(WSBERO/Geneva) – Men are more interested in sports, women are better caretakers; men cannot cook, women do not like hands-on activities like repairing stuff… The list of things we hear all women and all men supposedly like or do is endless. Yet, looking around, these are generalizations and stereotypes that prove to be wrong and harmful a lot more often than right and beneficial.

In Scouting, we recognize that a person’s interests and abilities don’t depend on their gender. We believe women and men to be equal in the responsibilities and opportunities they should receive. In our movement, the many tasks and challenges demand all hands on deck to provide young people with a life-changing environment – regardless of whether these hands belong to women or men.

A Scout scarf is not sexist!

A Scout scarf is not sexist!

When all of us overcome out-dated perceptions of what is “appropriate” for one gender and what is not, both women and men are liberated. Yet Scouting is embedded in a society, in which people who act differently than their gender’s assigned roles and stereotypes still face sexist discrimination. This can range from being mocked and excluded to being denied career opportunities just because of your gender – damning fates, particularly for young people. Especially women are at a structural disadvantage across many areas, leaving them with fewer opportunities to unleash their full potential. But when some of us are held back, they cannot fully contribute to society or a cause such as Scouting. So in consequence all of us are held back.

In Scouting, we pride ourselves on creating the world we want to see: one in which every individual finds self-fulfilment and plays a constructive role in society (see WOSM Mission). That’s why we need to take extra special care to level the playing field when it comes to leaving gender stereotypes and sexism behind. Within our daily volunteering activities, here are some of the things to look out for:

  • Let’s make sure women’s and men’s opinions are valued and appreciated the same, that both have equal opportunity to speak their mind. Think national assemblies, working groups, regular Scout meetings. How leaders and peers respond to someone speaking up will determine their engagement with our movement in the future.
  • Representation matters. Let’s have both women and men equally represented in positions of responsibility so they can inspire generations to come.
  • Let’s encourage boys to do traditionally feminine things and let’s encourage girls to do traditionally male things as well. Really, encourage everyone to find what they love and what they are good at. And then make sure they feel comfortable doing this.
  • Call out sexism: in a world riddled with harmful stereotypes, comments that devalue a person based on their gender will sometimes spill over into Scouting. “That’s not ladylike.” “Boys do not cry.” See it and say it, take a stand that a person’s interests and abilities are not determined by their gender.

It is really that simple: As Scouts we want campfire baked bread rolls, not gender roles.

Christine Pollithy, Team Leader, International Team, Bund der Pfadfinderinnen und Pfadfinder (BdP e.V), Germany


Rupert Schildböck
About The Author

Rupert Schildböck

Rupert comes from Austria and is the Executive Assistant to the Regional Director. His responsibilities include internal and external communications and administrative assistance in Regional events.

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