Sociological Images has an interesting post on the gender differences between Boy Scout and Girl Scout manuals, one bit of which really sticks out to me.
Interestingly, and in contrast, Denny also found that Boy, but not Girl Scout manuals taught “intellectual passivity.” When faced with unanswered questions, girls were often encouraged to do further research, while boys were told to look up answers in the back of the book. This gendering of academic ambition reflects the ongoing feminization of education. Second wave feminism brought women greater educational opportunities and women have grasped those opportunities. But because we live in a sexist society that tells men to avoid anything girly, and as women have increasingly proved themselves to be capable students (girls now earn higher average grades and outnumber boys on college campuses), men seem to be distancing themselves from academia. In other words, because women do well in school, it’s no longer manly to do so. So masculinity becomes increasingly associated with anti-intellectualism, thus the “intellectual passivity” Denny describes.
The author of the Sociological Images post seems content to blame femmephobia, which almost certainly plays a role in the anti-intellectualism of Boy Scouts. However, I do not think it is all of the story.
Whose fault is it? Feminism. (Someone fetch some smelling salts for all the commenters who have fainted at Ozy blaming feminism for anything.)
Think about it: is there any area in which the Boy Scouts are not less progressive than the Girl Scouts? The Boy Scouts don’t allow atheist scoutmasters; while the Girl Scouts mention God in their promise, it is official policy that Girls may replace “God” with any word or name appropriate to their beliefs (including, say, “humanity”). The Boy Scouts don’t want gay people in; the Girl Scouts welcome trans girls. The Boy Scouts doesn’t have sex education (unless you’re British); the Girl Scouts can partner with local groups (including Planned Parenthood) to offer fact-based and non-political sex ed. The anti-intellectualism in Boy Scout books is merely one part of a very long trend.
And don’t make a mistake: anti-intellectualism is clearly a non-progressive ideal. Looking up the answer in the back of the book means “trust authority, listen to what your superiors say, don’t bother to look into it for yourself, just believe what we tell you.” It comes directly from the tradition that values, above all, children shutting up and being obedient to adults. Being told to research it yourself says “make up your own mind, learning things is your responsibility, don’t take anyone’s word for it, if your mother says she loves you check it out.” And it comes from the newer idea that children should try to become their own people.
The thing is: feminism made Girl Scouts question all the gendered bullshit. Instead of merit badges that told girls how to have a dinner party, feminism made it so that girls had merit badges that taught them about geology or astronomy, because dammit girls should be allowed to know things about space and rocks and not just proper table settings. And while they were questioning all that gendered bullshit, Girl Scouts questioned some other things– like whether they should exclude queers, and why they assumed that all girls were necessarily Christian, and why they didn’t encourage girls to learn on their own.
There’s another factor, too: independence and self-reliance are important values, many feminists believe, to inculcate in girls– where the kyriarchy wants women to be dependent on men, many feminists want girls to rely on themselves. In addition, because the kyriarchy wants girls not to believe they can be intelligent, feminism wants girls to learn to think. So in the spirit of encouraging intellectualism and independence, feminists are going to pressure the Girl Scouts to encourage girls to look things up for themselves.
The whole problem here is that all of that stuff needs to apply to the Boy Scouts too. They need to welcome trans boys and gay boys and atheists. They need to encourage boys to be intellectual and independent. They need to question all the traditional shit. But in the absence of a movement like feminism, they haven’t.