What It’s Like to Be a Girl in the Boy Scouts

Smartsville resident Amber Fackrell wanted to be a Boy Scout all her life.  But she didn’t get her wish until 2019, when the Boy Scouts of America rebranded as BSA and started letting girls join. Fackrell, then 16, quickly climbed the ranks to become one of our area’s first female Eagle Scouts. Only six percent of all Scouts ascend to this penultimate level, and doing so is almost universally regarded as a mark of character and leadership skills. We chatted with Fackrell to learn more about her Scouting journey.

What made you want to become (what was formerly known as) a Boy Scout?  

My dad and grandpa were Eagle Scouts, my brothers were Scouts. From the time I was four, I went to Scouting events and campouts. It was all I knew.

Did you not want to be a Girl Scout?

We tried with the Girl Scouts. For my eighth birthday, my mom got me into a troop. I was kicked out, basically, because they said I was too old. So I just hung out with the guys for every meeting. Back then, it was like, ‘You’ll never be able to do Boy Scouts.’

You hung out at the Boy Scout meetings? Was that allowed?

At that time it was Cub Scouts. My brothers were doing it, and my mom was the Assistant Scoutmaster. She made me a little Cub Scout uniform, with a little sash. She would buy the awards and patches at the Scout Shop for me and put them on when I earned them with my brothers. I just wasn’t allowed to officially join.

So, you weren’t allowed to join, but your mom was allowed to lead the troop?

Yeah, women were allowed to be BSA Scoutmasters, and men were – and are – allowed to lead Girl Scouts. Pretty weird, huh? 

How did you finally become an official Scout, and then an Eagle Scout?

I joined the minute they allowed girls in. I got an extension to get my Eagle Scout, because typically it takes at least six years, and you’re not allowed to do Scouting after you turn 18. I got mine in just over two years. I wanted to prove that I could do it, because growing up everybody said, ‘Girls can’t do this, you’ll never be able to.’ 

What’s the big deal about Eagle Scout ranking?

Getting an Eagle Rank is hard! You have to do a service project. My older brother was a preemie and my twin brother and I were in the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] for a while because of complications. So for mine, I directed volunteers to make flannel baby blankets, mattress covers, and lovies for the NICU. You are supposed to delegate the task, rather than do it yourself, to show that you learned leadership. 

I thought Boy Scouts were about camping.

There are two main aspects to Scouting: learn to survive in the wilderness, and lead. When my dad became an Eagle, you had to hunt for food. They don’t do that anymore. They do still teach you stuff like telling which way a tree is going to fall by its angle and the height. 

What was the easiest badge to earn?

Pets merit badge. You just have to prove you have had a pet for at least three months, and you have taken care of it. You have to read a small pamphlet about your animal, and I think either show your animal in a pet show or prove that it can do three tricks, and…I forget what the last thing is.

Do you have pets?

I grew up on a farm. Right now I have over 30 Nigerian Dwarf goats. 

Did you get teased in high school for being a “Boy” Scout?

Oh yeah. I graduated from [Nevada Union High School], and people would say, ‘Oh, you just want to hang out with the boys.’ But I’d tell them ‘No. We’re in separate troops.”

Wait, the boys and girls are still separated?

When it was first announced that the BSA was going to be coed, people said, ‘Oh, boys and girls are going to mingle, and that’s inappropriate.’ We’re called brother and sister troops. We’re the same Scout troop number. We might have meals together and go on excursions together, but we have our own meetings and campsites. 

Did you notice any lingering male-centric messaging when you joined the BSA?

Not really. They need to change their writing though – a lot of the paperwork still says ‘he’ for all the pronouns. The only thing we came across that used ‘she’ was The Female Scout Book. Aside from that, the only other thing different in it was that it said ‘Be sure and pack your feminine hygiene products.’

If you could add a new badge to the BSA, what would it be for?

I think they should add a sewing merit badge. My older brother didn’t know how to sew his patches on his sash. 

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