Is boy a dirty word? Changing the Scouts won’t change the differences between boys and girls


Is “boy” a dirty word? It is for the Boy Scouts of America, which now wants its premier scouting program to be known as “Scouts BSA,” eliminating the word “boy” and all its problematic, rambunctious associations in favor of a sterile new name that sounds like it should belong to a Big Four consulting firm.
By Kevin D. Williamson

Is “boy” a dirty word? It is for the Boy Scouts of America, which now wants its premier scouting program to be known as “Scouts BSA,” eliminating the word “boy” and all its problematic, rambunctious associations in favor of a sterile new name that sounds like it should belong to a Big Four consulting firm.

There is some precedent for this. The nation’s leading abortion-rights group can’t quite decide what it wants to be called. It was founded in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws — NARAL. Having seen to that repeal, in 1973 it was reborn as the National Abortion Rights Action League. It later became the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, and in 2003 it was rechristened NARAL Pro-Choice America. The term “pro-choice” polls better than “abortion” does.

In 1991, Kentucky Fried Chicken did much the same thing, changing its name to “KFC” in hopes of minimizing the chain’s association with the word “fried.”

One can understand shrinking away from the words abortion and fried. But boy?

The Boy Scout, with his uniform and his neckerchief and his vow to remain “morally straight,” is an icon, and in these perverse and stupid times all icons must be put into the service of politics. And American politics is not about policy — American politics is about kulturkampf.

So the campaign against the Boy Scouts was launched, first with the manufactured controversy over the role of gay leaders and scouts, which was executed with remarkable nastiness: The city of Philadelphia chased the Cradle of Liberty Council Boy Scouts out of the headquarters building the scouts had built themselves and had occupied for nearly a century. The next front in the war on the Boy Scouts was its status as an organization for boys.

There were petitions and, this being the United States of America, there were lawsuits.

In October 2017, BSA announced that girls would be allowed to join the Cub Scouts and that new scouting programs would be instituted to allow girls to become Eagle Scouts. That was met with only two cheers:

Cub Scout dens, for now, will be single-sex, but already that arrangement has been identified as the next target.

The Cub Scouts will retain its name under the theory that the word “cub” is gender-neutral. It isn’t, quite: “Cub” is of unknown origin, but it leans male in its usage, with Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary offering “an awkward, rude, ill-mannered boy” as one definition. English is a language in constant flux, and how we talk about these things changes, sometimes quickly. The word “girl” once was gender-neutral, referring to a prepubescent child of either sex, and “boy” once described a person’s status (as a servant) rather than indicating sex. The word “gender” itself in its current usage (to describe social facts related to sex) is only a few decades old.

What will become of the Boy Scouts is impossible to say. But surely there is room for an organization for boys.

But etymology is bound to prove unpersuasive. There are girl things and there are boy things, and most 8-year-olds know which is which. The Boy Scouts used to be a boy thing complemented by the Girl Scouts. Now, it is to be something else.

What does that mean for the boys?

One possible outcome is that mixed-sex scouting organizations will help boys to become more comfortable in similar situations, something that might prove valuable to them later in life. As many traditionally male industrial occupations have declined and those jobs were replaced in part by so-called pink-collar positions in health care and other services, many men have had trouble making the jump. Training is part of that: You don’t lose your job as a welder on Friday and report to work as a registered nurse on Monday. But what’s also in play is the well-documented male aversion to “women’s work,” and the more general male aversion to participating in organizations and activities that are woman-dominated or perceived as feminine. Exposure to mixed-sex activities in childhood might help men overcome those attitudes.

Assuming they want to.

It may very well instead prove the case that the former Boy Scouts simply relearn the lessons of American churches (congregations and church staffs tilt female in most denominations), US schools (76 percent of public-school teachers are women), and corporate human-resources departments (72 percent of HR managers are women) that many men will simply exit organizations that embrace the feminist agenda, which is, of course, what the Boy Scouts of America has done. And its membership already is in steep decline.

What will become of the Boy Scouts is impossible to say. But surely there is room for an organization for boys.

It’s remarkable that at the very moment when polite society is most energetically attempting to abrade differences between the sexes, all the young hipster men in Brooklyn began growing enormous mountain-man beards and restoring old motorcycles, while the feminist magazine Bustle in 2015 described the cool-girl hobbies of our time as knitting, needlepoint, sewing and other “old lady” enthusiasms.

Interesting, no?

You can call the Boy Scouts whatever you like, but boys will be boys, even if they stop being scouts.

 

Author: Renegade Scouter

Boy Scouting is for boys -- Help us save BSA from itself. Do it for your sons. Do it for your daughters. America needs you. Answer the call to duty.

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