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.
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!
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.
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.