Saturday, July 11, 2020
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The Girl Scouts Of Capitalist America

Another year, another season where your self-control is yet again tested by ambitious little girls with a hand ready to take your cash and a box of cookies in the other one. If Eve couldn’t resist Satan’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, then what makes you think you stand a chance against little Stacy with her beady eyes and pouty lips? I mean, who can blame her? Being told that the top seller will get the largest incentive is sure to make anyone utilize all their tricks to rake in that dough. But here’s the thing, take a step back and examine the Girl Scouts of the U.S. as a whole. Is the practice of selling cookies a healthy way of introducing young females to the business world? Are these kids really learning anything useful?

To understand its purpose, we must examine the five skills that the Girl Scouts suggests young girls will learn through selling cookies: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. In theory, it is possible to be exposed to all of these skills as a seller, but how often do you see these girls actually motivated to utilize every one of them? I am sure there are some out there who try to, but having your mom promote your cookies to her office and her Facebook page seems more like you’ve decided to take the back seat as the supplier rather than the frontwoman. 

Unfortunately, when things are presented as a competition, very rarely will you see people using wholly legitimate ways to get in the lead. The Girl Scouts may advertise that they have these young girls in their best interest, but then there is the monetary aspect: enticing girls with flashy prizes for selling the most cookies. 

I am most definitely an outsider when it comes to selling girl scout cookies, but I have had my fair share of experiences with particular organizations coming to my middle school and trying to get everyone to sell whatever they were offering in exchange for prizes. I don’t blame them for wanting to take advantage of the naivete of young children, but something I do want to point out is that in the long run, its current business can promote an unhealthy practice of social comparisons. 

Imagine having to hear that your fellow classmate sold five times as much as you did; it may not be a very good way to boost your self-esteem. That is not to say that competition is not a good thing, but for an organization that promotes ideas such as unity and friendship, it is hypocritical to start pitting them against each other in favor of financial profits.

The Girl Scouts have been around for quite some time and you could easily say that if there was a problem with how their organization was run, it would be shut down by now. While this is true, I think this has more to do with how the Girl Scouts are branded to the public. Longevity plays a role in why no one bats an eye today, but also the fact that Girl Scouts have managed to maintain a wholesome image. This makes all its intentions seem pure and transparent. I hate being pessimistic about things, but given the current situation of the Boy Scouts of America filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to multiple sex-abuse lawsuits, it becomes critical to analyze the true intentions of Girl Scouts and whether or not their branding rings true to their practices.

Ultimately, it may not seem that deep, and understandably so. I don’t think there is any girl scout who is actively thinking about the implications of selling cookies to the public under a large organization. Winning prizes and bragging rights is really all that is going on in their minds, but for those who are running this business, maybe now is the time to reframe this tradition. It will take someone who is actually in the Girl Scouts to effectively answer whether or not they believe selling cookies is beneficial to young girls. From an outsider’s perspective, it is a little off-putting. For an organization that stands for improving the confidence and character of young girls, there should be a handful of other methods that do not involve consumerism and marketing in doing so.

Toan Truong is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. He can be reached at toanat@uci.edu.