I Would Also Like a Splinter Scouting Organization, Please

Good on ya, Sydney and Tess Volanski—and no, I’m not being sarcastic. Sydney and Tess Volanski are teenage sisters who did the following:

1) Learned that Planned Parenthood had supplied a brochure called “Happy, Healthy, Hot” at a workshop hosted by the World Association of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, of which Girl Scouts of the USA is a member.

2) Found the materials offensive, based on their (the Volanskis’) religious convictions that masturbation, anal sex, and abortion are gravely wrong, and the brochure’s morally-mum treatment of those behaviors as health issues which some people deal with.

3) Learned about some other GSUSA connections they took moral exception to, like individual GSUSA Councils’ partnerships with local Planned Parenthood affiliates; some GSUSA materials which contained a generally-positive reference to a play (“Simply Maria,” by Josefina Lopez) that voices criticisms of patriarchal religious tradition; and some other sexual health materials that were more graphic than they found appropriate;

4) Left the Girl Scouts and put up a website explaining why.

I’m certain I disagree with the Volanskis on a whole lot of fundamental things. But in some ways, they get how it’s supposed to work, don’t they? They believe that their religious beliefs are incompatible with being a Girl Scout, so they… stop being Girl Scouts. And they make their case, cordially. They explain why they think Girl Scouts USA is wrong to allow third-party suggestions that masturbation is a normal thing for people to do; wrong to permit suggestions that abortion is a legal procedure that might be a part of some girls’ lives and it might help if they know something about it; wrong to give a positive shout-out to a play that criticizes aspects of religion; and wrong to give space to materials portraying HIV as primarily a public health issue whose harms are mitigated by accurate information.

I mean, to be sure I’m not at all persuaded by their claims. But… I don’t know. Maybe the last year that has made me want to sigh heavily and be grateful for what these kids aren’t saying. They aren’t saying, for example, that no charities which have any relationship with the Girl Scouts should ever receive federal grants, based on some poorly-conceived theory that Girl Scouts=Planned Parenthood OOGA BOOGA and taxpayer money must never be in a room with money that has ever been breathed on by someone who has procured or facilitated an abortion. They’re not saying that, as a matter of conscience, people who freely chose to be Girl Scout leaders should be allowed to abscond from any gathering at which they hear or see something they disagree with, even if their leaves the girls unsupervised and open to harm. They’re not saying that it should be illegal for any youth organization’s private liability insurance to cover events where their own moral convictions are not explicitly upheld. They don’t say they should have to be able to avail themselves of the Girl Scout offerings that they happen to like, while reserving the privilege not to pay membership dues or sell cookies or attend meetings and, oh, incidentally, they shall be forced by conviction to replace the word “Scouts” with “Hideous Disappointments.”

(Oh sweet Duncan Hines, I really hope I’m not giving anyone any ideas here.)

They’re just… leaving Girl Scouts, and making the case for why. Presumably people who agree with them that God hates certain widespread behaviors will find their case compelling. Presumably many others will not find the case persuasive at all.

Meanwhile, Girl Scouts USA is not in the business of dictating, in a theo-con or neo-con idiom, which things God hates and what things God approves of and why. That’s part of why it has the success and reach that it does. If the other were its mission, it would be a very different organization. So Girl Scouts USA isn’t going to stop what it does well simply because some people wish it were the organization that they’d founded if they’d founded an organization. Nor are they going to take their mission—“Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place”—and append a footnote: “*as defined by the particular moral convictions of mostly evangelical Protestant and conservative Catholic Christians in the United States.”

So here’s my question, as a mom of sons: Where’s the radical sinister lefty non-body-shaming Judy Blume-reading version of the Boy Scouts? Can we please get on this?

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