This week the news hit our headlines that the first female Scout leader had been elected in the UK.
Feeling fairly unfazed by the news, I took to social media to reminisce over good times I spent as a young Scout myself. However, I was surprised to be met with claims that girls should have never been allowed to join what initially began as a male-only organisation, and we should remain strictly within a Girl Guides group, the reason why I’ll never know.
Now I can’t say I’ve ever had myself down as much of a feminist. I’m all for equal rights but I wont be burning any under garments outside parliament in the near future, however this statement really warmed my blood.
From the age of 7 years old to 13 I was a keen member of the Cubs, and then eventually the Scouts. My Friday evenings were spent building camps in the woods, learning how to tie knots (which I incidentally still use on a daily basis) and getting covered head to toe in dirt. It was great.
During the holidays we did Scout Camps which included all of the above plus much more but for a week at a time, energised by a daily diet of lukewarm baked beans.
Now, admittedly I was a little naughty, well technically my parents were, and I was also enrolled with the local Girl Guides group. This became particularly problematic during Remembrance Day when both the Guides and the Scouts expected me to take part in the parade with them, but every year I was ‘just too poorly’. Sorry Brown Owl and Michala if you’re reading this!
Anyway, Girl Guides met every Wednesday night and we spent our time in the comfort of a village hall learning to sew, perfecting our handstands and playing group games. This was also great fun and I made some wonderful friends along the way. However, knitting isn’t for everyone, and although it gave me the skills to crochet a rather attractive scarf, it didn’t give me the fresh air and adventure that I thrive upon.
The comments made about female Scout members impeding on ‘boy time’ and therefore should be banned quite frankly saddened me. To think of all the outdoorsy young girls out there, a younger version of myself that lives to get muddy and walks around with twigs in her hair, could be deprived of those experiences because of a simple difference in her anatomy is just ludicrous.
She might never learn to tie the invaluable reef knot, never learn to light a camp fire when its pouring with rain and the elements are against her, and she might never realise how easy it is to beat a boy at a game of Kwik Cricket. All skills that I maintain to this day.
I met boys and girls at Scouts that I’m still friends with now. Friends that I can joke with about the time we found that dead mole, or when John Smith ate a maggot and turned green. And I’d say we’ve all grown up into pretty well rounded people.
Scouts was there before a gender barrier ever was, and it was only until I had grown older and left that people started to point out to me that it was unusual for a girl to attend- before that I’m not sure it had ever even crossed my mind. In fact, it was only until I grew older that many of my male orientated hobbies were scrutinised, and still are to this day. But Scouts helped me build up that initial confidence in myself, and taught me I have the ability to do anything I want to do and be whoever I want to be.
So if you’d like your child to find their sense of adventure and learn how to survive a damp night in the village woods, then enrol them with a Scout group. And if you want your daughter (sorry, they haven’t mastered allowing boys to join yet) to make local friends and learn the value of team work, then stick her in the Guides. But just a warning, if like my parents you like peace and quiet two nights a week, make sure you have a good excuse for when they both ask you to be flag bearer at the parade..