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Girl Power

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With Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi out of the way, we thought we could at least enjoy spring training without fear. But thanks to the ever-vigilant wingnut industry, we have a whole new face of evil to keep us awake at night.

That cute brownie selling you Tagalongs at the Wal-Mart? That junior high girl scout sporting the crowded badge vest as she entices you with Thin Mints? The senior Gold Award girl organizing the neighborhood to build accessible ramps for the playground?

Faces of evil, according to some people who really should get out of their caves once in a while. Indiana Congressman Bob Morris has since apologized for his venemous attack on the Girl Scouts, but his sincerity is dubious. He still refuses to join a resolution saluting 100 years of girl scouting. His source for his claim that the Girl Scouts have a radical agenda to undermine civilization? "A small amount of web-based research" -- now there's a screaming siren warning of the rapid spread of lies, rumors and vicious gossip.

Not to be outdone by Indiana Bob, a Catholic parish in Virginia has also banned the Girl Scouts. Washington Post Columnist Robert McCartney has written several articles exposing this ugly, nonsensical campaign against one of the largest organizations promoting the health and well-being of girls in the world.

What is it about Girl Power that makes some men quake in utter fear of a feminist conspiracy to obliterate the world as we once knew it? Frankly, some parts of that world deserve obliteration. like the parts where powerful men abuse children, where girls are trafficked for profit, where women are paid less than men for the same work, where women are not at the table for important legislative hearings on issues affecting them, where women who manage to rise to positions of influence and some power are routinely demonized.

But the Girl Scouts are all about much simpler things -- courage, self-confidence, leadership, learning to live a healthy life without letting Hollywood or the ad industry dictate body image. "Where girls grow strong" is a slogan often appearing in Girl Scout literature, and that phrase captures the purpose of all scouting activities to teach girls how to be resilient, creative, adventuresome and able to stand on their own two feet. Come to think of it, aren't those the qualities we expect in good mothers as well as effective corporate executives, strong public leaders and active citizens?

100 years ago, Juliette Gordon Low brought together 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia, because she believed that girls needed an organization of their own to encourage their healthy development, build leadership skills, and serve the community. Today, more than 3.2 million girls are active scouts, and more than 50 million American women proudly claim the Girl Scouts as among their most formative experiences. Ask any group of women leaders if they were Girl Scouts, and almost all will raise their hands.

In the last two decades, I have had the distinct honor of working with the Girl Scouts of the Nation's Capital on a wide range of their activities. Trinity partners with the Girl Scouts and offers college scholarships for scouts who come to Trinity.

One of my favorite opportunities to get to know today's Girl Scouts occurs through Camp CEO, an innovative program started in Washington, now operating in many places nationally. In Camp CEO, women executives spend several days (yes, including overnights in tents!) at a Girl Scout camp sharing their experiences with leadership and school and raising families in order to help girls think about their future pathways. Many of the participants now mentor girls they met in camp, providing internships and even job opportunities. The most radical discussion I ever heard at camp was whether a fourth scoop of ice cream (with crushed Thin Mints) could help us to sleep better on those &*&!!# cots or force an extra midnite trip to the %$#!! privy.

Some men seem to be having a lot to say about women and girls these days, and most of it is pretty ignorant. Whether it's a congressman denouncing the Girl Scouts for having a radical agenda, or a religious leader analogizing women's rights to a ham sandwich, or a presidential candidate questioning women in the workforce, the retrograde views of a relatively small group of highly influential men reveal the plain fact that women's fight for equal rights and fair treatment must continue.

As the leader of a university still primarily devoted to women's education, I often have to answer the question: Why a women's college? Why girl-serving organizations? Aren't we equal enough now to end these kinds of organizations?

No. The women's revolution is far from over. The current political discourse reminds us of the fragility of our gains in the last few decades. Let's remember that women are still alive who were born when women could not vote. Some men still regret the 19th Amendment.

When several hundred thousand Girl Scouts gather to "Rock the Mall" on June 9, 2012 as part of the 100th Anniversary celebration, we will sing the traditional Girl Scout songs about spiders' webs and brownie smiles and the Princess Pat (my favorite!) and friendship. As in previous sing-alongs, the day will be a mellow tribute to the real joys of scouting. We'll look at all of those thousands and thousands of young women and realize how amazing it is that so many can flourish in this healthy, truly happy work of girl scouting.

We'll celebrate the reality of girl power. And we will remain confident in this thought:

Girls rule!

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