The Girl v. Boy Scouts war is heating up again

In February of 2019, the Boy Scouts (now officially known as Scouts BSA) changed their name and began accepting membership applications from girls. A lot of people opposed that change, with some parents pulling their sons from the program. It was particularly unpopular with the Girl Scouts, who were already having enough trouble recruiting new members without this sudden appearance of competition from a larger and better-funded operation. The hurt feelings haven’t really abated since then, and now the Girl Scouts are taking Scouts BSA to court in an attempt to sue them for “infringing” on their recruiting efforts and using false or misleading marketing tactics in targeting girls for membership. (Associated Press)

The Girl Scouts are in a “highly damaging” recruitment war with the Boy Scouts after the latter opened its core services to girls, leading to marketplace confusion and some girls unwittingly joining the Boy Scouts, lawyers for the century-old Girl Scouts organization claim in court papers.

The competition, more conjecture than reality two years ago, has intensified as the Boy Scouts of America organization — which insists recruits pledge to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind” — has unfairly recruited girls lately, according to claims in legal briefs filed on behalf of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

The lawyers filed papers in Manhattan federal court Thursday to repel an effort by the Boy Scouts to toss out before trial a trademark infringement lawsuit the Girl Scouts filed in 2018.

As I’ve said from the beginning of this debate, I thought blending girls into the Boy Scouts was just a bad idea all the way around. I do recognize that there were shortcomings in the Girl Scouts programs when compared to the Boy Scouts, largely due to budgetary constraints. But many of those deficits could have been addressed without massive increases in spending, such as introducing new leadership education programs and adding something equivalent to the Eagle Scout path that the boys have. Also, supporting girls in a program just for them where they can be exposed to women in leadership roles always seemed like a very positive thing.

With all of that said, however, now that the change has been made, I’m not sure what to make of this lawsuit. What’s been happening between the two groups appears to be little more than a standard case of free-market competition. The target demographic is young girls and when there are two groups competing for the same pool of potential applicants, they’re obviously going to butt heads. Saying that the Boy Scouts are “unfairly targeting girls” for recruitment is akin to hearing Pepsi complain about Coke running ads claiming they have the superior cola.

The angle the Girl Scouts are taking regarding “confusion” for parents registering their daughters in one program or the other seems to stem from a very small number of instances where the Boy Scouts refunded application fees to families who mistakenly enrolled their daughters in Scouts BSA while thinking they were signing up for the Girl Scouts. I suppose it’s possible that a couple of unscrupulous recruiters may have muddied the waters, but it doesn’t seem to be any sort of theme in the Boy Scouts’ national recruiting campaign. And the mistake would have become obvious when they showed up for their first meeting so they could still withdraw and then go apply to the appropriate organization.

It’s difficult to see where this suit has much merit and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a court to side with the Girl Scouts here. Personally, I wish things could go back to the way they used to be, but it seems as if that ship has already sailed. For better or (far more likely) worse, society has been changing when it comes to gender roles. This move by Scouts BSA only blurs those lines further, and that’s real and very serious “confusion” that we should be worried about as opposed to which uniform the nation’s young girls are putting one.

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