An organization called Pro-Life Waco has, yet again, set up a campaign to boycott the Girl Scout Cookie Program: Cookie Cott 2014. First done in 2004, the boycott was chiefly because Pro-Life Waco did not like the local council’s loose affiliation with the local Planned Parenthood and it’s “Nobody’s Fool” summer sex education camp program. The boycott resulted in a statement issued from the Girl Scouts that severed it’s ties with Planned Parenthood and revoked their sponsorship of the Nobody’s Fool summer camp. Pro-Life Waco salivated with joy over this success.
The current campaign, once again, has nothing to do with the girls and everything to do with politics. Recently the Girl Scouts shared a link on Twitter to a Huffington Post video in which women were discussing ‘Women of the Year’. The women in the Huffington Post conversation mention Texas State Senator Wendy Davis as a potential ‘Woman of the Year’ candidate (Davis recently fought to block proposed changes to Texas abortion regulations – obviously Pro-Life Waco aren’t her biggest fans). But it was the Girl Scouts’ sharing of the link that unleashed a torrent of comments and launched Pro-Life Waco’s protest, despite the Girl Scouts’ rebuttal to an antagonistic response: “We shared the list, we didn’t choose or endorse it.” The non-profit organization wanted to be clear they weren’t advocating anyone mentioned, they were asking who would you add to the list of candidates for a ‘Woman of the Year’ status. But Pro-Life Waco went on the defensive and decided to boycott the cookies.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is, yes, the largest fundraising event of GSUSA’s year, but it’s so much more than a fundraiser. (And it’s more than you stocking up on your next years binge supplies.) The Girl Scout Cookie Program is an opportunity; it’s an opportunity for girls to learn a little bit about business, finances, and talking to people. I, for example, was a kid who needed to learn how to talk to people. I mean, look at her:
This is the awkward face of a pokey girl who needed to be pushed outside her comfort zone far more often than it happened. The Girl Scout Cookie Sale was a fun, safe way to do that. I rang the bells and knocked on the doors in my neighborhood while, when I was real young, an older person waited for me on the sidewalk. When I was older, and more responsible, I was allowed to go on my own around the neighborhood. By that time I’d been ringing their bells for so long they all knew who I was when I came to the door and I knew them. And I wasn’t scared anymore to go to a new house, or a house with new owners and ask them to buy cookies, and I was no longer afraid to tell the waiter what I wanted to eat, or the sales lady what size jeans I’m looking for, or to yell ‘Trick or treat’ when the neighbor opened their door (on Halloween, or any old night of the year). Because of the Girl Scout Cookie Sale I learned how to interact with strangers.
This skill is not one all folk are born with; it must be learned (some people never get good at small talk). Also a good skill to learn, even at age six, money handling. Because the girl is responsible for all the money for the orders she submits. It is her responsibility to collect the money owed and pass it along (just like a paper route). The girl is required to total up the money she’s collected and make sure what she’s got equals the numbers she totaled on her order sheet. If she is lacking funds, it is her responsibility to either find out who didn’t pay and collect (hire some thugs, break some thumbs, whatever it takes) or cover the gap herself.
One could also argue that it’s not that bloody difficult for an eight year old to sell at least one box of cookies to every single one of her neighbors. Especially if she’s got her sash or vest on with her badges and pins (even easier if she’s in full uniform), hair braided, a song in her smile and eyes full of hope and promise – partly because she is giddy with a sense of responsibility and being the center of attention with each open door, but also because she gets to see inside her neighbors’ houses. (Or, if her neighbors are anything like mine growing up, she get’s to play with the neighbor’s seven pet birds for a few minutes.) But, even though a girl’s innocence and adorableness is what gets the neighbor to open the door, that still doesn’t guarantee a sale, she must learn how to talk up the cookies and entice the grownup to commit to at least one box.
We have a new flavor this year, it’s called Mango Creme* and it’s a bit like a Golden Oreo, have you had those? Well, these are meant to be better because the cream doesn’t just taste like gross fake sugar, but fruity fake sugar!
If that doesn’t work, the girl might be able to convince them they can’t have too many Thin Mints, even if they’ve already ordered a box from their niece/granddaughter/boyfriend’s little sister. Very few people want to see the expression of a little girl walking away without a sale. An older girl, however, they’re less worried about disappointing. These girls might do better to head down to the bank, mall, or subway stop to learn about booth sales and/or retail. Something that also doesn’t come easily to all people. A booth sale gives a girl exposure to the sort of work that will probably be her part time job in high school and college. Once again, she’ll have to talk to people, catch people’s attention, and convince people who hadn’t previously thought about it that they do, in fact, want that box of Samoas.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is an opportunity for girls to learn these skills and to gain confidence; it empowers girls to be their own person, gives them a chance to shoulder some responsibility, gives them a proper sense of pride, and gives them a chance to take ownership of a thing. The Cookie Program is, sure, a fundraiser for the national organization, but it does so much more for the girls who choose to participate. The program shouldn’t be about the organization as a corporation, it ought to be about the girls. Protesting the cookie sale because of decisions made at the corporate level completely takes the girls out of the equation. Those girls are not going to understand why you are saying hurtful things about what they are doing, all they are going to see are grownups saying they don’t like them because they’re selling cookies. Your protest tells those girls they’re doing something wrong when they are not. It’s not your intention with your protest, but it’s a possible byproduct. If you go around handing flyers to the people at booth sales, then, logically, at least one grownup somewhere is going to have to reassure at least one little girl that she’s isn’t ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ because she is selling Girl Scout Cookies. And no little girl should be made to feel guilty for selling cookies.
I grew up with the Girl Scout Cookie Program, I know what it did for me, I see what it does for the girls I buy cookies from when I’m out and about. One of my favorite things in the winter is to spend a few minutes talking to the girls at booth sales. Because the Girl Scouts, the Cookie Program, the summer camps all work to help girls understand that they can do anything; they give girls a place where they can be themselves without judgement; they help girls build essential life skills. Some girls need a little extra encouragement and the Girl Scouts provide that. To boycott the program because of your petty politics is to take away a valuable experience for the girls involved. And what’s more important, your political agenda or your girls?
*The Mango Cremes were super gross.
** All these pictures are me, mine and are my own cookie sale patches from girlhood.