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Are Scout Manuals Delivering Gender Stereotypes to Kids?

Do scout manuals perpetuate gender stereotypes?

Here’s one for you. University of Maryland Sociology student, Kathleen Denny, reports that a study she recently conducted found that the Scout manuals for the 5 million American kids who are active Girl or Boy Scouts deliver messages that are full of gender stereotypes. The study concludes that Girl Scouts are steered away from scientific endeavors while the boys are steered away from artistic pursuits.

And here I was thinking that it was all about the badges. And it is. Well, kind of.

PhD Rick Nauert wrote about the study earlier today over at PsychCentral. In it, he notes that researcher Kathleen Denny says the following: “The disproportionate and gendered distribution of art and science projects aligns with the large body of research that finds girls being systematically derailed from scientific and mathematical pursuits and professions due to cultural beliefs and stereotypes about their relative ineptitude in these areas.”

Here are some of Denny’s other finds that were published in the journal of Gender and Society.

  • Girls are more likely to be offered activities pertaining to art. Such activities make up 11% of their total activities.
  • Only 2% of girls’ activities are science related while boys spend over 6% of their time on science-related activities.
  • Girls are offered more communal activities while boys are offered a higher percentage of activities which are “self-oriented.”

But what about all the badges? Denny believes those, too, are guilty of gender stereotyping and she cites the following facts to back up that assertion:

  • Some 27% of the girls badges go by cutesy titles heavy on alliteration or puns while none of the boys’ do.
  • All 20 boys’ badges have descriptive names which do not rely on any playful wording. The example cited here was a badge awarded for geological knowledge. Boys get the “Geologist” badge while girls get the “Rocks Rock” badge.
  • The titles of the boys’ badges use more “career-oriented” language when compared to the analogous girls’ badge. While boys get an “Astronomer” badge, girls are awarded the “Sky Watcher” badge.

Denny also found that some of the girls’ activities in the handbook are ones which have been historically considered feminine in nature. Such activities are awarded badges like “Sew Simple” and “Looking Your Best.”

The “Looking Your Best” activities include “Color Party” and “Accessory Party.” Color Party requires the girls to hold different colors up to their faces to decide which look best on them (I’m a winter…), while an Accessory Party is where girls “experiment to see how accessories highlight [their] features and [their] outfit.”

No word yet on whether or not there’s a “You’ll Be a Second-Rate Parent” badge for the boys.

To be fair, I know very little about the Scouts. Well, except that back in the day, I tried it out, but never really took to it. And the only child I have who is of Scout age most definitely was not interested, so I can’t really speak to the program as a parent, either.

But I can say this. The findings of Denny’s study disappointed me. Do your kids participate in the Scouts program? If so, have you noticed any gender stereotyping which goes on?

Image: stock.xchng

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