Today is the Baden-Powells birthday, and as such, has been designated as "World Thinking Day". GirlGuiding associations around the world use today to think about their sister guides around the world, and to consider what Guiding means to them. I'm a bit of a novice at this whole thing; I was a terrible Brownie for a very short time, with only the Frog Impressions and the Cup of Tea badges to my name; I lost interest in all girl organisations before I was old enough to become a Guide, and Venture Scouting never appealed - the outdoor life is not my thing at all. It's only now as an adult that I really see the benefit of doing it, and so I'm nearly through with my Leader training. I recently retook my GirlGuiding Promise, and it's somewhat different from when I was a child.
I'm sure that as a Brownie, I had to say "I promise that I will do my best, to do my Duty to God, to serve the Queen and help other people and to keep the Brownie Guide Law", and I had to read a very thick book that looked just like this:
and was full of helpful things about Pixies and making cups of tea and talking to your puppy and generally being a nice member of the community, and a Good Gel, ready to be a good Guide and then wife, mother and Prime Minister. I stood in the Hall in Linton Infants School, looking into the mirror to see the elf, and promised to be a good and helpful person, and to Lend a Hand.
It's really easy to mock GirlGuiding and Brownies and Rainbows, and lots of people do. All that stuff about Duty and God, and meeting in church halls, and getting badges for things instead of no thanks or reward, and the people who run it must be a bit odd, after all, only weirdos want to work with children, and anyway, who has time for any of that, honestly; and so we forget that GirlGuiding provides a space for girls to be on their own, without the competition for attention from boys. Girls really need time apart from boys; it helps them find a voice without being shouted down, it gives them a chance to do things and it gives them a chance just to be girls, which, as they become adolescents gets more and more difficult.
I went to an all girls school, and while it was rubbish in many ways, it gave me the confidence to know that I can do anything I want to do. Obviously, girls are rarely saints and can be far more unpleasantly vicious and damaging than even the most obnoxious boy, and I am no champion of single sex education, but I am a big supporter of GirlGuiding, especially now all that difficult and unpleasant "duty" stuff has been removed, and we promise to love our God, serve our Queen and our country, help other people and to keep the Guide Law.
A bit demanding, particularly for us Lefty Republican types, but as George Orwell said,
“Patriotism has nothing to do with Conservatism. It is actually the opposite of Conservatism, since it is a devotion to something that is always changing and yet is felt to be mystically the same.”
and that sums up GirlGuiding. It is different to how it was back in the dim and distant past, it is a living, growing thing, and changes as each cohort of girls makes it change, and yet it is still the same, still an organisation that puts girls first, that allows girls and young women become the people they want to be.
A bit serious for a Friday, but it is World Thinking Day after all.