A few weeks ago, I saw this amazing image circulating on Tumblr:
It’s allegedly a right-wing flyer warning consumers of all the perils bound up an innocent box of Girl Scout Cookies. Girl Scouts allow transgender members! Journey Books discuss socialists, Marxists, reproductive rights advocates, and more! Girl Scouts support sexual education1! Anna Marie Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, belongs to a “pro-abortion feminist coalition”!
So, of course, I saw this and immediately took to Twitter, demanding to know where and when I could get Girl Scout cookies. Basically, why wouldn't I want to buy cookies that fund socialism, autonomy for women and girls, and full social inclusion? Also, did you know they sell lip smackers? Because they do.
I understood Girl Scout cookies as a cultural phenomenon, obviously, since you have to live under a rock in the US to not at least be aware they exist. But I hadn’t been a Girl Scout in my youth, nor had I ever really seen them in action. I was in for quite an education.
I was kind of bowled over by the flood of responses from people I got with information about finding cookies (there’s a cookie locater), what the Girl Scouts do, how the funds are used, and how awesome their Scouting experiences were. People feel really, really strongly about their Girl Scout days and it sounds like they were formative for huge numbers of young women in the US given how many people told me they were eager to enroll their girls and support the organization in other ways.
I mean, it's not so much a story as a sentence. ‘One time my mom made me order her an entire case of Thin Mints. THE END.’ My mom loooooves Thin Mints. The person with the order form was like ‘did you really mean 15 boxes?’ ‘YUP’ (some people take Thin Mints very seriously)
No wonder. The Girl Scouts promote independence, strength, and values in young women who join the organization. They’re encouraged to be socially active, to learn about all their career and social opportunities, and to take advantage of the resources available to them. Scouting is a great way to connect with girls from a broad variety of backgrounds, and it just plain sounds fun. I’m kind of jealous there’s no version for adults.
Like, take the case of Girl Scouts Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen. They earned the Bronze Award (which is a Big Deal) for their activism...attacking the Girl Scouts themselves, for using Palm Oil in their famous cookies (produced since 1917, incidentally). Their organizing around the issue compelled the organization to use rainforest-safe palm oil, and the cookie boxes now bear certifications to that effect. I love an organization that encourages members to challenge it this directly, and this publicly.
When I emailed my dad to say we were expecting a daughter (his only granddaughter) in 1999, the email I got back was this: ‘When can I order some cookies?’ Trefoils/shortbreads are his favorites. I just sent him a few boxes this week. (Penny Richards)
So, anyway, there I was with a craving to fork money over to Girl Scouts for their cookies. I wanted that funding to support what the Girl Scouts do, but I also wanted the interaction with cookie sellers, which is an important part of the process. There’s a reason why you can only get Girl Scout cookies directly from Girl Scouts, and it seems like cheating to accept offers to ship (although many generous Twitter followers did extend such offers!).
I couldn’t find Girl Scout sellers in my area, though, unless I wanted to drive over an hour, and I made a sad face.
But then, lo, I went to Harvest Market the other day and THERE IT WAS. A booth! With a Girl Scout! Selling cookies! And her dad! AND I BOUGHT SO MANY COOKIES.
I meant to take pictures but I ate them all before I could think to document the hideous sight of me two-fisting Samoas like they’re going out of style. Which I don’t think they will ever do, because, holy shit, you guys, these cookies are so good. Not that you need me to tell you that, but, seriously. I was an instant convert.
The whole Girl Scout cookie thing unites my love of food with my love of women’s organizations that actually empower their members. While this particular arm of the Scouting experience focuses on pretty capitalist norms, it also provides some valuable lessons in confidence, organizing, and working with a wide variety of people. Sure, you can use all those skills to succeed in business, but you can also use them to become an activist, an educator, and more. And ultimately, the whole point of Girl Scouts is to allow girls to develop critical thinking skills and make decisions for themselves about who they want to be and what kinds of lives they want to lead.
Each troop keeps part of the proceeds for their own activities, deciding what they want to do as a group. I love that too, because it encourages girls to take an active role in decisionmaking and deciding what they want to do with their time. That's an important lesson for girls to be learning early, because they'll spend the rest of their lives being told their plans, desires, and preferences don't matter.
As Alyssa Rosenberg (and many others) have pointed out, while the Boy Scouts are constantly in the headlines for their bigotry as an organization and the molestation of young boys, the Girl Scouts don’t get nearly the same attention. Which is a pity, because they totally kick butt, and they stick to what should be the core mission of an organization for young women and girls: helping them build values, networks, relationships, and self-esteem.
All that for the price of a box of cookies. Pretty badass, right?
So, now that it's Girl Scout cookie season, let's talk about our favourite flavours. Mine, obviously, are Samoas, and I love them with the fervent zeal of an adult convert. You?
1. Edit: A commenter notes below that this particular claim made on the flyer isn't actually the case; while Girl Scouts promotes healthy relationships and self-esteem as part of its work, it doesn't provide sexual education. Return