I just clicked open Jezebel for my daily dose of femiladyism on my lunch break and I saw this post about the Girl Scouts of America and something about staying relevant. To which I say A. the Girl Scouts will always be relevant as long as there are cookies involved, and B. what? The post basically gives “blowjobs” (and other “nonactivites” that comprise most of an adolescent girl’s nonschool waking hours, such as shopping and MySpace) as the reason for the Girl Scouts’ declining numbers. I’m interested–are these attrition rates (as the girls age, they drop out of the GS) they’re worried about, or girls not joining at all? Because don’t you join GS in, like, kindergarten or first grade usually? I remember begging my mother to join in the third grade and other girls in my class being shocked that I would be allowed to do that, like, DON’T YOU NEED A SPECIAL GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED WAVER? And are first graders really giving blowjobs? So is that really the reason? I know a few people who were Girl Scouts from Daisy to…whatever the last level was, but they’re the exception. I feel like most girls I knew who were in GS dropped out before high school. So, if that’s what they’re noticing, then I guess the Jezebel theory is sort of relevant, but also, this surprises them? I was in junior high more than ten years ago…shouldn’t they have noticed this trend a little earlier? I certainly did.
I was a GS for about five minutes (or two years, one as Brownie and one as Junior) before realizing that it really wasn’t my thing…I couldn’t get over the horrible discomfort that I would feel during cookie and candy (we were forced to sell M&Ms door-to-door, too! Oh, the humanity) seasons, because I was (and remain) terrified of pushing someone into buying something they don’t want. My parents finally got sick of shelling out money just so I could hit the minimum sales (I never sold enough boxes to get those cool stuffed animals or neon pink convertibles or whatever the prizes were) and were like, “Level with us. Are you in this? Because if you are, suck it up and learn to sell candy and cookies. If you’re not, we’ll take you out of Girl Scouts.” I have to admit, whatever my reaction to that was then, I remember feeling a great sense of relief. I didn’t really like my troop (it was cliquey and exclusive) to begin with, and I dropped out after the fourth grade.
It occurs to me now that sororities are sort of GS on a grander scale, or GS are sororities on a miniature scale (that one’s more likely, as the GS of A was formed in 1912, fifty plus years after women’s fraternities started popping up on campuses). I’d be interested to see if sorority enrollment is declining. I feel like there’s a very clear emphasis on individuality in today’s culture that sets it as apposite to the “joining” phenomenon, which is, of course, ridiculous. You can be an individual and still be part of a group, or several groups. You’re not a lemming because you hang out with people with similar interests in an organized setting. Maybe it’s the uniforms that get little girls–I mean, they are hideously ugly. Or maybe it’s the fact that the GS isn’t really very cool; the organization is showing its age, it’s not modernizing as it should. You probably get a lot more GS involvement at schools where the perception isn’t, “Oh, all those dorky girls who have no friends are banding together to sell cookies.” Girls, even little girls, want to do the cool thing, but earning badges for learning how to needlepoint? Not very cool. Earning badges for, say, making your own music video or designing a kick-ass MySpace layout? Cooler, and you still learn stuff. Woman up, GS, and welcome to the 21st century!
Or MAYBE, it’s the fact that, like me, little girls are sick and tired of having to shill prepackaged baked goods outside of grocery stores (or, in New York, building lobbies) when they could be, um, updating their MySpace profiles. The GS of A isn’t irrelevant because little girls are changing, it’s irrelevant because IT WON’T CHANGE WITH THEM. Should the GS start bringing their members to keggers thrown by the Boy Scouts? No. Should it be embracing the girls’ developing interests and helping them to grow up to be responsible, well-rounded, educated, and, dare I say, cool young women? Probably.