Unicorns are Better than Flowers (or, Why I Quit Girl Scouts)

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Reading a post on Jezebel about the Girl Scouts introducing some new badges, and ditching old ones, impressed me: the new badges sound pretty cool and interesting.

Digital Movie Maker badge? Dude, can I earn this one now?

Reading these every so often always reminds me of my time in Girl Scouts, and that my experience is by no means universal or definitive.

The idea of Girl Scouts is a good one. Teach young girls skills and knowledge about the world, show them how to help their fellows through service and volunteerism, encourage their confidence in themselves and foster a community of solidarity among them.

One such act of creating solidarity is when, sometime during the Junior Girl Scout years, the troop picks a troop crest. For my troop, this happened somewhere between 3rd and 5th grade, I don’t quite remember when. I believe it was more likely in 3rd or 4th grade, though–chances are my mind skews it to 5th grade because this particular story involves Girl Scouts being ruined for me by some of the people who would eventually become my own personal Mean Girls.

We all got to look through the big book of troop crests, and there were a ton of choices. Everything from, as the title implies, unicorns to flowers. A few options are nominated by some of us girls, and then we all voted on which of those we’d like to become our troop crest. Being a young girl who loved her fantasy books, I voted wholeheartedly for Unicorn – and so did enough of the rest of the girls that, to my great shock even then, the Unicorn crest actually won!

Behold its majesty, bitches.

At least, it won in the first round.

Then four girls – out of around a dozen of us – pitched a fit, stormed out, and wandered angrily around the school halls complaining about how stupid the Unicorn was because it wasn’t even real and so forth. One of them was the troop leader’s daughter, I didn’t fail to notice. Sure enough, before the afternoon’s meet is even over, we were back to voting on a troop crest. And somehow this time around, the Lily of the Valley won.

Unicorns eat this sh*t for breakfast.

I stuck it out in Girl Scouts for a while longer, up until 6th grade just after we became Cadets. I’m still not quite sure why, though, because I didn’t like and was made fun of by just about every girl in my troop at one point or another. I don’t think I ever bothered earning any badges on my own, just the ones we got as a troop, and I can’t recall being greatly encouraged to do so, either.

For me, Girl Scouts involved nepotism, false friends, and forced solidarity with people I didn’t like who didn’t like me. I got no sense of community, certainly no sense of confidence, and none of the badges were very memorable for the learning experience they gave me, either. I went to some Girl Scout camps, but I can’t recall enjoying those either. My best memories from any kind of camp were from College Academy, where I made friends, had fun, and actually learned things taking courses I chose myself. (One of them was Dungeons & Dragons. There was a course of playing Dungeons & Dragons!) I value the three weeks I spent at that camp each summer for four years more than any of the dozen, maybe hundreds, of hours I spent in Girl Scouts.

But as I said, I know my experience doesn’t speak for everyone. I’m really glad it doesn’t, in fact, because that would be pretty upsetting. And I’m also glad to see more and more interesting badges coming out for those who are Girl Scouts today – it makes me consider that one day, if I have a daughter, I could be okay with her joining the Girl Scouts and know it could be entirely different from my experience.

But Unicorns are still better than Lilies of the Valley, dammit.

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17 responses »

  1. My sister joined G.S. as a Brownie and didn’t stop being active until sometime in high school. She was a serious over-achiever, earning every possible badge she could. And she had this weird mutant ability to get along with the popular kids AND the losers.

    Erika was in G.S. for a while, too, but her family moved around a bit, so she had one very gung-ho troop and one that was mostly a do-nothing social club. I don’t recall her telling me about any notably bad experiences with either–she was just bored silly by the latter.

    (I, on the other hand, never gave much serious thought to joining Boy Scouts, even though my dad had been one. I wasn’t the joining type, and a lot of the boys I knew to be in the troop were jerks I did my best to avoid.)

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if our kids got interested in Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts when they get a little older. They love crafts, camping, nature, etc., and love prizes, so as long as they got some encouragement from the troop leaders and older kids, they’d be all over that earning badges thing. But if they didn’t, or if they couldn’t stand the other kids, they’d still have other ways to explore a lot of those iconic scout activities–Erika’s family is big on hiking and camping, for example.

  2. I had a terrible time in the Boy Scouts. My troop didn’t involve nepotism, but it did involve Lord of the Flies-esque hazing rituals, being tackled by guys several years (and many pounds) your senior, and having to constantly justify why you didn’t like Professional Wrestling.

    Cub Scouts was much more fun, the occasional brawl aside.

  3. Your article made me LOL! You’re right Unicorns do eat that for breakfast. I am a troop leader and we will be choosing our crest next week. I’ll remember your experience when we vote. Hopefully the girls will choose the unicorn and you may proclaim victory.

  4. Thank you! Glad to have made you laugh and perhaps have influence troop crest voting for the better. Whatever they end up choosing, I hope it’s something *everyone* likes. πŸ™‚

  5. Thought you might get a small kick out of this video I just posted. πŸ™‚ It’s actually about Tumblr, Facebook, and how anyone can write a pop song nowadays… but I figured you may like it considering the title of this post! lol

    Entitled: “Unicorns and Flowers”

  6. I’m a Brownie leader and am figuring out a way to have the girls vote on the troop crest. Whatever THEY vote on, THEY will have to live with…. even if my daughter is the one who hates it. (I know she won’t, she’s very go-with-the-flow.) I was a GS for my entire childhood and this is my third year as a leader. I didn’t have any of the problems you had growing up and I hope to keep them to a minimum as a leader of the troop. It’s a shame that all that happened. GS can be a very fun organization to be in.

  7. I am a Junior GS co-leader, and last year our troop voted on their crest. However, instead of showing them the pictures, we told them the meanings of each, and they voted on which meaning they thought fit our troop. We ended up with the white rose. And everyone was happy!

  8. My co-leader and I are doing the same as the poster above me – letting the girls vote on the meanings of the crests rather than on the pictures.

  9. Hi! Because of your post, I had the same idea as the above two comments. This was a great post with great insight. I recall a year of being in a similar troop. Luckily, I changed troops and had some much better experiences. Now, I’m the leader and I have some really great moms and girls. Of course, we are Daisies bridging to Brownies right now, so maybe those Mean Girl gloves haven’t come off, yet. I’m hoping our troop can stick together and rise above if they start to, though… time will tell.

  10. Love the idea of voting on the MEANING of the crests!

    That being said, if we voted on pictures — I’m willing to bet my girls would pick Unicorn. πŸ™‚

  11. Loved your post! It reminded me that, as a Leader, I have to help the girls be vigilant against “mean girl” behaviors. Sorry about your experience–it should have been much more fun for you.

    I also loved the suggestions for voting on the meaning vs. the crest pictures. Clever.

  12. Just wanted to let everyone know we voted by meaning and the girls loved it. I started by showing them the crest I had as a scout and then told them there were all sorts of designs but that we were not going to choose by design, but rather by what we felt our troop stood for. The Brownie handbook had a brief description of each and so I read those 4 or 5 at a time through out the meeting and had them think about it. By the end, there were two that they liked – hardworking and fun, and friendly and loving. In the end we voted on hardworking and fun, which is the bee. Naturally, the 2 who really liked friendly and loving were disappointed, regardless, but I tried to cheer them up with thoughts about how bees help flowers and are part of so many things in the world. That seemd to work. In the end, we decided to have a Bee Movie party sometime this summer, too, just for fun (which those two were super excited about). Not everything has to be work, work, work… right?? Thanks, again, for your perspective and sharing your scouting experience!

  13. It is sad that your experience went bad. I think the problem is that the organization relays toooooo much in the leaders volunteers. it would be wonderful GS have evaluation from girls and parents at the end of each year.
    My daughter has a similar experience like yours. So guess what? I am a new troop leader now! I am implementing evaluation surveys and financials reports to all my members.

  14. I am very sorry you had such a bad experience. I was in GS from 2nd grade until the end of 8th grade when nobody seemed to want o bother with teens. I treasure the skills my leaders taught me. Although I do not remember a lot of girls in my troops I will forever be indebted to the leaders that taught me so very much. I am so grateful I met another amazing woman that volunteered her time to stick with my daughter clear through her senior year where my daughter ended up being the first in the community to get her Gold Award. I am now a leader trying to bless little girls that our Brownies this year.

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