One of the proudest days of my life came in January, 2006, when I was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout. I had been a part of the Boy Scouts of America since 1998, becoming a Webelos that Fall and working my way through their ranks, in order to cross over into the Boy Scouts proper two years later. From there, there were many ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, that led to that afternoon in January. Even though I am no longer active in the Scouts, I still keep the old uniform, Eagle badge and medal in my closet, where the memories of those years and adventures (of which there were genuine ones) can remain safe protected.
In hindsight, the Scouts helped me in numerous ways, whether it was map reading, first aide, public speaking or learning in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico that it was possible for me to accomplish things I had not thought possible before, if I may be forgiven for using that wearied cliché. It is a terrible shame that any sons I may have in the future, will not be able to have these same experiences. My old uniform with its badges and medals and ribbons will, for them, be as foreign as an antique piece from antebellum times, whether it comes from the north or south sides of the Mason-Dixie Line. For how can the Boy Scouts of America actually be the Boy Scouts of America when it has decided that girls can be Boy Scouts too?
The decision, made earlier this week, was more than likely made for the usual, shallow and pedantry reasons. One obvious reason was raw numbers: since 1973, the ranks of the Boy Scouts have shriveled, a hemorrhaging that no number of programs, camps or promotions have been able to stop. If boys were no longer interested in Scouting, then the ranks would be opened to girls. This is what the Girl Scouts of America have accused their male cousins with Girl Scout President Kathy Hannan describing the Boy Scouts’ actions as a “covert operation” which was “inherently dishonest.” A boost of public opinion in the right quarters was no doubt another reason since, in this age of free thinkers, we all must do what the cultural elites tell us we must. Following from this, the decision itself follows a perverse logic; the self-same cultural elites have winded themselves hoarse in telling the rest of the population that there is absolutely no real difference between boys and girls, men and women; if that is the case, then of course it makes perfect sense that girls can now become Boy Scouts.
The only problem is that boys and girls are different. In a time of “edginess” and “fearlessly pushing the boundaries” this observation is tantamount to heresy. And yet, as others more articulate and wiser then I, have pointed out, the differences are all around us. There are the different interests that boys and girls have, the different priorities which they place on different things; there is the scientific fact that men have an X and a Y chromosome in every cell in their bodies while women possess two X chromosomes; and there is the blatant fact that the male and female brain in structures and in their neural connections are different, differences that can be seen and detected even when people are only 26 weeks old. Chesterton once said that Original Sin was the only Christian doctrine that could be demonstrably proven since the proof resided inside the morning newspaper every day. One almost thinks that the differences between men and women reside within the same category as Original Sin.
All of these differences between men and women stem from the fundamental difference with separates the two sexes–women are bearers and nurturers and men are carriers and protectors. Only women can carry and give birth and nurse a child; only a man can impregnate a woman and stay to care and protect the two lives–woman and child–as husband and father. This is the point where the necessary caveats have to be made: that of course, a man can “nurture” a child, it just depends on what is meant by nurture; women of course can provide for children; of course a woman can protect herself and her children. The caveats have been repeated so often that the idea has become firmly planted in our heads that the exceptions to the rule and the accidentals can disregard the rule. Because men can hold, change, talk and feed (from a bottle) a baby, we have assumed that the natural structure of a woman’s body, which is designed to feed her children, does not really make a difference; we have also decided that the very real spiritual connection that exists between child and mother, a result of the time of carrying and the birth, is really nothing that special; because a woman is able to care for and raise a child on her own, we have decided that men can be shuffled off to the side and, after the impregnation, be forgotten. We have decided that men and women are simple interchangeable parts, units which can be plugged into whatever slot is empty.
There used to be the old saying–which may still be in force–which said that men were from Mars and women were from Venus. Older, I see what the originator of the line, whomever he was, was attempting to get at; that men and women are different. As a saying though, it is not the best since the truth it was trying to communicate is lost in the words Mars and Venus. Rather than being two side of the coin of humanity, entwined together and needing that need for the other, men and women become two completely separate species and not even species of the same ecosystem but from two entirely different planets. Martians do not need Venusians and Venusians do not need Martians and so each can go their separate ways. The truth is much richer and mysterious. Men and women are all human and yet the gulf that separates us as sexes is deep that makes our longing for the other that much more real.
This real difference between men and women–a truthful difference which screams to us from our bodies to our minds–means that boys and girls, men and women need their own groups, their own fraternities. This is especially true if we remember that boyhood is not an end in and of itself, just as girlhood is not an end in and of itself. Boyhood is the path to manhood and girlhood is the path to womanhood. As such, boyhood is the time for the boy to learn manliness and for the girl to learn womanliness, as well as the other virtues, such as courage, courtesy and modesty, and even these will be expressed differently between them. A man is courteous to a woman in a different way than a woman is courteous to a man and the courage of a woman will most times have to be expressed in different ways than the courage of a man; again, because men and woman are different.
This was one of the original purposes of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts; both organizations were formed with the idea of helping boys on the path to manhood and girls on the road to womanhood. It was realized that boys and girls deserve not only friends of the same sex but fraternities of the same sex so that they can learn what it is to be men and women among their metaphorical brothers and sisters. Professor Anthony Esolen has explained this need of boys for boys and girls for girls; on the particular issue of the Boy Scouts, Esolen, in 2013 said:
It occurs to him [the father] that the Boy Scouts and he have come to an impasse. There is no reconciling them. The Boy Scouts now proclaim that there is nothing to being a boy, and nothing to the boy’s becoming a man; they might as well be the Unisex Scouts, as they are in Canada, where the scouting movement has collapsed.
In other words, Luke’s father is being asked to enroll his son in a group specifically limited to boys, but one that does not recognize the nature of boyhood and its progress to manhood. Thus there is no real justification for the group; that its membership is male is accidental and not of the essence. He and they do not see the same being in Luke. He sees his boy, and the man-to-be; they see a neuter. He sees a father-in-training; they see an immature human thing, a bundle of appetites that are not in themselves subject to moral judgment.
Aristotle, in his Nichomacean Ethics, states that the greatest injustice is the treating of different things as if they were the same. Treating boys and girls as if they were simply lumps of putty by denying their boyhood and their girlhood would most definitely fall under the category of injustice.