Scouting For Girls
15th December 2009
... Comments

The Scouts have recently come under scrutiny as a small group of leaders were sacked after refusing access for girls into their unit.

A change in policy in 2007 changed decades of tradition of a boys-only Association, and girls were permitted to join (indeed it became mandatory to accept them).

Some traditionalists however appear to feel that its a tradition spoilt, and boys should have their own time, no girls allowed. In one comment I read online, admitting females seemed to be the sole cause of any ridicule non-Scouting youngsters might make of their uniformed counterparts.

Scouting will always fall in and out of fashion, and this has nothing to do with whether or not girls are involved.

As a former Girl Guide and Venture Scout (mixed and now known as Explorer Scouts) I have sampled both bites of the apple.

And let me tell you the mixed Ventures was much more bold and exciting. Although some Guide units were better than others, mine tended towards flower arranging and cooking. When I returned as an assistant leader, I was often given 'the eyebrow' for sneaking my designated patrol off down the woods to build rope bridges, returning them filthy but satisfied. And I don't remember any of the lads complaining in Ventures that they were canoeing or hiking with 'girls'. We were all mates together, and many of us still are.

It was liberating to be doing things many of my girlfriends at school wouldn't have dreamed of, and I've continued that into adulthood. The boys were no less inclined towards 'being men' but broke down social inhibitions they might otherwise have developed.

If the organisation didn't move with the times, it would then be facing criticism of being old fashioned. Damned if you don't it seems.

I get the feeling many people against girls joining Scouts are either caught in a traditionalist habit, or perhaps assume that putting young girls and boys together immediately sends hormones into warp-drive. They are of course entitled to their opinion, but my experience is very different.

I'm all for girls and boys doing mixed activities. I think it helps both sexes form a respect and awareness of their opposites, less likely to get over-excited about each other as puberty hits.

My husband and I are both ex-Scouts (from the same unit as it happens but we were friends anyway), and are both staunch supporters of the mixed regime. We have similar values and interests, and a deeper understanding of each other as people, much of which can be attributed to our time together in Scouts.

Mixed associations like Scouting help to prepare our youngsters for modern working environments - there is no room for men/women-only companies in the real world. It's far healthier to break down ancient stereo-types and not segregate boys and girls in what is basically a social organisation. Young adults are more likely nowadays to form healthy relationships with people they feel are more their equal and they can relate to.

How is that a bad thing?

There are lots of great Scout units in and around Tunbridge Wells - for more on how to join or volunteer, and info about the other projects the Scout movement get involved in, check out
Interesting reading is the kNOT Book, debunking common myths about modern and traditional Scouting.


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Natelie Fitzroy is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.

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