallWorld said...

We've always had mostly moms as den leaders in Cub Scouts, but the Cubmaster has always been a dad. Then the Boy Scout troop transitions into a totally Dad/boy troop--no women. That's not a written rule, but it's worked fabulously. Kinda like the moms start the boys off in Cub Scouts and the Dads take over in Boy Scouts. (The pack meets during the day, which is the biggest reason why moms are the den leaders.) ANYWAY, a few years back, a mom decided that when the Cubmaster stepped down, she would step up as Cub master. Um, no. EVEN if the Cubs were led in den meetings by moms, it was incredibly important for them to know that a Dad was in charge at our monthly all-troop pack meetings/awards ceremonies. Anyway, she ended up leaving and starting her own pack elsewhere. (It has since folded.)

kerri @ gladoil said...

I so agree. Why do we have to push our way into everything? It's like the little girls sitting grumpy outside the clubhouse with the sign "no girls allowed". Go make your own clubhouse and leave the boys alone!

Heather said...

I think it sounds like the problem is the particular women who are in leadership. It seems a shame to exclude all women from boy scouting activities just because some are pains in the neck. (Some of the men can be pains in the neck too.) In our boy scout troop, some moms go on the campouts, drive, help with meetings, etc., but our troop is most definitely boy-led. There are more men than women involved, but some of the moms who don't have daughters, or other younger children, have benefited from spending time hiking, canoeing, etc. with their sons. If the women are physically able to keep up with the men and boys, it can be kind of a neat experience for everyone. I would stress that the emphasize is always on what is best for the boys -- not the adult leaders, whether male or female. I think it has been nice for me to watch my sons (twins - age 12, currently working on Star scouts) as they execute leadership roles in the troop. I am able to watch them interact with other boys, and with the adult leaders, both male and female. I agree that one doesn't want anybody with a tendency to be overprotective or "mother-hen" like taking over, but some women can resist those urges. (And some men can't!)

April said...

I just read all the comments and thoughts are swirling in my head now. Our troop leaves for scout camp tomorrow (including my 14 y.o. son). A month ago, the scoutmaster said only he and another dad were accompanying the 16 boys to camp. No other dad would volunteer to go. Being close with my dad, brothers, sons and what guys like to do, I raised my hand and said I'd be happy to go and help out in any capacity they would need, if necessary. It wasn't necessary, UNTIL YESTERDAY. A 3rd dad who had committed, had to now back out. So I'm going, staying in my own tent, of course, planning to stay quiet, on the sidelines, without anyone viewing me in my pajamas. I expect to help out the boys with merit badge homework, if they need help. I do think a woman can be a better at teaching a boy to be a "gentlemen" than a man can, but that's just coming from my personal experience. I respect men and boys very much. I'm excited to be invited into their "domain" next week and plan to be most respectful of their practices and procedures, without bossing anyone around. Perhaps I can be helpful at tidying around the camp and halping the boys peacefully work out any differences they may have with one another. Please wish me luck. I didn't ask for this---they asked me.

Marbel said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I guess it is a reality that women will have to be involved to some degree. Boys without Dads in their lives - or nonparticipating Dads - will likely benefit from having their mom involved. And I know that if the men don't step up in leadership, the pack/den/troop may fold. That is a big problem in our culture now, I think - the lack of men in leadership roles in their families and elsewhere.

And there are different ways for women to lead. I suppose we wouldn't have gotten such a bad impression if the women had not been bossing the older scouts - patrol leaders themselves - around so needlessly. I think that is what really got to my husband when he saw it: the bossing for no good purpose.

April, I hope you were being facetious about "tidying up the camp" - that is surely something those young men should be doing for themselves!

I wonder how many men get into leadership positions in Girl Scouts?

Anonymous said...

If this were 1908, vs. 2008, I might not be so stunned. What are you women thinking about? Of course women belong in scouting. No, not to take over but to help lead, if they are good leaders and interested in scouting. Get with it. With half the law school graduates and half the med school and business graduates women, males at an early age should learn how to work, play, and grow in this world which is 50% women. This doesn't mean in any way shape or form that a woman scout leader will train boys to be effeminite. A good friend of mine (male) has been a scout master for years. You know what his biggest problem in the scout troops is? The boys don't have fathers, many of them. There aren't enough men. But, the women are often more caring and be thankful that some are willing to put their time in so that these boys can have a scout troop to go to. So what if there are a few women involved? If they're bossy, get rid of those. Women who are negative on this are women who are not out in the real world, who just don't get it. I suppose if we went the way of some of you, you'd prefer to just have the boys have nothing than to deal with a women scout leader. How foolish is that? Think about it. And think about the women who endure such scorn and snarling (from women like some of you who give women a bad name) yet is still willing to volunteer her time so that some young males can have a good time and learn to grow up. Believe me, there are plenty of experiences out there where the guys will just be with guys. Get over yourselves. Diversity is a good thing. A best friend of mine (male) is a girl scout leader. No, the girls aren't like boys but very happy to have a male leader for a little diversity and to shed light on some other skills that many women leaders are less experienced with.

Marbel said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment.

Boys have many opportunities to be working with women and under the authority of women: most elementary school teachers are women, as are most Sunday school teachers and many coaches for young kids. As they go through the higher grades and into college they will experience this more and more.

It seems that what is missing is the opportunity to be with a bunch of guys. And as I said, it is unfortunate that there are so many young men around without fathers to participate with them, and take the leadership positions. I don't have any quick and easy answers for that but putting women in place of men in those boys' lives is not going to fix the problem.

There are plenty of women who view boys as "defective girls" and would be happy to do their part to feminize them. Don't kid yourself on that.

tatanka204 said...


I am dismayed to read that there are adults of any gender forcing their opinions on your troop. You are very correct that Boy Scouts should be boy led. However, this can only be accomplished through a vigilent leadership training program for the boys.

Our troop consisted of 51 boys, in five patrols all led by Council trained SPLs and ASPLs. This training was a requirement for leadership. The youth leaders met annually and planned the events for the year for the troop.

The SM and ASMs provided guidance during this excercise, but ultimately, the decisions rested with the youth. They too were required to have council level training before they could serve in an adult leadership capacity. All of the adults leaders ultimately were Wood Badge Trained and were both men and women.

The youth were supported by our committee which consisted of adults of both genders whose core responsibilities were to assist with the resources the youth needed to carry out their annual planning.

In out troop, each patrol had an Assistant Scoutmaster to serve as a sounding board and to help with merit badges, Eagle Scout planning and other activities. I regret that we also had several untrained adults who felt compelled to try and seize the reins of leadership from the youth, even though they had little understanding of the Aims and Methods of Scouting. So the other job of the ASMs was to run interference with these adults.

I became an ASM with our troop after serving as a Den leader and a Webelos leader for five years. I served as an ASM for six years, attended summer camp every year, High Adventure for three years and attended Jamboree with the six Scouts in the patrol I was assigned to.

All six of those boys proudly made Eagle and today are stellar citizens and contributing members of our society. And our troop continues to produce several Eagle Scouts every year.

Our troop was not without its problem adults, but they too, were well represented by both genders, and their commonality was a lack of training and understanding of the program, not gender.

I received many awards, knots and medals through the years of my adult leadership in Scouting (which I refused to wear; it's a YOUTH program. Awards should be only for the YOUTH). I believe that the only badges I truly earned were those that are worn upon the uniforms of the youth for whom I served.

Though they are all young men in their mid 20's now, some of those Eagles still contact me now and then to say hello but also during times of crisis in their lives. when things are going rough, the phone call always starts like this:

Mrs. J., I think I need a "Scoutmaster's Conference".

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marbel said...

Anonymous who posted on September 24, 2009 - I deleted your comment not because of the content, but because of the vulgar language you included.

I'm happy to have people disagree with me, but not with vulgar talk. Try again, if you like.

Anonymous said...

I am a cib scout leader and a mom. The women in our den do all the planning and the men lead the meetings. We are a team and we model a good female male working relationship to the boys. The men like the traits that god gave us which help the program and we allow the men to lead like god intended. Many moms have commented that it is important to them that at least one mom goes on the trips incase something happens. It is more about the type of woman you are not the fact that you are a woman.

Anonymous said...

I am a cib scout leader and a mom. The women in our den do all the planning and the men lead the meetings. We are a team and we model a good female male working relationship to the boys. The men like the traits that god gave us which help the program and we allow the men to lead like god intended. Many moms have commented that it is important to them that at least one mom goes on the trips incase something happens. It is more about the type of woman you are not the fact that you are a woman.

Anonymous said...

Baden Powell's dad died when he was 3. His mom raised him. When he was developing the scouting movement, he wanted to quit. She told him (in so many words) "Buck up, Boy, and do this. It's way bigger than you are, and will benefit many."
There's a purpose out there for each of us.

Natalie said...

I realize this post is very old but I want to respond anyway. I was recently browsing some photos of an old friend and she has become very involved in the boy scouts. She is now some kind of director of sorts. I do not have any children yet, but I am certain that if I had sons, I would not want them to be in a troop led by women. Girls have girl scouts and boys have boy scouts. Dad don't come into girl scouts and lead. I think boy scouts is a chance for young boys to grow up with strong male influences and teach the boys how to become strong, influential, hard working young men. Yes, I agree that women have a role in a boys life but there is plenty of space for that role in other areas. I also agree that they can be involved and volunteer as needed with planning functions and family camp and such. But boys need to be in an environment where they have male leadership and can learn from other men.

These things are all just my opinion, but I know that I would not enroll my son into a troop that was led by women.

As I said earlier, girls have girl scouts and boys have boy scouts. This truly is an issue of what gender roles are appropriate.

puffy13 said...

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puffy13 said...

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