-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Six months on the internet is a really long time! Memes are born and die in that time. Campaigns rise and fall. A collective can feel the pride of success and the bile of defeat. When I took on this six month endeavor is was to do more than follow through on having a male pastoral handle for six months on Reddit. It was also to keep track of my feminine experience IRL (in real life). We don't often pay attention to what's happening around us, because it is our "normal." I didn't want to do something digitally without questioning what was physically happening at the same time.
Cub Scouts had to accept girls: I know that's a bold statement to make. There were many who were openly livid, like their verbal descent would somehow upturn the already voted and approved decision, but their bed was actually made months earlier in January of 2017. That was when the Boy Scouts of America decided they would not discriminate if the person who checked the "I'm a boy," box didn't appear to be a boy. It made headlines across the nation. While everyone was focusing on the transgender side of that decision, I saw something else. Now a girl could join Cub Scouts in a co-ed den.
I just want that last sentence to really sink in. Right now the BSA has stated girls can join Cub Scouts as long as their dens are separated by gender. I just wrote girls could be in co-ed dens. All girls had to do was fill out the youth form, check "boy," and they were in.
That's how I already knew my daughter had an in to Cub Scouts a year before the BSA made the "Scout Me In" campaign a reality. I seriously wonder if they were aware of the potential can of worms they had opened in 2017, and moving to add girls was being preemptive to that blow up. Even today, as those small Packs struggle with keeping the girls separate but equal, all they have to do is just mark everyone a boy on the form, and be co-ed. It's legal. Just questioning whether those girls were boys or girls would be against their own rules.
Why does it matter? I was ultra aware of gender exclusion and inclusion because I was Pastor Jerome. My daughter was joining Cub Scouts, and eagerly so. I heard arguments against girls joining Cub Scouts that were terribly hurtful. There were definitive comments made based on absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever. I heard that girls will degrade the Cub Scout program because we would have to cripple the learning environment to help the girls accomplish the requirements. I heard that girls would take away one of the only places left for boys to be boys. I watched actual Boy Scout leaders tell stories where they broke BSA rules to keep mom's out of the program.
The experiment helped me separate hypothesis from fact. It is hypothesis that girls would cripple the program. People were stating it like they had evidence to show otherwise. Knowing that hypothesis, my district chose to run the Day Camp program as normal (with girl dens). No one was treated differently. I found the girls ability brought everyone up, not down. The irony did not escape me as the crying child I nurtured with a scraped knee was a boy, and the child terrified of the spider in our den area was a boy. The girls who scrapped their knee came for a band aid and went right back to playing. The girls were actually interested at getting a closer view of the spider and helped me shoo it back into the woods. Our girls are tougher than we realize, and making definitive statements about them before those statements can be tested is dangerous.
When one treats a hypothesis as a truth, we look for validation instead of testing the hypothesis. When one woman fails, all women fail. Personal failure becomes universal failure. It's difficult to digest the reasoning I cannot be considered as a minister in some congregations is because, "we've had one of those and it didn't work." (Exact quote, btw.) On one side males find their slip of verification and burn it all down. On the other side females become extra critical of one another because we know the stakes. It's an unhealthy dynamic that has existed since women openly entered the workforce.
And, I'm not done. I also can't help to see the parallels between the Girl Scouts and Women's Ministry. As guys throw out the suggestion that girls can just join the girl scouts, it echoes to my experience as a minister.
Speaking from my denominational background, we have struggled with keeping ladies in the Women's Ministries. I know I'm not terribly excited about them. Truthfully, it doesn't connect to me or my needs. Knowing the irony, in some cases it's the heightened expectations of work meeting the heightened requirements of motherhood. Also, many of the programs make outdated assumptions about femininity, and if I never see a floral cover again it wouldn't be too soon! I know not all women's program is made alike. Just sometimes it's not a gamble I want to make.
Now, just like women's groups in churches, Girl Scouts troops are not all made the same. To get your Gold Star you have to go camping and hiking with the best of them. That's great, except the women who lead the program were raised in an environment where they were not campers and hikers. Then, the Girl Scouts don't offer the resources to be trained in those areas like the BSA offers. It makes it so much more difficult to earn the BSA equivalent, the Eagle, not because girls are not capable, but because the resources are not available.
Final Thought: I know what I just wrote can be turned around and weaponized. Let me defuse it before it explodes: There are great Girl Scout Troops out there and there are great Women's Ministries. I personally know some amazing leaders on both sides. They serve a purpose for so many women and girls. I don't want to dismantle the programs, I was to deactivate the reaction to women trying to engage in the discussion. Men are not listening when women speak from women's group. Beth Moore is a great example. She is a powerhouse within the Baptist world, but has her words changed the system? No. Because the people who are breaking the system unconsciously believe the women's side is somehow less important. They never even read their words. Their wives did. and maybe that left some cracks, but they do not hold the power in the evangelical church.
The story of God can be followed through the changing of power dynamics. God chooses the youngest to inherit (David). God chooses the broken to redeem (Samson). God chooses the least of these to come forward (the children). Systems change from a place of power. We want to believe God can just appoint the right person and it magically changes, but often our power requires our sacrifice.
The forward movement to end Apartheid was the white South African college students speaking up. They had everything to lose, and nothing to gain, but still fought for what was right. I'm using the small amount of power I have to speak up for others. I think our big problem is we are not coming to the table to discuss. We are coming to the table to shut it down. We need male support. Not just the support where you pull a gal aside to tell them they are doing great, but the vocal active support. Join me.