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Male and female handbooks

What is the logic of the two handbooks? I would think this is more expensive than printing one handbook with gender neutral terms and pictures of both boys and girls.

Don’t take this wrong, but I see nothing wrong with calling a girl a girl and a boy a boy and images of boys and girls Scouting is a good thing… Currently, Scouting at the Troop level is not Co-Ed. I’m sure when the time comes to unite the books will be a just fine. Also, the “neutral” term is “Scouts”


i don’t disagree with you nor offended. I am curious. Like I said its expensive.

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The BSA tried very hard to “thread the needle” with bringing girls in. They had 1) people against, 2) people ok with as long as it wasn’t in my troop, and 3) people who wanted co-ed. So, the jumped in, had some data to support better results if they had separate troops, and the rest is history. I assume the books were a product of the appeasing groups 1 & 2, while meeting group 3 half way. I ended up as a way to “get the job done”.

The wording is nearly or 100% gender neutral besides the cover. The text is the same and only the pictures are different. They could have done it with one handbook based on the effort they went through (gender neutral language and did a photo shoot).

It is also very indicative of the BSA to not manage inventories. Just look at the scoutshop.org and see items from 2017 Jamboree or older events. Or old cub books or old cub neckerchiefs long after the new ones were introduced. The list goes on and on.


just a guess but I imagine printing a relatively small number of girls books is cheaper than throwing out all the back stock of existing boys books. Another guess: once the stock is out they will print a neutral book.


They didn’t retain the existing male youth handbooks, though. Rather, they issued a new handbook edition in two versions: one “for boys” and one “for girls”.

I tend to agree that a single gender-neutral handbook would have been a better choice for a lot of reasons. That may be related in part to my fervent support of permitting coed troops if the chartering org is supportive of it, or single-gender troops if not, rather than not permitting coed troops at all. Venturing crews long ago proved coed units with significant outdoor programs were possible in the US, and scouting in general in much of the world has demonstrated it at the troop level. Hopefully that will be an option by the time my daughter is at the troop level (assuming she decides to do something besides the GSUSA program). < /soapbox>


The text is not completely the same. Chapter 13: Personal Safety Awareness is totally different. There are some difference between boys and girls when it comes to this topic and they treated different.

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That’s interesting. I’m not sure it really warrants creating separate handbooks, though. I think it would be to the advantage of all youth to know what differences are perceived by the authors, if any, in what information is relevant.

sigh Now I’m going to have finally break down and buy the girls’ handbook so I can see what differences pop up. I suppose I can justify it with the argument that my female OA youth are using that version of the handbook. I wonder if my wife will buy that excuse for bringing yet another scout handbook into the house…probably not. :laughing:

I just compared both chapters 13 of the 14th edition (girl’s tan, boy’s green). There are no differences that I could see and I colored them very closely. What pages do you see differences? Are you sure you aren’t comparing the 13th and 14th editions? What I went over was word for word the same, down to the line breaks.

There was rumors that they would have different person and trail hygiene info. That ended up just being supposition. They are the same - unless I and others missed something. Quote chapter and page, I’d love to compare.

They printed all new boys books about 1 year after the girl’s books with a new layout, new pictures, new cover, but same text. So, it was still odd. The requirements for all changed, so the boys was then “outdated” requirement wise.

Oops, you’re right. I was comparing the 13th edition with 14th edition. I had been working on creating a book code for a camporee activity that never happened. I needed to make sure the book were identical as our DE had said the 13th and 14th girl’s editions were the same, but found chapter was different in the two books. Chapter 13 must have been rewritten for both versions of the 14th edition and I hadn’t compared the boys version to the girls version.

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In my “Book” for this book and all MB pamphlets - they need to move to the Sea Scout model and just make them FREE PDFs.


That would be a great development. Make them available online for free, or printed at a nominal cost.


The books are the same with one exception. The female book has additional information about female hygiene in the backwoods that is not included in the male version.


Please provide the page of this “additional information”. We have had many people state this but no one has been able to find it in the actual handbook.

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I would state that it does not. This was anticipated, but based on my review of both 14th editions of the handbook, this is not true.

As @edavignon requested, where? What page? Maybe I and many others missed it.

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Charley, why do you suppose there have been different camps for boys and girls for generations?

Could it be the fact that girls and boys mature at different rates?

Could it be that girls are mostly led by mothers, and some people feel that boys need the male figures, away from mother’s apron strings?

I liked my boyhood summers at camps, both coed and boy camps. At the coed, many were distracted from the curriculum and instead focused on flirting, (a happy memory). However in the camps without girls, we worked without the distraction of teen boy-girl dynamics.

I remember both types of camps with fondness, but from the coed camp I mostly remember the girl I liked and the happiness of her smiling at me. From the non-coed, I remember learning outdoor skills.

Boys and girls are different, mature at different rates, and have different needs. Can we be successful pretending they are the same?

This is true. It isn’t to “protect boys from distraction”. Our Scouts (girl troop), for the last 2 summers, wanted the merit badge counselors at camp to focus on the badge and the skills. The boys, same age, asked “stupid questions” according to the girls - like “what if you see a murder while doing geo caching.” The girls were like “I’m here to learn this, not goof off”. This is one example, but was pretty consistent among the different badges and different boy/girl interactions.

I have a 40-year background in publishing and wondered why BSA did not produce a gender-neutral version when the female book first came out. I could only think of a couple of reasons:

  • It’s possible that with use of a digital press, a smaller, separate print run could be printed with little additional cost.
  • A separate edition was created not to upset the traditional, male Scout-only BSA base at the time. Also, perhaps the BSA was not sure if the experiment would work and wanted to enforce the separate, but equal concept.

It would make sense to make a single edition in the future to save costs. Any gender-specific topics, such as hygiene could be handled as a tip-in pamphlet.

I thought a lot about how to respond to your questions, @RobertGregory, because they don’t seem to me really related to what I proposed, which was:

  1. permitting chartering organizations to choose whether to offer single-gender or coed units in the Scouts BSA program, the same way that option is offered in the other BSA programs, and
  2. eliminating the duplicative effort of having different-but-almost-identical handbooks for male and female youth.

They seem to relate more to the question of whether or not male and female youth should be kept separate.

Neither of these questions relate to what I actually proposed. Answering the questions you asked, no I don’t see a lot of evidence to support that the separation of male and female youth in summer camps, schools or other contexts really had anything to do with differences in maturation rate. The largest influence appears to have been the societal perception that males and females should have different roles and are so fundamentally different that they can not be together in the same context without something (I was never quite sure what) disastrous happening.

Furthermore, the studies indicating differences in maturation rates are largely valid on a population level, not on the individual level, which is where we actually deal with our scouts: as individuals. I’ve had plenty of my male scouts come back from summer camp complaining about how members of their own cohort from our unit were unfocused, off-task and causing trouble, similar to what @Matt.Johnson noted. I’ve watched female youth yuk it up as thoroughly as the male youth. It’s an “individual people” thing, and we as leaders (both adult leaders and youth leaders) have to meet our scouts where they are, not where we think they are or want them to be.

This is unrelated to the question of permitting chartering organizations to choose whether or not to offer coed Scouts BSA troops, and even farther afield from the question of a single handbook. The argument that the female youth are led by female leaders and the male youth are led by male leaders, and that proverbial “apron strings” are a problem is again a societal issue, not a gender differences issue. We have female leaders in my unit who don’t act like the boys need constant minding. We have female leaders who coddle the scouts. We have male leaders of who micromanage everything. We have male leaders who are so hands off as to be at the limits of safety. I’ve seen the same range of behaviors in leaders from female units. In that context, it’s often the male leaders who are unwilling to part the proverbial apron strings to let the female youth grow. This isn’t a gender issue, it’s a “trust your scouts” issue. Sometimes they need more trusting and opportunities to fail (relatively) safely. Sometimes they need more minding since failure could be catastrophic. It’s our job as leaders to figure that out and give them the support they need, and not an ounce more.

Again, this has little to do with permitting individual chartering organizations to offer coed Scouts BSA troops or producing a single handbook. It is, in fact, obviated by the very idea of permitting female youth into the BSA in the first place.

Most councils can’t afford to run “male only” camps and “female only” camps. Considering only the economic impacts of doing that (e.g. “My unit can’t go to summer camp the week our leaders can take off work because it’s a girls’ troop only week? Let’s take a look in the neighboring council to see what they offer…”) it seems like an unreasonable concept. Furthermore, how long would it take before people started making “separate but equal” arguments that undermined our ability to deliver the scouting program as badly as the lawsuits over past failures in handling child abuse have?

My experience with male and female youth working together seems to indicate that the distraction is largely down to the lack of interaction with the other gender. The youth I’ve observed aren’t distracted by gender when they were out doing service projects and other weekend activities with the OA. They didn’t seem to be distracted by gender when they were at camporees or OA section conclave. I also watch male and female youth work very effectively to generate good programs all the time in our OA lodge and section. I have seen it in adults whose primary work or social background is single-gender for whatever reason when confronted with a female project lead. I wonder how much of it is really our own past experience as youth that colors our perceptions of what will be issues for the youth now.

I have yet to suggest “pretending they are the same”. In fact, I’ll argue that the idea of treating different individuals “the same” (as contrasted with treating them “equally”) is a problem. Each of us has individual needs for support in different areas. What would be so utterly pretentious about having a single handbook that included gender-relevant health information for both males and females in the same book? Who knows: the youth might learn something useful in later life when they find themselves parenting a child of a different gender.

I have suggested is that the BSA offer the option for chartering organizations to offer coed troops to their community at their discretion. As an organization, we already offer that option for packs and for Venturing crews. The world hasn’t ended because of it. What is so utterly controversial about allowing the chartering organizations the option to make the choice that they believe works best for their community?