The Girl Guides' New Self-Esteem Badge: Or Why Agnes Baden-Powell Is Turning In Her Grave

Girlguiding - Britain's answer to the Girl Scouts - has launched a new badge designed to boost Girl Guides' self esteem. It's called the "Free To Be Me" badge.

To earn the badge, Girl Guides between 10 and 14 will have to complete two workshops in which they are taught to "value their bodies" and "celebrate diversity", after which they will be expected to spread the word in their local community using t-shirts, posters and video.

A junior version of the badge will be available for girls in the Brownies who will be taught that "princesses are negative body role models."

We cannot be certain what Agnes Baden-Powell (sister of the Boy Scouts' founder Robert Baden-Powell) and her original Girl Guides would have made of this because unfortunately they're all dead. But we can probably hazard a reasonable guess from the history of the movement.

The original Girl Guides were go-getting tom boys not sensitive, navel-gazing, couch-potatoes. We know this because in 1909 a bunch of them gatecrashed the first Boy Scouts rally in Crystal Palace, South London and demanded that Baden Powell offer "something for girls too." The Girl Guides Association was formed the next year.

Back then Girl Guides pledged to "love my God" and to "serve the King [now of course the Queen] and my country." But last year this was dropped in favour of a more politically-correct oath to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs” and “to serve my Queen and my community.” God was dropped; the Queen survived by the skin of her teeth - perhaps because Her Majesty is still the organisation's patron.

To judge by the badges they tried to earn, they were also a good deal more robust and practical than the modern generation.

Among the badges for which Girl Guides could qualify in 1912, were: Air Mechanic, Cyclist, Photographer, Electrician, Sailor, Telegraphist and Tailor. During the First World War guides acted as messengers of confidential information for Marconi Wireless Telegraph.

Today's badges reflect some drastically changed priorities in the Girl Guiding movement. They include:

Confectioner ("Know how to make three kinds of icing; know how to melt chocolate successfully....")

Healthy Lifestyle ("Make up a TV or magazine advert that shows why it is important to look after your feet...")

Discovering Faith ("With your Patrol or other Guides, take part in a ‘Reflections' or ‘Thought for the Moment' in your unit. Use songs, drama, mime, music and so on. You should use at least one story from your own faith.")

World Issues ("Find out about as many peace symbols as you can. Why were things like the olive branch and the dove chosen? Design and make a mobile using peace symbols.")

Music Zone (" Listen to pieces of music from other countries or cultures. Share them with your Patrol and explain what you like about them.")

Culture ("Learn ten words and their meanings from your chosen culture's language or dialect. Teach them to your Patrol.")

Personal Safety ("Be able to describe three things that might cause you harm or make you feel unsafe, while (...) heating up baked beans on the stove and toasting two pieces of bread in the toaster")

Is it any wonder why so many girls these days would rather join the Boy Scouts?


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