I am not a Guiding Feminist

>>  Sunday, November 25, 2012

The papers recently have been rife with quotes from GirlguidingUK's new chief executive Julie Bentley. 

I hope that she has been somewhat taken out of context or the press have just decided to spin a story in a UK press sort of way, but it has mainly been played that Guiding is the 'ultimate feminist organisation'.  Poppy bloody cock.  'cuse my french but I'm up to my second wave feminism bra burning eyeballs in buzz words that are not doing us any favours at all.

"I am incredibly proud to be joining an organisation dedicated to helping girls become confident, happy, successful people who realise their ambitions and contribute positively to the world around them," said Bentley.  "Girls today face real and unique challenges as they grow up. I want our programme to continue responding to those challenges, so that we always offer girls what they really need."

I think she probably should have stopped there, maybe she did.

But I have read:

"But the new chief of Girlguiding UK, Julie Bentley, wants the ever-popular organisation to break away from sexual stereotyping and deal with relevant social issues"

Girlguiding has been dealing with relevant social issues since the day it started and has continued to ever since.  At the beginning the social issue was sexual discrimination and forcing Baden-Powell's hand to get an organisation for girls at all. Later on our girls were at the forefront of the war effort, through the austerity years, the swinging 60s, the changes of the 70s and 80s and marching onwards to our modern today. With each era the program has changed to be relevant to the girls at the time.  From the first communicator badges in semaphore, through citizen band radio to computers and mobile phones.  Badges have continued to be important to the girls and they have always wanted to earn them.  They work hard for them, achieve something and learn something and that 'something' is relevant to the girls of that time.

The one thing Guiding has never done is stood still.  The uniform has changed regularly to match the time and trends, badges change, the promise has evolved but what has never changed is the heart felt ethos, described now as:

"Girlguiding UK enables girls and young women to develop their potential and to make a difference to the world"

I have no doubt that the stoic original leaders had this aim whilst teaching the first girl guides to face camping in the woods without the help of a strong, all saving male.

So did the leaders of the 70s and 80s teaching the girls to deal with a changing environment,  one in which women had an equal right, a glass ceiling to break and we are still showing them that they can break it.

But we don't need to politicise it, we don't need to buzz word it, we don't need to stamp feminism all over it.  And I firmly believe that by true definition of feminism, that is not where we are at leader ground level.

We are having fun, doing activities that interest and engage the girls of today, things that teach them to have confidence in themselves, to be the best they can, to try the best they can, to achieve as much as they want to achieve or are capable of.

"The aim of guiding is to help girls and young women develop emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, so that they can make a positive contribution to their community and the wider world."

Another Julie Bentley quote from the press :  " (she) wants to extend the organisation away from its traditional middle-class milieu" .

Where there are interested, caring parents who want their children to experience, develop and learn..there will be Guiding.  There are many inner city units struggling for funds, uniforms and meeting places.  Guiding has, on the whole, already shrugged off it's uncoolness because of the type of program units are running.  The only thing holding it in the middle classes is money. Getting it out into poorer areas will simply be a question of cleverly distributed funding from central areas and extra leader support for some of the extra challenges faced in different areas.  Let's not extend 'away from' the middle class let's keep the middle class leafy units growing and let's extend 'INTO' the areas we haven't been able to get active in yet.

Guiding for all (girls!). 

Because that unique girls only environment gives so much to the girls, the women of tomorrow.  We don't have to ram feminist fights into the laps of young girls.  What we do is give them the skills to take on these issues, if they choose to do so, when their time is right.  Let's just keep the Rainbows, Brownies and younger Guides engaged, learning, developing and having the best fun ever.  Perhaps the older Guides and Senior Section will dip their toes into the feminist waters a little but with the right foundations laid, later wars will be won.

Let us just carry on laying those stones and shouting about the fun we have doing it instead of waxing lyrical about political buzz words to rally press who will inevitable get the wrong end of the stick regardless.



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