Monday, June 15, 2009

Machismo in Scouting

We are losing one scout from Teddy's den, and it makes me sad. The boy in question has had it with the macho leadership, and the disastrous camping trip last month has pushed him over the edge. DH was not surprised by this, as the scouting activities have been getting more and more strenuous as the boys got older. Last summer, on the cub scout camping trip, we went on a hike that had some of the boys huffing and puffing. Being CUB scouts, we rested often to let the kids having a rougher time catch their breath. And the parents on the hike did not tolerate any teasing of the kids who were struggling.

But I can imagine that these attitudes might not be enforced as rigorously as the boys get older. Especially since the idea of BOY scouts is that the boys should lead the activities themselves as much as possible, so there would be less parental oversight. I am hoping that the standards we enforce now will take root for when we step back later on.

We've already run into "Jock" attitudes in 10-year old flag football, where Teddy and other less skilled footballers were teased by their teammates. Whenever DH heard any harassment over missed plays, he squashed it sternly. But we noticed that the Coach, whose son was one of the instigators, never said anything about it. And sometimes the teasing was harsh enough to bring the boy to tears.

I am really happy with cub scouting. It is providing a great family activity, with many different types of experiences. The boys are being exposed to academic, cultural, and outdoor activities that they would not otherwise. But I worry that as they get older, some of that machismo may kick in, and I don't really want my boys picking up that kind of attitude. I wonder how much longer we will be able to overlook the occasional racist or sexist comment to reap the rewards that Scouting has to offer. At what point will we be confronted with enough of the conservative values that we cannot continue to be part of this group?

We refused to join a church that supported the anti-gay marriage Prop 8 in California. I feel a little hypocritical to be so enthusiastically part of an organization that holds the same views. I suppose one difference is that we do not expect the scouting organization to be the standard-bearer for values, the way you would look to church leadership. DH and I are actively involved enough that we believe we can still dilute any non-PC comments that may come out of another adult's mouth during a scouting event.

I do think boys scouts runs more of a risk of the "tough guy" attitude than I ever saw in girl scouts. I suppose there were other socialization risks with girl scouts, but I am more comfortable with that arena than the all-boy environment I find myself in now.

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