Boy Scout? Or Faithful Little Woman.
“Every Camp Fire Girl must understand that the secret of her life, whether for joy or for sorrow, lies in herself. If she wishes success in the world of business or professional life, it depends upon the thoroughness of her preparation and the faithfulness of her service. If she wishes for success in life itself, as a friend, a daughter, a sister, a mother, she must build for that no less thoughtfully and purposely than for the other.”
--from A List of Indian Names from Which Girls Can Derive Their Camp Fire Names, Camp Fire Outfitting Company, 1915
When I was a Camp Fire Girl and it came time for me to pick my Native American name, we used an updated version of this resource—compiled, by the way, from a range of various North American tribes. These weren’t fake “Indian” words.
At the time, my older sister tried to help me pick my name. She thought I should become “Neeyah Keema.” It apparently meant “to fly in the face of the wind” and she thought it was poetic, adventurous, spirited.
Instead I chose “Yukah Akima.” That meant, “to become a faithful little woman.”
Considerably duller than “Neeyah Keema” is what my sister thought.
But I wanted to become a faithful little woman, that dull thing.
Because for me, the word “woman” was a strong concept to live into. “Faithfulness” connoted stick-to-it-iveness, the dogged pursuit of all that I loved and was challenged by. “Becoming” seemed to have an existential velocity to it—not that I would have used those words when I was ten or eleven or whenever it was I got to choose my name. About “little,” I have no memory of its potential relevance to my emerging identity at all. Maybe I just wanted to be cute. Hey, I was a kid.
Though I think I disappointed my sister, I was happy with the name I had made for myself.
Now--lo these decades later—it’s all over the news (among all the other stuff that is all over the news) that the Boy Scouts have decided to allow girls and young women to participate in more and more of their programming.
Honestly, the Faithful Little Woman in me just bristles at that.
When my daughters were of an age to join a sororal organization, Camp Fire Girls wasn’t an option, but they both became Girl Scouts, active through high school. It was a good experience for them and I never once had the thought, “Oh, I wish they could be Boy Scouts.” And trust me, they never had that thought, either.
Molly E. Reynolds, a fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution, and a life-time member of the Girl Scouts of the USA writes, “By telling young women that they need to earn Eagle Scout rank to get the recognition and benefit it conveys, we are sending a crystal-clear message:
“To get the respect you deserve for your achievements, you have to join a historically male-oriented organization and meet that group’s definition of success.”
Her point is solidly made: why should Eagle Scout status be more valuable than the Girl Scout Gold Award just because it was designed by men?
In the end, that’s what more than rankles this Faithful Little Woman. And I suppose that is also why, as a female pastor in a historically male profession, I am intentional about conveying that both strength and femininity—not two sides of a coin, by the way—are critical aspects of capable leadership.
Maybe the Girl Scouts needs to invite young men into the ardent pursuit of the Girl Scout Gold Award. That would make this Camp Fire Girl a happy camper.