My friends and I were boy scouts. We’d meet at a bank in Rio Vista, Texas, hoist our packs onto our backs, and hike five miles to camp.
We were teenagers, ranging from 12 to 18, and a rowdy bunch. We tackled each other. We fought. We dipped snuff. We peed in the woods. We played shirts and skins football. And we learned a lot from our all-male leaders. Most of all, we benefitted from our time together, us boys and men.
Even in the 80’s, boys spent most of the time around women. Some of my friend’s parents were divorced, and they lived with their mothers. The luckier ones (myself included) lived with both parents, but still spent more time with our moms. Moms took us to school, picked us up from school, and were with us while our dads worked evenings. We spent our weekdays at schools led by women, in an environment that wasn’t natural for boys (sitting still, staying quiet, singing songs, coloring in the lines), where the girls excelled, and we got punished. In the evenings, we came home and watched sitcoms and commercials that showed dad as a dope (Al Bundy, Homer Simpson) and mom as the hero. The less fortunate of us also had to spend part of our weekends in female led Sunday school classes, singing feminine songs and receiving more reinforcement to the idea that something was inherently bad about being a boy.
We needed those campouts. We needed that time together. We needed those men, those masculine men, to take us on adventures, to organize challenging activities, to call us out when we acted like sissies, and to let us be boys. We needed that time away from our mamas, our teachers, and the little girls who looked down on us during the week. That’s not to say we didn’t love our mamas, our teachers, and the little girls who looked down on us during the week. We did love and appreciate them, and we still do, but we also needed time away from them.
It’s worse for boys today. In our country, it’s offensive to suggest that there’s anything unique about being male (unless it’s anger, violence, addiction, sexism). Men are the enemies, all complicit in rape culture and “toxic masculinity.” Dads in the home are rarer than ever. Dads involved in their children’s lives are rarer still. How are boys to become good men?
The more extreme feminists may believe it’s best for women to do the raising of boys. Besides the female led institutions, let the women also coach little league (or better yet, co-ed soccer), lead the boy-scouts, and write the sermons. Then we can be done with toxic masculinity once and for all.
But I disagree. Boys need men. Boys need good men to look up to and imitate. Boys need men who will lead at home, who will coach teams, who will take them camping. If more men would step up and take responsibility, fewer women would have to fill these roles. And men need men, too. At a time when suicide is becoming one of the number one causes of death of men and boys in our country, men and boys need each other. And they need those times to get away from their wives, their mamas, their grannies and their teachers, and just be boys.
The recent boy-scout decision to include girls and change the name from Boy Scouts to Scouts is an attempt to be inclusive.
But instead of becoming inclusive, the organization became worthless. With little girls joining, fewer men will be leaders. What man wants the liability of taking teen-aged boys and girls into the woods for a camping trip? Who wants to put themselves in a position to be accused or suspected of inappropriate behavior? The jokes we and our leaders used to tell on campouts? Big trouble. No more peeing in the woods; that would be a crime. I’ve never heard a “Me too” story involving a boy scout camping trip, but they are sure to follow. Now, mothers will have to go on the campouts, which will also make the men, and many of the boys, not want to go.
When my son asked to join the scouts, I told him he had enough female led activities in his life. Boy scouts is becoming an extension of Elementary School, much like cub scouts. Instead, he and I go hiking and camping on our own, where we can cut loose, relax, and be ourselves. My daughters haven’t asked to join scouts, but if they did, my answer would also be no. There’s nothing for them to gain. I’ll take them camping, hiking, and fishing, but I won’t have them take part in the downfall of what used to be a good organization. Also, there’s no way I’d send them on an overnight trip into the woods with a bunch of boys.