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Balancing Act

Cookie boycotters' case crumbles in face of reality

Heidi Stevens

Balancing Act

October 27, 2013

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At a recent Girl Scouts meeting, my daughter earned a badge for completing her family star, a project that inspired one of my favorite dinners of late.

The week before, over plates of pasta, she had recited the Girl Scout Law to us:

I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.

We each jotted down the line we felt most strongly about and discussed our choices. She turned our responses into a glittery, glue-smeared star of profundity. A few of my tears were mixed in there too.

Her badge-earning meeting was commencing Monday when I read the People for the American Way story about pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner calling for a Girl Scout cookie boycott.

"I don't want to support lesbianism," Swanson said on his Generations Radio show. "I don't want to support Planned Parenthood and I don't want to support abortion, and if that be the case, I'm not buying Girl Scout cookies."

That's not the case, actually.

"We don't take a position on abortion," Jeanne Reynolds, interim chief administrative officer for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago, told me. "We don't take a position on birth control. We don't take a position on sexuality. That's between girls and their families. We believe our place is building girls of courage, confidence and character."

That's not going to fly with these guys.

"I don't want to promote a wicked organization that, according to its own website, doesn't promote godly womanhood," Swanson said.

Groups like the Girl Scouts, Buehner noted, teach your daughter to become "a woman who is going to compete with men in the marketplace," rather than "a woman who will be a helpmate to a man so that he can compete in the marketplace."

These guys aren't alone. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, urges followers to boycott Girl Scouts because it accepts gay members and leaders.

Their small-minded, fretful words echoed in my head when I picked up my daughter that day. She and her newly badged friends darted around the room, cleaning up scraps from their Kleenex ghosts. Their troop leader stood amid the happy chaos, reminding them to leave the room better than they found it.

What, I wondered, would those men see in this room? Ungodliness? Deviance?

I saw girls who aren't going to accept the nonsense Swanson and his ilk espouse. Girls who will, one day, consider Tony Perkins the way they consider dinosaurs — a curiosity. Extinct.

Girls who plan to leave the world better than they found it.

Then I started wondering what those men see in the mirror. They know their words travel. They know they'll be shared and otherwise broadcast beyond the audience for whom they were scripted. They know they can reach the girls themselves.

"Now I suppose if you take a big, fat, black magic marker, and you say, 'Give me that box,' and you start marking out all of the references to the Girl Scouts of America on all the boxes, then maybe we're not promoting that organization anymore," Swanson said. "Maybe it's not food offered to idols anymore if I had the opportunity to scratch out references to the Girl Scouts of America on the boxes."

There are words for a grown man who orders a girl to "Give me that box" so he can deface it. Bully is one of the nicer ones. But let's not waste any more words on those guys.

Let's consider some words from Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out about girls' education.

"I honored her as a free individual," he recently told the BBC. "And I usually tell all parents all over the world: Educate your daughters. They are amazing."

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13