The Girls Scouts of America are by all means a relatively positive organization when you put aside concerns of mass child labor where girls are pushed to sell overpriced cookies.
In fact, my mother was a member and then leader for my sister. I was… whatever the designation for ‘guy who carries all the crap everywhere’ is and on a personal level my waistline suffered immensely over the years from a house packed quite literally to the ceiling with an army corps worth of oh so delicious and oh so overpriced cookies.
However, the Girl Scouts organization, at a more official and administrative level, does every now and again march its way into controversy as it seeks to inform and educate girls with sometimes… less than universally shared values.
One such controversial publication was published in the ‘parenting advice’ section of the official Girl Scouts website late last year during the peak of the #metoo movement and is once again making the rounds with the seemingly innocuous and obvious title, Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.
While I wasn’t particularly aware of the national tragedy of mandatory hugs – perhaps as per my male privilege although I’ve certainly been smooched by my share of miscellaneous aunts etc. – it certainly seems like sound, if not incredibly easily apparent, advice. No interactions by anyone ever should be induced by coercion, let alone those of children, but… where the girl scouts of all folks take it is honestly really weird. The article reads,
“Holidays and family get-togethers are a time for yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love. But they could, without you even realizing it, also be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.
“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older. Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
Now don’t get me wrong, as a ~privileged male~ I’m all for making sure girls grow up to understand that solely they have control over their body and how they choose to interact with others. But this… is just not a great way to go about it and honestly, is kind of sick.
To even approach the concept of say, greeting grandma on the holidays with a lens of sexual undertones and the theme of consent speaks more to problematic personal views of natural human interaction than it does spotlight a problem.
Science shows hugging and other natural *entirely platonic if you aren’t totally weird about it* physical interactions are totally good for you, and of course for your social development. Now does that mean you should be dragging your kids kicking and screaming to give Auntie so and so a hug for that Christmas card? No… but it does mean that when my parents encouraged me to greet, thank, and otherwise interact with my family members, they weren’t opening a gateway to me being sexually violated…
In fact we even allow arguably ‘mandatory’ physical contact to happen all the time, just by the order of government employees at public schools where PE coaches *gasp* force you to engage with fellow children, routine mandatory medical checks for one thing or another are fairly common, and of course who could forget high school DECA programs nationwide violating their students by *brutally forcing* them to give their teachers proper handshakes or face failing grades?
The point being that while making sure growing young women come to understand their personal right to determine physical encounters is absolutely important… this is pretty much the most backwards way to go about teaching healthy human contact as can be; unless you happen to kind of be messed up in the head…
With organizations breaking faith – in some cases quite literally – with the GSA national organization over increasing bouts of varying nonsense such as this, maybe when it comes to saying hello to granny on the holidays we should all just ‘chill out girl scout.’