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Cookies or Careers?

04/10/2011

Although the research described in this article about Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is not that radical, it did bring up memories of my childhood experience.  What was surprising about the article to me was not necessarily the different content of the badges, but that even similar badges had different names between the Boy and Girl Scouts:

Denny found boys’ badge titles use more career-oriented language (such as Engineer, Craftsman, Scientist), whereas girls’ badge titles consistently use more playful language with less of a career orientation. (Instead of the boy’s “Astronomer,” the comparable girls badge is called “Sky Search.” Instead of “Mechanic,” a similar girl badge is called “Car Care.”)

Though I was unaware of that difference (and probably wouldn’t completely understand the implications at the time), even as a fifth grader, I knew that I was getting the short end of the stick in Girl Scouts.  The boys got to make sweet racing cars out of wood while we were making crap out of yarn and plastic straws and doing choreographed dances to Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams.”  Although I didn’t understand the larger context, I knew that the boys got to do cool things and we got to do kind of boring, “girly” things.  Which is not to say that my time in Girl Scouts was not valuable – it definitely helped in making friends and gaining new experiences.  Yet I can see in retrospect how such activities contribute to the steering of children’s career paths simply due to their gender.  Even as a kid, I knew something was off.

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