To Live by the Girl Scout Law

Originally published at Accessline Iowa.


I was a Girl Scout. First I was a Brownie, complete with the adorable brown beanie and the knee socks with weird orange fringe things. We met once a week in the basement of the Catholic church in town, which I remember because it felt so deliciously wicked to meet in Another Church. (This was a very small town.) We made crafts and sang songs and put on skits and had outings. We had cookouts where we made “walking salad” (apples with the cores removed and replaced with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and a caramel) to eat while we went on our hikes where we were admonished to take only pictures and leave only footprints. We learned about Indian mounds (It was less PC in the 70s) and how to properly make a campfire. But mostly, whether in the woods or out, we were taught to be respectful.

The individual lessons blur together in hazy memory, but I am very aware that I was taught to be responsible and above all respectful. In Girl Scouts you behaved, not because you’d get yelled at if you didn’t but because that’s what Girl Scouts were. We were good girls not because we sat still but because we did good things. We were helpers and listeners and doers. We phoned our relatives and hocked those cookies because something good happened from doing that. I can’t remember what it was, but I remember believing that selling those cookies was my duty.

Looking back, the Girl Scouts was a heavy partner in the formation of my character, because in addition to that drumbeat of humility and respect, GSA gave me more than a little inner steel. There was absolutely no activism of any kind, but there was definitely the sense that you stood up for things, quietly, but you stood. We wouldn’t have been caught dead with a placard, but we’d absolutely be the Good Samaritans. Put on that uniform and you transformed into a public servant. Service, that’s what I remember most about Girl Scouts. Respectful service.

I can tell you what Girl Scouts wasn’t about. Hate.

In fact, pretty much Girl Scouts in my experience was anti-hate. In GSA you tolerated at worst and accepted and learned and welcomed at best. By the time I was in seventh grade I’d somehow become one of the most-fun-to-mock kids in that tiny little ghetto, but not at Girl Scouts. We were all sisters, and we were all servants, and not one of us would have been caught dead mocking or being mean. Not in front of a leader, anyway. Even someone you didn’t like had to be “gotten along with.” There were no power plays in Girl Scouting and no name-calling, no nothing that even smacked of exclusion and mockery and disdain. A Girl Scout went out of her way to show respect.

When I watch the video of the “Girl Scout” urging people not to buy GSA cookies because GSA supports transgender scouts, I’m struck by many, many things that don’t sit well with me. Duct tape on her sash to obscure her troop number. No name given anywhere. No comments were on the video, and they weren’t allowed. No likes or dislikes. The video itself is pretty unsettling too. Some pretty bad arguments wrapped up in name-calling, insinuations, and, to be blunt, gossip. This is all before we get to the misconstrued facts about transgender persons, before the scare-mongering of how evil boys are plotting to fake being girls so they can destroy the sanctity of the Scouts.

I don’t know who this girl is, but she’s no Girl Scout. If she was ever actually part of a troop, I’m very sorry for her and for her peers, because they didn’t have a real leader. They had some pervert distorting what Scouting is.

Scouting is a service. Scouting is about integrity and truth. About education and yes, discovery—of facts, not repetition of paranoid whisper campaigns. Scouts show their troop numbers. Scouts tell their names. Scouts let people comment on their statements because they aren’t afraid to stand behind what they believe, because they’ve done real research, and because they wouldn’t ever be catty or divisive or exclusionary.

“On my honor, I will try to serve God, my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law. I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, responsible for what I say and do. I will respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.” That’s the promise and the law. You recite those at every meeting. You study them and explore them through programs and badges. You wear your uniform and you are conscious of what you stand for when you put it on.

You don’t hide. You don’t cower. You don’t throw feces at your fellow Girl Scouts and count on hate groups to defend you. A real Girl Scout defends herself.

She also will be selling you cookies shortly. When you see her, buy some cookies. Yes, it’s the year the Girl Scouts stood up for transgendered persons, which is wonderful, but to be honest? The Girl Scouts would do that any year. Extra special this time around is that it’s there one hundredth anniversary of being inclusive and positive and forward-thinking.

Let’s help them make this fundraising season a banner one.

One Comment on “To Live by the Girl Scout Law

  1. I too was a Brownie. And a Girl Guide (that’s what they are called here 🙂 And if I could, I’d definitely be buying some cookies (although here we call them biscuits *grin*)

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