are not going to Scouting.
On Sunday, at the beginning of the Relief Society meeting, it was announced that class would end early to make time for a special announcement. I felt this was an odd announcement, seeing as how the time it would take to talk about the special announcement could just as easily be taken at the beginning of class. I decided it might just be something they were leading up to with the lesson or that it was supposed to be super inspirational and they wanted to end on a high note. Imagine my surprise when the ward's Scouting specialist got up to make a spiel about the Friends of Scouting program and to ask for donations because Scouting is expensive.
Now, I think Scouting is a fine program. My brother liked it, my dad is his stake's go-to Scouting guy, and I think it does a lot of good. However, as I listened to the continuing plea for funds by this woman and, ultimately, her testimony of the Scouting program, I got angry. I realized that even if I had more than two cents to spare, I would not be giving it to the Friends of Scouting. Initially, I was not going to publicize my decision, but then I read this entry at the Tumblr site AmenAlready (which is a site guaranteed to make me laugh daily and also make me think about my assumptions. For reals.) and decided I needed to say something.
I got angry listening to the extolling of Scouting's benefits and the plea for funds not because it isn't a good program but because as a girl growing up, and as a woman in the Church today, it often feels that the Scouting program is run at the expense of the girls and young women of the Church. For example, have you ever tried to get permission, organize, or participate in a fundraiser for Girl's Camp? It is a nightmare. You have to do something big, it can only be once a year (please correct me if I am wrong), it has to be in exchange for something (not just soliciting donations), and you have to strong arm people into helping. I speak from personal experience as someone who went to camp 7 times, who had to get people to buy cookbooks filled with ward recipes after having to beg them for recipes to put in the cookbooks, who had to convince people to buy homemade pizzas. What do the Scouts do? They have an individual get a calling to go around to ward meetings and straight up ask people to whip out their checkbooks and write them a check. Which people do. That tells girls and young women that the people in their ward do not value their development as much as they value the boys' and young men's development, that the limited funds of the ward and the individuals in it should be given to the boys and the young men, and that whatever is left over will have to worked for and scraped for by the girls and young women themselves.
I got angry because the unequally funded programs are also unequally recognized. I can't speak for the Primary Activity Days because I have no experience with them. However, I have never heard of an equivalent recognition night for Activity Days achievement for girls like the Cub Scout pack meetings that recognize the achievements of Cub Scouts and mark advancement through the ranks on a monthly basis. I do have personal experience with the differences between Personal Progress and Boy Scouts. I'll share the most glaring. When I was in Young Women, Personal Progress required that from the ages of 16-18 that I do multiple projects, two each year, one of which had to be specifically focused on service. Each were expected to take at least 30 hours to complete. This was on top of the other Personal Progress goals required in the previous four years for each of the, then, seven values of Young Women (Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity). Time-wise, if a young woman did Personal Progress right, it was roughly equivalent to the time required by Boy Scouts and the Laurel projects were roughly equivalent to the time required for the Eagle project. The expectations were similar, but the recognition was vastly different.
I received my Young Women's medallion the same year my over-achieving brother received his Eagle Scout. The work we had done was equivalent, his was just packed into a shorter amount of years (which you couldn't do as in Young Women when I was in it lo these many years ago). I was given my award over the pulpit in Sacrament meeting, without advance notice, on a Sunday in which both my parents were in other wards for their respective Stake callings. I didn't even think it was my place to ask that maybe the Bishop wait until a Sunday when my parents could actually be there. It wasn't something you did. You just went up when your name was called, shook the Bishop's hand, said what one of your project was, got the medallion, and sat down. It took all of 30 seconds. Now compare that with an Eagle Scout Court of Awards. The Court of Awards is a separate meeting that can include multiple Eagle Scouts or be held for one Eagle Scout. It is a night dedicated to the Eagle Scout(s). It is a special event in which people are specially and specifically invited to come recognize and celebrate the Eagle Scout(s) achievements. There are large displays of the project(s), time dedicated to ensuring that everyone have a chance to look at, understand, and comment on the project(s). There is a whole ceremony dedicated to recognizing the accomplishments and achievements of the Scout(s). My brother had the night to himself. My parents ordered a cake with an image of the award and my brother's name on it. Family members traveled to attend the event. Even though I knew that my parents loved me as much as they loved my brother and that they would have done the same for me, there wasn't the opportunity to do it. It wasn't, and isn't, done.
I don't fixate on this discrepancy, I don't let it influence my testimony or my faith. However, it does send a clear message that the girls and young women of the Church should just get used to not being recognized, that their work, their achievements, and their progress spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually is of less importance than that of their male counterparts to their families, the members of their wards, and the Church as a whole.
And that is why I will not be donating to Friends of Scouting. And why I will definitely be supporting my ward's Young Women's fundraiser this spring, even if it is only two cents.